In May and June, the fellows of the 2022/23 cohort visited the Rhine-Main Universities for the second time, had numerous face-to-face meetings with researchers and toured the New Old Town in Frankfurt. Since the beginning of the programme, 181 Policy Fellows have held 2,476 meetings with over 700 researchers.
As part of the European Commission's Science Meets Regions Programme and the Mercator Science-Policy Fellowship-Programme, ten employees from state ministries, regional councils and city administrations from Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate held almost 80 talks with researchers on the topics of green and digital transformation in May and June. The topics ranged from integrated energy systems to resilient digital infrastructures, housing and transport to digital transformation and green finance. An overview of the participating policy fellows can be found here.
Exchange with ConTrust researchers on current research results in the context of virulent crises and conflicts in various discussion and workshop formats, as well as spaces for informal exchange. The Contrust Praxis Forum was embedded in a two-day transfer conference of the Research Institute for Social Cohesion (FGZ) on 13-14 October, whose programme offerings could also be attended.
In cooperation with the research network Dynamics of the Religious, professors from different humanities researching religiosity met with fellows from federal ministries and the European Commission for an afternoon workshop on the topic "Together in Difference? Social cohesion in religiously diverse societies". The representatives from academia and practice presented their current areas of work and exchanged views on how scientific findings could be (better) transferred into practice.
In the evening, the research network Dynamics of the Religious hosted the public panel discussion "Old conflicts in a new guise? Religious Framing of Political and Social Conflicts". Prof Armina Omerika (History of Ideas of Islam, Goethe University Frankfurt) and PD Dr. Mihai-D. Grigore (Leibniz Institute for European History Mainz) discussed the role of religion in the context of the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and the current Russian war of aggression on Ukraine. Prof Birgit Emich (Early Modern History, Goethe University Frankfurt) moderated the discussion and emphasised the importance of dialogue between academia and practice: "The research network "Dynamics of the Religious" conducts interdisciplinary research on scientifically complex questions whose political and social relevance we can observe every day, currently, for example, the war in Ukraine and its religious implications. The dialogue with representatives from ministries and the media is very profitable for us, as it enables us to better understand their perspectives on our research and, at the same time, to contribute to a better understanding of societal challenges with our findings".
From 11-13 October, the Policy Fellows of the new cohort visited the Rhine-Main Universities for the first time. On the afternoon of 11 October, Tome Sandevski (Head of the Fellowship Programme) introduced the programme. After the introduction, the Policy Fellows were able to present their thematic interests in small groups to the other participants and thus already got an overview of the other Fellows' areas of interest. During a campus tour the fellows could then visit the Campus Westend of Goethe University Frankfurt.
The Fellows were given an initial overview of the research areas at the Rhine-Main Universities during the evening event. After introductory words by Vice-President Prof Christiane Thompson (Goethe University), the Fellows Torsten Klimke (Directorate-General Mobility and Transport of the European Commission) and Dr. Kerstin Wendland (Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth) discussed with Prof Nathalie Behnke (Political Science, TU Darmstadt), Prof Verena Brinks (Geography, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz) and Prof Jan Pieter Krahnen (Economics, Goethe University Frankfurt) the question of how the dialogue between practice and science could be improved in times of crisis. The Deputy Head of Research Support at Goethe University Frankfurt, Dr Simone Haasler, was chair of this panel discussion.
On 12 October, the fellows had almost 70 meetings with researchers in Frankfurt and then on 13 October further meetings mainly in Darmstadt and Mainz. This visit ended with the opportunity to participate in the practical forum "Communicating Crisis Knowledge" of the Research Intiative CONTRUST of Goethe University Frankfurt.
On 20-21 September 2022, the Hessian Ministry of the Environment, the Bund/Länder Arbeitsgemeinschaft Chemikaliensicherheit (BLAC) and the Mercator Science-Policy Fellowship-Programme of the Rhine-Main Universities hosted the "Chemicals Policy in Dialogue" Congress on the Westend Campus of Goethe University Frankfurt. During the congress, representatives from ministries, trade associations, companies, science and civil society discussed current challenges. Prof Werner Brack (Biology, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research and Goethe University Frankfurt), Prof Nina Janich (German Studies, TU Darmstadt), Prof Joachim Curtius (Experimental Atmospheric Research, Goethe University Frankfurt) and Prof Henner Hollert (Biology, Goethe University Frankfurt) participated in the event on behalf of the Rhine-Main Universities.
A delegation of 24 researchers and university management staff from the Rhine-Main Universities visited Brussels from 14-15 September 2022. The delegation's visit aimed to raise awareness of funding strategies and cooperation opportunities with EU institutions, while at the same time increasing the visibility of the scientific expertise of the Rhine-Main Universities with EU institutions in Brussels.
On 14 September, the Hessian Representation in Brussels welcomed the delegation and, in cooperation with the Rhine-Main Universities, hosted a internal workshop and a public panel discussion. After the welcome by the State Secretary for Europe, Mr. Uwe Becker, Alison Imrie (Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission) presented the strategic plans and work programmes under Horizon Europe. Emanuela Bellan and Julian Keimer presented the work of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, the cooperation opportunities with research institutions and the activities at the interface between science and policy advice. Two fellows of the Mercator Science-Policy Fellowship Programme, Zuzana Gentner-Vavroa (Directorate General Internal Market of the European Commission) and Manfred Rosenstock (Directorate General Environment of the European Commission), reported on the topics of contributing scientific expertise to legislative procedures as well as strategic foresight and the current work programmes.
The afternoon workshop was followed by a public event with three panel discussions. After welcoming addresses by State Secretary Becker and Prof Constantin A. Rothkopf, the first panel discussion was dedicated to the topic of challenges and breakthroughs in infectious disease research. Katja Neubauer (Directorate General for Research and Innovation of the European Commission) and Prof Volkhard Kempf (Director of the Institute for Medical Microbiology and Hospital Hygiene, University Hospital, Goethe University Frankfurt) addressed current funding strategies and, in particular, the danger posed by antibiotic-resistant germs.
On the second panel, Annika Nowak (DG Research and Innovation of the European Commission), Prof Tobias Bopp (Director of the Institute of Immunology, University Hospital, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz) and Prof Nico Bruns (Head of the Sustainable Polymers Research Group, Department of Chemistry, Technical University Darmstadt) discussed current challenges and breakthroughs in cancer research.
In the third panel, Prof Ingrid Fleming (Director, Institute for Vascular Signalling, University Hospital, Goethe University Frankfurt), Dr Anirban Mukhopadhyay (Head of the Research Group Medical & Environmental Computing (MEC-Lab), Technical University Darmstadt), Prof Jochen Roeper (Director of the Institute for Neurophysiology and the Centre for Physiology, University Hospital, Goethe University Frankfurt) gave insights into their current research projects in the fields of neurophysiology, cardiovascular research and AI.
The three panels were very competently moderated by the journalist Lucia Schulten. With almost 150 visitors from EU institutions, state representations, media organisations and other institutions, the evening event met with great interest.
On 15 September, the delegation visited the Brussels office of the "Kooperationsstelle EU der Wissenschaftsorganisationen" (KoWi). In two workshops on the European Commission's Cancer Mission with Annika Nowas and EU funding measures in the social sciences, humanities and psychology, the members of the delegation were able to exchange views on current funding strategies. Sebastian Claus, Victoria Reichl and Mareike Schmitt provided information about the support offered by KOWI.
The Mercator Science-Policy Fellowship-Programme of the Rhine-Main-Universities conducted the virtual event:
Between 2006 and 2020, spending for online advertising in Europe has risen from just under 8 billion
euros to almost 70 billion, according to the Interactive Advertising
Bureau. This tremendous increase in revenue for the online advertising industry
and digital platforms in particular has resulted in both policy and academic
debates on the economic, legal and societal effects of online advertising.
Researchers and policy professionals took stock of regulatory efforts and their effects on businesses in Europe.
On 2 June 2022, the research focus "Interdisciplinary Public Policy" (IPP) of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz organised the symposium "Science meets Policy" in cooperation with the Mercator Science-Policy Fellowship Programme of the Rhine-Main Universities on the campus in Mainz.
The programme can be found here.
Researchers from Goethe University together with UN professionals discuss the challenges associated with working in a changing environment
Professor Guido Friebel (Human Resource Management) and Dorian Hartlaub (Psychology) from Goethe University's Center for Leadership and Behavior in Organizations were invited by the Knowledge & Learning Commons of the United Nations Geneva to conduct a webinar on what we have learned in and from times of crisis. The virtual event was attended by over 25 professionals from the UN organisations as well as fellows of the Mercator Science-Policy Fellowship-Programme.
Professor Friebel presented findings from recent research on how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected working from home and the role of leadership by managers and colleagues. “The pandemic has changed the way organisation are operating in a profound way. Much of my research in the field is done in collaboration with various organisations. The UN are very diverse in terms of activities, global outreach and background of staff. Hence, talking to UN staff has been a particularly enriching experience", he shared.
Dorian Hartlaub was also very enthusiastic about the webinar. “I want my research to have an impact in the real-world. This especially applies to staff of organisations like the UN, who are dealing with essential issues like health provision, pace-building or fighting inequality in their daily work. Raising awareness on current demands and on how mindfulness and social aspects of leadership may help to face those demands, is a great opportunity to make that impact", he said.
A video recording of the event is available here. The event was organised by the Knowledge and Learning Commons of the United Nations Geneva in cooperation with Goethe University Frankfurt's Center for Leadership and Behavior in Organizations and the Mercator Science-Policy Fellowship-Programme of the Rhine-Main-Universities.
The European Green Deal aims to transform the EU into a modern, resource-efficient economy that reduces net emissions to zero by 2050 while at the same time ensuring economic growth and improving people`s health. Research and innovation are key prerequisites for tackling the challenges that come with these goals.
In this context, it is crucial to think about climate change in a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary way. Likewise, a successful climate policy requires that climate and environmental protection be approached as a central cross-sectional task of government. It is imperative that ecology, economics, and social justice be looked at together. Rigorous research must provide the evidence to back new policy approaches.
The Mercator Science-Policy Fellowship Programme of the Rhine-Main Universities (RMU) and the Representation of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate to the European Union cordially invite you to discuss the various perspectives and approaches to the topic with researchers in small online working groups.
Dr. Deniz Alkan,
Director for European and International Affairs; State Chancellery Rhineland-Palatinate
Professor Stefan Müller-Stach,
Vice-President for Research and Research Careers, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
Small online working groups
from the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz:
Petra Ahrweiler (Sociology of Technology and Innovation),
Eva Maria Griebeler (Ecology and Evolution),
Volkmar Wirth (Theoretical Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics);
from the Technical University Darmstadt:
Markus Lederer (Political Science)
An overview on the participating experts and their key messages is available below.
The event is structured around two breakout sessions of 40 minutes each that allow for discussions in small groups. Each professor will have his or her own breakout session that policy professionals can join. After 40 minutes of discussion, the policy professionals will move to a different breakout session. Each participant will therefore have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss policy challenges related to climate change, sustainability, and innovation in two breakout-sessions. This setup will enable the participants to become acquainted with different scientific perspectives.
(1) Addressing climate change requires the development of new technologies. Technological innovation should always be understood as a social transformation process.
(2) Finding sustainability strategies and preventing uncontrollable climate change are not only European but global challenges. Above all, taking into account the different underlying societal value systems is crucial to finding solutions.
(3) Every political decision changes society in ways that cannot be foreseen. For example, a measure to reduce CO2 emissions in a complex societal context may produce a fundamentally different outcome than anticipated. Simulation methods allow different measures to be tested and possible scenarios in a sandbox society to be analysed.
(1) To limit climate change to the targets of the Paris agreement most of the known fossil resources have to remain underground. This means that all oil, gas, and coal companies will have to abandon their business models within the next 2-3 decades and forego a large share of their already calculated profits. European politics and legislation will be largely preoccupied with making this happen in the EU and worldwide.
(2) By significantly reducing meat production, huge agricultural areas that are currently used for growing animal feed will become available for rewetting marschlands, reforestation, and solar farming. This means less methane from cows, less CO2 from drained marshlands, more biodiversity, more carbon uptake, and more renewable energy production.
(3) The non-CO2 climate effects of aviation are greater than its CO2 effects from burning kerosine. These non-CO2 effects from persistent contrails and ozone production have to be included in the ETS system. Most of these effects will remain even if aviation changes to hydrogen or sustainable aviation fuels. This means that it is highly questionable as to whether sustainable aviation can be reached at all.
(1) We are currently facing a serious biodiversity crisis caused by the increase in the human population and economic growth. The first Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES report 2019) reports that about one eighth of animal and plant species living on earth are already endangered. This is mainly due to the overexploitation of nature, accompanying habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, climate change, the commercial depletion of species, and the expansion of exotic species.
(2) Biodiversity and functional ecosystems are essential for humans. Ecosystems with their species provide many important services to humans. For example, they provide the air we breathe, drinking water, food, medical plants, and building materials.
(3) Although we are far from understanding how the loss of species affects the functioning and long-term stability of our ecosystems, we are already experiencing its consequences and we must respond. The establishment of protected and restored areas, stopping habitat destruction as well as reducing contaminants from industry, agriculture, and settlements will counteract the ongoing species decline. A sustainable use of nature at the societal and individual level and a shrinking world population will decrease the overexploitation of nature and mitigate climate change and other threats to biodiversity to maintain functional and stable ecosystems for future generations.
(1) Dealing with climate change is a highly complex task and there are no silver bullets. On the contrary, economic and technical interventions often have negative social or political consequences that have to be taken into account. The earlier and more openly this is done, the more legitimate and eventually effective policies will evolve. The EU's Green Deal is a first, very first, step in this direction.
(2) There is no solution to the climate problem or to many environmental crises without including the most important emerging economies and eventually the global South as a whole. This has changed the structure of world politics and requires the active engagement of the EU and its member states in global climate politics on all levels and with various governmental and non-governmental actors. But the EU and its members cannot just lead by example; they will have to invest heavily in mitigation and adaptation programs in the global South. Climate policy must therefore become part of the EU's foreign policy and foreign economic policy.
(3) Within many countries of the global South, climate and environmental policies will be successful only if a new and more responsive institutional setup is put into place. This requires state- and institution-building and very often entails a strengthening of national administrative systems. For example, if the EU really wants to stop deforestation in Indonesia, not only will its citizens have to change their consumption patterns, but Indonesia will also have to change the way its bureaucracy works.
(1) It is beyond any reasonable scientific doubt that humans have changed the climate on earth through greenhouse gas emission. This climate change is practically irreversible and will become much more severe in the future if the emission of greenhouse gases is not phased out very quickly.
(2) Anthropogenic climate change materialises through, among other things, a strongly enhanced frequency of extreme events (such as heat waves and heavy precipitation). Such weather extremes will be an increasing problem for human society, health, and the economy. The cost incurred by these man-made problems may soon outweigh the cost of decarbonizing the world economy.
(3) The climate system contains so-called tipping points, which means that passing a certain threshold in global warming will irreversibly push a number of climate subsystems into a new state that human society has not yet experienced. The likelihood of passing such thresholds increases with rising temperatures, and this, again, calls for fast decarbonization.
(4) There are open questions regarding the change of the atmospheric circulation that need to be settled. However, these remaining uncertainties do not detract at all from the urgent need for fast action motivated by the well-established facts formulated in items (1)-(3).
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