Blockchain Technology: ‘Proof-Of-Work’ Versus ‘Proof-Of-Stake’

Bitcoins. Photo/Credit: skodonnell/iStock.com

Bitcoins. Photo/Credit: skodonnell/iStock.com

 

Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and the blockchain technology that underpins them are gradually becoming household words. Although peer-reviewed research is only just beginning to develop on the topic, the cryptocurrency ecosystem is growing at an exponential rate. Everyday, new businesses, investors and researchers enter this dynamic space.

At the University of Liechtenstein, I have been working on an experimental blockchain project with Professor Dr Martin Angerer and Jonas Gehrlein, MSc from the University of Bern. Our research on blockchain technology has been an educational, demanding and exciting journey.

The terms ‘blockchain technology’ and ‘distributed ledger technology’ refer to a variety of different technologies that attempt to solve different problems. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology emerged after the 2007/08 global financial crisis. The most popular example of these technologies is Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is a decentralised and open-source digital currency that stores transactional data in a distributed database that is maintained by computers all around the world. The creator of Bitcoin, who is still unknown but goes by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, wanted to provide a decentralised, private and secure means of transferring value online that did not rely on trusting sovereign entities, central banks or financial intermediaries.

A major discussion in the cryptocurrency realm relates to the optimal algorithm for achieving a collective agreement on which transactions are valid and which are invalid within a distributed network. Currently, the two most popular methods are known as ‘proof-of-work’ and ‘proof-of-stake’.

Bitcoin’s proof-of-work algorithm uses large quantities of energy and hardware equipment, which have been estimated to cost approximately $400 million per year. Proof-of-stake is a newer invention that has not been rigorously tested in the market.

When my colleagues and I began our research project, we wanted to investigate the differences between these two consensus mechanisms in a laboratory environment. Our motivation was simple: if both systems achieve the same outcome but one system (proof-of-work) incurs a negative externality on the environment, then why are people still using it?

Despite the seeming superiority of proof-of-stake, market participants prefer proof-of-work. Using market capitalisation as a proxy for demand, the highest market capitalisation coins all rely on proof-of-work. But proof-of-stake is gaining popularity: Ethereum, the second largest market capitalisation coin, is expected to switch from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake during the next year.

Our research uses game theory and behavioural economics to study the strengths and weaknesses of these two competing systems in a lab environment with students.

Our first step was to boil down the complex nature of these consensus mechanisms into abstract concepts that could be easily modelled in a lab. We spent months reviewing the research literature and brainstorming possible set-ups for the experiment.

The lab setup for proof-of-work was relatively straightforward. We planned to draw from the public goods literature on network externalities. Students would be given the option to use a medium of exchange that incurred an internal personal cost or a medium of exchange that incurred an external cost for the environment.

Essentially, this represented the current fiat system versus the energy-guzzling Bitcoin. At this point, we were very excited about the direction of our research and about the contribution that it could make to the fields of economics and information science.

Unfortunately, our research hit an insurmountable obstacle when we tried to model proof-of-stake: we could not find a way to do it easily in a lab. We discussed potential drawbacks of the proof-of-stake system such as 51% attacks, deflationary spirals and uncertainty stemming from ambiguity. But we came to the conclusion that Bitcoin’s proof-of-work suffered from the same drawbacks, albeit to a lesser degree.

During my own reflection on the differences between proof-of-work and proof-of-stake, I came to the conclusion that these systems resemble our transition from a gold standard to a fiat standard. Like gold, Bitcoin uses electricity and capital equipment to mine new coins. The probability of randomly being chosen to create a block and receive a reward is equal to each miner’s amount of mining power divided by the total amount of mining power on the network.

On the other hand, proof-of-stake allows the users with the largest holdings to create coins out of thin air. In a proof-of-stake system, the probability of receiving a reward is equal to the fraction of coins held by the user divided by the total number of coins in circulation.

Following this logic, proof-of-stake would appear to be superior to proof-of-work because economic theory argues that the fiat system is superior to the gold standard due to deflationary spirals caused by hoarding. (Note, however, that my late uncle, the American economist Larry Sechrest, argued in his 1993 book, Free Banking: Theory, History, and a Laissez-Faire Model that the problems associated with the gold standard actually stemmed from regulation and not from the scarcity of gold.)

To date, my reflections have not helped us find a suitable set-up for the lab experiment: we have been unable to find a major setback of the proof-of-stake consensus mechanism. The only problem that I could find was quite philosophical in nature and too complicated to be easily modelled in a lab.

The twentieth-century Austrian logician, Kurt Gödel, argued that no system can prove its own correctness from within itself. In reference to proof-of-work and proof-of-stake, the former appears to solve Gödel’s incompleteness theorem while the latter relies on external truth to achieve consensus.

In a proof-of-work system, anyone can join the system and immediately determine the correct history of transactions in the blockchain because the correct chain is the longest chain by default. In comparison, proof-of-stake has not developed a method for ensuring that every computer in the network comes to the same conclusion on the correct history of transactions from within the system.

Instead, proof-of-stake relies on an external third party or host of third parties to establish agreement on the history of transactions. In plain terms: proof-of-stake establishes truth by appealing to an external anchor while proof-of-work establishes proof from within. Although the introduction of counterparties may not be a problem in every case, the original goal of the blockchain technology was to create consensus without intermediaries.

In the end, we could not find a suitable way to model proof-of-stake in a lab with humans. In our own analysis of this problem, we realised that there was a fundamental problem with the premise of our study: we were trying to model a lab experiment with humans based on a technology that was designed to minimise human interaction.

Although we have encountered this major setback in our study, we have learned a tremendous amount about blockchain technology and about our own strengths and weaknesses as researchers. Instead of giving up, we are going in a new direction with our blockchain research. After all, the journey for pioneers is never paved.

Winners and Losers From a ‘Commodities-For-Manufactures’ Trade Boom

 

Soy planting in Parana, Brazil.  Photo/Credit: alffoto/iStock.com

Soy planting in Parana, Brazil. Photo/Credit: alffoto/iStock.com

 

The rise of China has been one of the most important events to hit the world economy in recent decades. Rapid economic growth has had enormous implications within China, lifting millions of Chinese citizens out of poverty. But China’s rise has also deeply affected the economies of other countries in ways that we are only beginning to understand.

One fact that economists have learned from studying China’s impact on other countries is that competition from the booming Chinese manufacturing sector has had a big effect on manufacturing workers elsewhere. According to research by David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson, manufacturing employment has declined much more quickly in parts of the United States that produce goods imported from China.

These findings of negative impacts of Chinese competition for manufacturing workers have been corroborated by studies of European countries. For example, research by João Paulo Pessoa finds that UK workers initially employed in industries competing with Chinese products earned less and spent more time out of employment in the early 2000s.

But China is not only a competitor for other countries’ industries; it has also become an increasingly important consumer of goods produced elsewhere. In particular, China’s rapidly growing economy fuelled a worldwide commodity boom in the early 2000s.

This had an especially big impact on developing countries, whose swiftly rising exports to China became dominated by raw materials such as crops, ores and oil. Exports from low- and middle-income countries to China grew twelvefold from 1995 to 2010, compared with a twofold rise in their exports to everywhere else, so that China became an increasingly important trade partner for the developing world.

In 1995, commodities made up only 20%of these countries’ rather limited exports to China. But by 2010, nearly 70% of exports to China from developing countries were commodities (Figure 1A). Meanwhile, these countries’ rapidly growing imports from China consisted almost entirely of manufactured goods (Figure 1B).

 

Figure 1: Share of commodities in trade of developing countries Notes: ‘Commodities’ include products of the agricultural, forestry, fisheries/aquaculture and mining sectors. ‘Developing countries’ include non-high-income countries as defined by the World Bank, excluding countries in East and Southeast Asia, which tend to participate in regional manufacturing supply chains. Trade data is from CEPII BACI. Credit: Francisco Costa

Figure 1: Share of commodities in trade of developing countries. ‘Commodities’ include products of the agricultural, forestry, fisheries/aquaculture and mining sectors. ‘Developing countries’ include non-high-income countries as defined by the World Bank, excluding countries in East and Southeast Asia, which tend to participate in regional manufacturing supply chains. Trade data is from CEPII BACI. Credit: Francisco Costa

 

This swift transition to a new kind of trade relationship has sometimes been unpopular with China’s trade partners. For example, before a visit to China in 2011, Brazil’s former president Dilma Rousseff promised that she would be “working to promote Brazilian products other than basic commodities,” amid worries about “overreliance on exports of basic items such as iron ore and soy” (Los Angeles Times).

So for countries like Brazil, how did the benefits from the China-driven commodity boom compare to the costs of rising competition from Chinese manufactures?

In my research with Jason Garred and João Paulo Pessoa, published recently in the Journal of International Economics, we look at how the steep rise in ‘commodities-for-manufactures’ trade with China affected workers in Brazil. It turns out that Brazil’s evolving trade relationship with China in the early 2000s echoed that of the rest of the developing world:

  • First, trade with China exploded: just 2% of Brazil’s exports went to China in 1995, but this had risen to 15% by 2010.
  • Second, exports to China became increasingly concentrated in a few commodities (Figure 2A). In 2010, more than 80% of Brazilian exports to China were commodities, mostly soybeans and iron ore. In the first decade of the 2000s, almost all of the growth in export demand for these two Brazilian products came from China.
  • Finally, like the rest of the developing world, Brazil’s imports from China rose quickly but included almost exclusively manufactured goods (Figure 2B).

Our study analyses the 2000 and 2010 Brazilian censuses to check how the fortunes of workers across different regions and industries evolved during the boom in trade with China.

 

Figure 2: Share of commodities in trade of Brazil. ‘Commodities’ include products of the agricultural, forestry, fisheries/aquaculture and mining sectors. Trade data is from CEPII BACI. Credit: Francisco Costa

Figure 2: Share of commodities in trade of Brazil. ‘Commodities’ include products of the agricultural, forestry, fisheries/aquaculture and mining sectors. Trade data is from CEPII BACI. Credit: Francisco Costa

 

We first confirm that during this time, there was a negative effect of Chinese import competition on employees of manufacturing firms. Specifically, in parts of Brazil producing manufactured goods imported from China (such as electronics), growth in manufacturing workers’ wages between 2000 and 2010 was systematically slower.

But our findings also suggest that growth in trade with China created winners as well as losers within Brazil. Wages rose more quickly in parts of the country benefiting more from increasing Chinese demand, which were mainly regions producing soy or iron ore.

We also find that these regions saw a rise in the share of employed workers in formal jobs. Unlike jobs in the informal economy, jobs in the formal sector come with unemployment insurance, paid medical leave and other benefits, and so this increase in formality can be seen as a rise in non-wage compensation.

So while Brazil’s manufacturing workers seem to have lost out from Chinese import competition, rising exports to China appear to have benefited a different subset of Brazilian workers.

Our study concentrates on the short-run effects of trade with China on Brazilian workers. This means that our results don’t provide a full account of the trade-offs between the twin booms in commodity exports and manufacturing imports. For example, we don’t know what happened to the winners from the commodity boom once Chinese demand slowed in the mid-2010s.

We also do not consider the benefits to Brazilian consumers from access to cheaper imported goods from China. But what we do find suggests that trading raw materials for manufactures with China may not have been a raw deal for developing countries like Brazil after all.

Housing Talk: Why You Should Never Trust a House Price Index (Only)

An ever growing housing market? Picture/Credit: G0d4ather/iStock.com

An ever growing housing market? Picture/Credit: G0d4ather/iStock.com

 

Whenever I attend a dinner party or wedding or just meet old friends for coffee, at some point the topic turns to house prices, real estate investment and what seems to be generally perceived as a boom in the housing market. It seems that almost everyone is interested in buying a house or apartment. Often the aim is not just to cover the basic human need for shelter, but also to participate in the assumed never-ending boom and grab a small piece of the rapidly growing housing cake. House prices never fall, right?

People enthusiastically tell me stories of friends (or friends of friends) who finance multiple properties entirely via loans with zero down-payment. After all, real estate investment is a safe haven, isn’t it? And the expected rent will more than cover the monthly loan instalment, won’t it?

The figure show a rental price (right) index for Sydney together with quality-adjusted rental and sales price distributions. Credit: Sofie R. Waltl

The figures show a rental price index (top) for Sydney together with its quality-adjusted rental price distribution (bottom). Credit: Sofie R. Waltl

But wait, my experience of obsessive ‘housing talk’ may be biased in at least three ways. First, I’m in my late twenties and so are my friends. Thinking about buying property is common, even necessary, for my age (and socioeconomic) group. Key decisions for the rest of our lives need to be made: should I stay in my first job or get (another) postgraduate degree? Should I go abroad and try out the expat life? Should I marry or break up with my long-term boy/girlfriend? What about kids? And hey, where and how will I live? Which leads to the obvious next question: to rent or to buy.

Second, I wrote a PhD thesis about housing markets. Although I focused on better ways of measuring dynamics in housing and rental markets and mainly dealt with technical problems in statistical modelling of such markets, most of my friends tend (wrongly) to conclude that I am an expert in real estate investment. Naturally, I end up being asked for advice about housing markets more often than most.

Third, as a native Austrian currently living in Germany, I mainly come across people for whom dramatic changes in house prices are a new phenomenon. After years of generally flat house prices, these countries have only recently seen bigger shifts.

Still, housing markets seem to be a hot topic and I rarely meet someone who’s not at all interested. I believe that widely reported changes in house price indices are the main reason for that.

In his famous book Irrational Exuberance, Nobel laureate Robert Shiller describes how first the US stock market (near its peak in 1999) and then the US housing market (around 2004) became socially accepted topics of conversation with broad media coverage. In fact, he writes, whenever he went out for dinner with his wife, he successfully predicted that someone at an adjacent table would speak about the respective market.

Shiller is well-known for his analysis of markets driven by psychological effects, which help to explain observed developments that a theory based on full rationality would rule out. Although most people are aware of housing bubbles of the recent past – for example, in Ireland, Japan, Spain and the United States – the belief in real estate as a quasi risk-free investment seems to remain unquestioned. The fact that sharp and sudden drops in prices are possible and happen regularly is widely ignored. 

The figure shows a sales price index for Sydney together with quality-adjusted rental and sales price distributions. Credit: Sofie R. Waltl

The figures show a sales price index (top) for Sydney together with its quality-adjusted sales price distribution (bottom). Credit: Sofie R. Waltl

Everyone is affected by movements in housing and rental markets. If someone owns a property, it is usually her single largest asset; if someone rents, the cost often takes up a large fraction of her monthly income. This is why turbulence in these markets has larger effects on households than, for example, swings in the stock market (Case et al, 2005). The social implications of skyrocketing house prices and exploding rents but also of crashing markets are huge – which means that these markets need to be closely watched by policy-makers.

A house price index measures average movements of average houses in average locations belonging to an average price segment – a lot of averages! It is usually heavily aggregated, which implies that just because a national house price index reports rising prices, not every house will benefit equally from these increases. In fact, there is large variation in the distributions of prices and rents, and these distributions also change significantly over time.

Houses are highly heterogeneous goods (particularly compared with shares or bonds): no two houses are the same. Therefore, house price indices should be quality-adjusted, with differences in house characteristics taken into account. Still, changes in house price indices are often driven by developments in certain sub-markets, which are mainly determined by the three most important house characteristics: location, location, location. 

Hence, house price developments are extremely heterogeneous even within urban areas (see McMillen, 2014, Guerrieri et al, 2013, and Waltl, 2016b), and thus the interpretation of aggregated national or even supra-national indices is questionable. For example, the S&P/Case-Shiller US National Home Price Index reports changes for the entire United States, the ECB and EUROSTAT publish indices for the European Union and the euro area, and the IMF even produces a global house price index.

Missing bubbly episodes in sub-markets when looking at such heavily aggregated figures seems unavoidable; and basing an individual investment decision on them is dubious. Similarly problematic is the assessment of a housing market using such aggregated measures for financial stability purposes.

Price map showing the average price (in thousand AUD) for an average house for different locations over time in Sydney. Credit: Sofie R. Waltl

Price map showing the average price (in thousand AUD) for an average house for different locations over time in Sydney. Credit: Sofie R. Waltl

A typical pattern is that markets for low-quality properties in bad locations experience the sharpest rises shortly before the end of a housing boom. Look at the lowest price segment in Sydney’s suburbs (black, dashed line) compared with the highest price segment in the inner city (orange, dotted line) around the peak in 2004. It is also this segment that experiences the heaviest falls afterwards.

A possible behavioural explanation is as follows: the longer a housing boom lasts, the more people (and also the more financially less well-off people) want to participate in this apparently prosperous and safe market. Steady increases reported by house price indices give the impression that the entire market is booming with no end in sight. Whoever is able to participate becomes active in the housing market and investments boom in yet more affordable properties – the lowest segment in bad locations.

A common misconception is the assumption that rising house prices necessarily translate into higher rents almost immediately. But when the price contains a ‘bubble or speculative component’, this is not always the case.

In general, economists speak of a bubble whenever the price of an asset is high just because of the hope of future price increases without any justification from ‘fundamentals’ such as construction costs (Stiglitz, 1990). Investing in over-valued property and hoping for the rent to cover the mortgage is thus more dangerous than it might appear (see Himmelberg et al, 2005, for the components of the price-to-rent ratio measuring the relationship between prices and rents; and Martin and Ventura, 2012, for asset bubbles in general).

 

The figure shows location- and segment-specific indices for Sydney. CBD refers to the Central Business District. Credit: Sofie R. Waltl

The figure shows location- and segment-specific indices for Sydney. CBD refers to the Central Business District. Credit: Sofie R. Waltl

 

While we’ve already seen that price developments are very diverse, the same is also true for the relationship between prices and rents. Thus, simply looking at average price-to-rent ratios may miss the over-heating of a sub-market and its associated risks.

Credit: Sofie R. Waltl

Credit: Sofie R. Waltl

Buying property is thus more delicate than urban legends about the safety of real estate investment suggest. Above all, developments in housing markets are diverse even within small geographical areas and one number alone can never appropriately reflect what is going on. A complete picture of the dynamics in housing markets is essential from the perspective of an investor as well as a policy-maker.

And in case you’re hoping for investment advice, here’s the only piece I can offer: just because everyone buys does not mean that YOU should go out and buy whatever you can afford. In fact, when everyone (including your friend with questionable financial literacy) decides to invest in real estate, it might be exactly the wrong moment. Never rely on house price indices only, but go out and collect as much information as possible. And don’t forget: location, location, location… 

 

 


The figures show quality-adjusted developments in the Sydney housing market, and are part of the results of my doctoral thesis Modelling housing markets: Issues in economic measurement at the University of Graz under the supervision of Robert J. Hill. I am very grateful for his valuable support and advice. Calculations are based on data provided by Australian Property Monitors. Results, which this article is based on, are published as Waltl (2016a) and Waltl (2016b). The part about price-to-rent ratios is currently under review at a major urban economic journal (here is a working paper version). My work has benefitted from funding from the Austrian National Bank Jubiläumsfondsprojekt 14947, the 2014 Council of the University of Graz JungforscherInnenfonds, and the Austrian Marshallplan Foundation Fellowship (UC Berkeley Program 2016/2017). The views presented here are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect those of any past, present or future employer or sponsor.

On the Future of the Euro Area

The euro area crisis has laid bare institutional, political and economic weaknesses in the set-up of Europe’s monetary union. In the following, I outline some of these weaknesses and sketch possible solutions – or at least improvements.

 

Euro sculpture, Frankfurt, Germany. Photo/Credit: instamatics/iStock.com

Euro sculpture, Frankfurt, Germany. Photo/Credit: instamatics/iStock.com

First, fiscal oversight of the members is as toothless as it can be. Once Germany and France had violated the Stability and Growth Pact without being sanctioned in the early 2000s, monitoring of national budgets has not been credible – a problem of enforcement. There is also a problem of reporting, as evidenced by Greece’s use of dodgy numbers to gain access to the euro in 2000.

In my view, national budgets that violate the Maastricht criteria for the soundness and sustainability of public finances (which may need some updating) should require approval by a European Union body – probably the European Commission as the ‘guardian of the treaties’, but preferably the European Parliament given its stronger democratic mandate.

The question is whether such fiscal oversight is compatible with the treaties and with the constitutions of the members, as it means nothing less than a partial loss of national budgetary sovereignty. Maybe Germany and other (perhaps overzealous) supporters of fiscal prudence can trade such oversight for some degree of debt mutualisation, which sounds like a typical European idea.

Second, political interaction is too weak. The euro area is a very diverse construct with the ageing economic giants of Germany and France at the centre, young developing economies such as Slovenia and the Baltic states, and countries that have been unfortunately plagued by political gridlock and institutional inadequacy, notably Italy and Greece. Naturally, these countries have different aims for economic policy, and finding a compromise will always be difficult.

I like the idea of officials of the European Central Bank (ECB) being invited to address all the national parliaments as well as the European Parliament. Similarly, heads of state and government could be invited to speak to the parliaments of other members. This would be a further step towards a common European identity, explaining to one another why the economic policy of a government is the way it is – and of course listening to the explanations by others – not behind the closed doors of the European Council, but in public.

Third, ECB officials should realise that it is beyond the institution’s powers to create economic recovery on its own. Neither of its unconventional policies – from full allotment to quantitative easing – has lifted European inflation or expectations of inflation. In most of the euro area, inflation rates are well below the target of close to but below 2% in the medium run. In addition, business activity is weak, with the notable exception of Germany.

We can learn from this that a central bank’s powers are limited to managing the business cycle – which of course it must do. ECB policy in the early days and weeks of the crisis was a flawless execution of a central bank’s textbook role of ‘lender of last resort’. More recently though, all it has done is buy time for fiscal policy to act, at the expense of bank stability – as full allotment saved zombie banks that dragged economies down (notably Italy’s) while rock-bottom interest rates threatened the business model of healthy banks.

The ECB needs to phase out its unconventional policies for three reasons:

  • First, they prevent consolidation of the European banking market and threaten the stability of healthy banks.
  • Second, preparations need to be made for the next downswing of the business cycle, as the very modest recovery in Europe should be close to its end, judging from past lengths of the cycle.
  • Finally, governments need to face greater pressure to get their act together and implement reforms that improve growth, foster competition and increase employment.

The reasons why the members are still struggling to recover are quite different, so there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ economic policy. For example:

  • Germany needs more investment in (digital) infrastructure and childcare, as well efforts to foster its start-up culture. The country also needs to clean up the mess of the government-car industry nexus that seems to be at the centre of the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal.
  • France is taking the first steps towards reforming its labour market and needs to continue on this path.
  • Spain, too, must reform its two-tier labour market in order to reduce unemployment, particularly among young people.
  • Italy needs to sort out its pile of debt (a task that is likely to require the assistance of the ECB) and fix its institutional set-up in a way that gives the country more stable governments.

Whatever the weaknesses of the members, Europe’s mess is hardly the fault of the euro per se, although it did play a decisive role. Without the possibility of devaluing your own currency, a country’s adjustment after years, sometimes decades, of bad policy has to come strictly from ‘internal devaluation’ – a fancy term for falling prices, subdued demand, stalling investment and unemployment. The euro did not cause the problems, but it has prevented the usual adjustment, and policy-makers have been unable – or worse, unwilling – to adapt.

The lesson is that in a monetary union, sane and sustainable economic policy becomes ever more important both for a country’s own economy and for the other members. Burden-sharing of one kind or another may help, but it is no substitute for economic prudence. While this lesson is clear, it remains uncertain how Europe will react to the lesson in terms of both institutions and policy.

Final Preparations: Lindau Calling! (#LiNoEcon)

In just a few days, Lindau’s Stadttheater (= city theatre) will open its doors to a week full of inspirational exchange and education. We, the organising team of the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, are very much looking forward to having this incredible number of bright minds here on our small island.

67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, 25.06.2017, Lindau, Germany

The 6th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences will take place at Lindau’s city theatre. Photo/Credit: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

By now, you’ve probably gone through the numerous phases of preparation, perhaps even packing. So let us give you some last minute guidance and lists for repacking your gear.

 

The Programme

Perhaps you’ve already gotten around to checking this year’s meeting programme. If not, don’t worry – here’s the link to the full programme booklet.

22.08.2014 Lindau, Germany,  5th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences  5. Lindauer Tagung der Wirtschaftswissenschaften Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Laureate Peter A. Diamond at #LiNoEcon 2014. Photo/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Getting Here

We do not organise any shuttle buses to Lindau; thus, you will have to organise your trip to Lindau yourself.

Most likely, you’ll be arriving in Lindau by train. All airports you might be flying into offer connections to “Lindau Hbf” (the train station to head to) via train. You can either buy a ticket at the train stations or via www.bahn.com. You have arrived in Lindau as soon as you see water to your left, to your right and in front of you. Welcome to Lake Constance!

 

Registration

In order to take advantage of everything Lindau has to offer, you need to register with us and get your conference materials. Upon registration, you will receive your name badge, which indicates to our staff which events you will attend, your personal agenda, the final programme and more.

Registration of young economists will take place in the city theater (Stadttheater) and will open on Tuesday, 22 August from 10.00 hrs until 20.00 hrs and Wednesday, 23 August from 7.30 hrs until 18.00 hrs. Please note that you will have to show a valid ID at the registration desk.

 

Everything Else You Need to Know

The opening ceremony starts on Wednesday at 9.00 hrs, and the Stadttheater will open its doors at 8.00 hrs. Seats have to be taken by 8.45 hrs. For security reasons, it is not allowed to bring any large bags. For your convenience, there will be space to store your luggage securely just outside the Stadttheater at the Turnhalle (the primary school gym opposite the back entrance of the theatre). You will need to present your name badge and a valid ID-card in order to get access.

For a Google Map with all the important places in Lindau, please click here (or check the meeting app):

 

 

What to Bring & What to Wear

There is no dress code for the regular scientific sessions. For invitational dinners, you may want to bring something more festive (suits, cocktail dresses). As the lake is great for swimming, you may want to bring swim wear. Some of the local swimming pools even offer free entrance for the participants of the Lindau Meeting. Sunscreen and mosquito repellents are a good idea as well. 

Make sure to bring comfortable shoes that are suitable for cobblestone roads and various weather conditions. A hairdryer may be useful as well as a voltage converter (220 volts) or adapter as German socket-outlets vary from those abroad.

Over the last years, one of the events has become particularly popular among all participants: the “Bavarian Evening” supported by the Free State of Bavaria. For this, it is a great idea to wear a traditional festive costume from your home country. Those of you who own a traditional Bavarian costume (Dirndl dress or Lederhosen) are more than welcome to wear that instead.

 

At the Bavarian evening, everyone is invited to wear the traditional outfit of their home country. Photo/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

At the Bavarian evening, everyone is invited to wear the traditional outfit of their home country. Photo/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Morning Workouts

For those of you participating in the morning workouts: please bring comfortable sportswear, a towel and sturdy sneakers. Water bottles will be provided upon registration.

 

Internet & Phones

The meeting venue is equipped with wireless LAN (WiFi). Special log-in credentials will not be required – just follow the instructions.

It’s always helpful to bring along your mobile phone so that we will be able to contact you easily. To use a mobile phone in a German network, it needs to support the GSM standard (used all over Europe). The German country code is +49.

 

Lindau, Germany, 22.08.2014. 5th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences/5. Lindauer Tagung der Wirtschaftswissenschaften. Science Breakfast UBS , Roger Myerson (2.v.l.) Picture/Credit: Rolf Schultes/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Laureate Roger B. Myerson at the 5th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences. Photo/Credit: Rolf Schultes/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Emergencies

In case of an emergency at the main meeting venue, please contact the staff. Please note that our staff is not authorised to hand out any medication. A paramedic team is present at the meeting venue and can help with all health-related issues. If you have an emergency at a different location, please either contact any of the staff if present, or call 112, the official emergency number that will work in all of the EU countries and in Switzerland. During the meeting, you will be covered by a health insurance policy provided by the organisers.

 

The Meeting App

There will be a conference app available at the 6th Lindau Meeting on Economic Sciences. All the information from this post can also be found there (…and more). For an in-depth explanation on how to get started with the app, please refer to my colleague Christoph’s guide.

 

Last but Not Least

If you want to get a taste of the “Lindau spirit” prior to the meeting, you are invited to take a look at our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter (@lindaunobel) and Instagram (@lindaunobel). Throughout the week of the meeting, we will try to post as much interesting content as possible via #LiNoEcon, this year’s official hashtag. Do join the conversation – we’d be happy!

My colleagues and I will be happy to assist you at the Young Scientist Help Desk, should you have any questions. It is going to be a great week, so let’s make the most of it!

And finally, if you haven’t seen them yet, take a look at our new bags, which will soon be yours ;-)

 

Lindau Calling #LiNoEcon

Nadine, Karen and Nesrin – always there to help you out during your time in Lindau! Photo/Credit: Lisa Vincenz-Donnelly/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings 

 

Germany’s Monetary Mythology: Central Bank Independence and Crafting the Past

Financial district in Frankfurt, Germany. Photo/Credit: fotoVoyager/iStock.com

Financial district in Frankfurt, Germany. Photo/Credit: fotoVoyager/iStock.com

 

The job of a central bank is to ‘take away the punch bowl just when the party gets going,’ as William McChesney Martin, an American central banker, once quipped. In other words, the central bank should raise interest rates to rein in the economy before things get out of hand.

This is not always a popular job – and some central banks have done it better than others. Think of the Deutsche Bundesbank, for instance, which celebrated its sixtieth birthday at the start of this month. West Germany’s central bank was among the most successful in the post-war fight against inflation.

Indeed, we have long since reached the stage where the image of the Bundesbank has become a caricature. The German central banker: conservative, independent and not a smile to be seen. To be sure, if there were a punch bowl at a party, the German central banker would be the first to confiscate it.

Reputation is a priceless asset in the world of central banking. Credibility matters. How can we explain the Bundesbank’s reputation? Statistics are important, of course. The Bundesbank ensured that Germany experienced lower inflation rates than its trading partners, boosting the country’s competitiveness and prosperity. Such success breeds reputation.

But can numbers explain everything? Well, no. Another important factor can be history – or, at least a certain version of history. Germans, so the story goes, have long been scarred by the traumatic experience of inflation in 1920s: ever since, they have been dead set against inflation and for an independent central bank.

So no wonder the Bundesbank has been so successful fighting rising prices. The German central banker is motivated by the powerful example of his or her history.

But hold on a second. This picture is a little too neat – and there are some holes in the story. For example, Germany is not the only European country to have experienced a hyperinflation during the twentieth century. A bunch of others, including Poland and Hungary, have endured them. Yet it is only Germany that places price stability at the top of its list of economic priorities, ostensibly because of its traumatic history. What makes the German inflation so special?

To understand why Germany’s political culture is so fixated on inflation, we need to focus less on the hyperinflation itself and more on what happens afterwards. This is where approaches of cultural history – and my research – come in.

Put more precisely, we need to examine how the country’s monetary history became caught up in a post-war power struggle over the direction of monetary policy between the central bank, on the one hand, and the federal government, on the other.

The lessons stemming from Germany’s experience of inflation became politicised and mobilised into arguments in support of – and against – the need for central bank independence.

Wait, against? Contrary to popular belief, central bank independence was a controversial issue in 1949, the year in which the West German state was established. It was controversial because the Reichsbank, Germany’s central bank prior to the end of the Second World War, was legally independent of government instruction during both the hyperinflation and deflation. That is a historical fact – and it is one that is often forgotten.

In part this is because, today, we tend to associate independent central banks with economic stability, not instability. After all, that is what (most of) the post-war period teaches us. In 1949, however, that association was a far tougher sell. It was not a given. So the link between central bank independence and economic stability had to be carefully crafted, using select examples taken from Germany’s inter-war history, with other, more inconvenient facts shoved to the side.

Both supporters and opponents of central bank independence reverted to historical lessons amid efforts to influence the provisions in the Bundesbank Law, a crucial piece of legislation that established the post-war Bundesbank as we know it today.

Historical narratives of Germany’s past were forged amid this struggle for power – and in the end, those lobbying for central bank independence won the day.

Crucially, however, the Bundesbank Law itself reaffirmed this powerful struggle over monetary policy. In providing for a central bank that was independent of political instruction, the law made it highly likely that conflicts between the central bank and government would become ‘dramatised’ and spill into the public sphere.

These public controversies often centred on central bank independence. It was in these very episodes that the lessons of Germany’s experience of inflation became relevant yet again, geared in support of central bank independence.

Some historical experiences are more useful than others. A post-war institutional power struggle, one that centred on monetary policy, made Germany’s history of inflation more relevant for future generations of West Germans. Contemporary political disputes were treated in distinctly historical terms. An institutional struggle helped to foster this cultural preoccupation with inflation. That is what has made the German inflation so special – and so consequential – as opposed to those experienced by other countries.

Reputation is a priceless thing in the world of central banking – and it is even more powerful when a central bank has the right kind of history, or story, backing it. ‘The past is never dead’, the novelist William Faulkner once wrote: ‘It’s not even past.’ In the post-war era, Germany’s monetary history became a political football – and it remains one to this day.

Is the Paris Agreement on Climate Change ‘Bad for Business’?

Concerns are growing about the impact of climate change on macroeconomic and financial stability. Researchers, policy-makers and other stakeholders are trying to calculate the costs of climate change – and also whether there are potential opportunities from global warming.

Many see the costs in term of the economic losses from natural disasters associated with climate change. There is a considerable body of research estimating these costs of the physical risks of climate change. But the financial costs potentially go far beyond that, notably as a result of the risks from climate policy.

Growing public awareness of climate change has led many countries to emphasise the importance of ‘turning down the heat‘, aiming to keep global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This ultimately resulted in the 2015 agreement made in Paris within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Paris agreement seeks to mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, in particular by encouraging ‘fossil fuel divestment’. Climate policies that are being implemented to achieve that ambition include the European Union’s emissions trading system and carbon taxes – fees imposed on the burning of carbon-based fuels such as coal, oil and gas.

Risks from these policies arise from the fact that some financial assets will have to be re-evaluated: for example, firms in the fossil fuel sector will lose their value, while renewable energy firms will rise in value. Financial market participants that own shares in these firms need to know their exposure to climate-sensitive sectors of the economy.

It is important to note that while the physical risks of climate change are difficult to avoid, climate policy risks can be evaluated and diminished if recognised early enough. The crucial questions for policy-makers and the public are first, what are the costs of the transition to a low-carbon economy (‘decarbonisation’); and second, how can the costs of climate change be transformed into opportunities?

 

A Coal-fired power plant, solar energy and windmills. Photo/Credit: rclassenlayouts/iStock.com

What are the costs of a transition to a low-carbon economy? Photo/Credit: rclassenlayouts/iStock.com

 

Research Evidence

As the inevitable process of decarbonisation gathers speed, more and more financial institutions are becoming concerned with climate policy risks. Many banks, insurance companies and pension funds are recognising the need to ‘stress-test’ their asset portfolios for their resilience to climate policy.

It is important to highlight that shocks imposed on the financial system as a result of climate policy risks are not necessarily negative: they can also be positive and could boost the economy. Financial institutions are interested in finding the best portfolio of assets for the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Several global initiatives are seeking to estimate the costs and gains for the economy on the path to decarbonisation. One example is the Financial Stability Board of the G20, which has launched a Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure, aiming to give firms the incentives to disclose publicly their climate-relevant information and thereby help investors create a sustainable portfolio.

Another example is a Green Finance Study Group, launched under China’s G20 presidency with the support of the Bank of England and proposing to address the challenges of achieving a climate-friendly economic and financial system. Both initiatives have lead to wider awareness of the issue and are working towards a deeper understanding and the development of appropriate measures.

The question of climate-related exposure is also being addressed at the national and regional level. For example, the Carbon Bubble project, commissioned by Germany’s environmental agency, is creating tools for investors to evaluate their climate-related risks for all important asset classes and sectors. Several central banks have conducted analyses of climate stress testing, and the European Commission recently published the interim report of its high-level expert group on sustainable finance.

Most of the proposed new stress-testing methodologies focus on the direct exposure of individuals, firms, pension funds or banks to climate policy risks. But it is also important to consider ‘counterparty climate policy risks’. For example, a pension fund wanting to invest in low-carbon firms might find that the investment fund it uses has a ‘brown’ portfolio rather than a ‘green’ one. This is an illustration of so-called second-round effects.

One recent climate stress test proposes a methodology to take account of second-round effects. By analysing the listed equity holdings of firms, the analysis shows that such effects can amplify positive and negative shocks caused by climate policy and, therefore, could decrease the accuracy of climate policy risk estimations.

Despite growing interest in methodologies for assessing climate-related financial risks, as yet there are no estimates of the magnitude of the exposure of the euro area to climate policy risks. Building on the recently proposed climate stress test methodology, our research is trying to estimate the monetary value of gains and losses for the euro area on the path to decarbonisation.

Taking account of various channels of exposures between euro area governments and financial institutions, our preliminary estimates show that the most exposed to climate-sensitive sectors of the economy are governments, investment funds, insurance companies and pension funds, while banks have relatively little exposure.

 

Future Challenges for Research and Policy Action

There are many open issues associated with estimating monetary exposure to climate change. First, there is no standardised economic classification for firms that would allow easy estimation of their climate sensitivity; and second, there is no financial transparency that would make it possible to calculate the costs of climate change and, in particular, take account of second-round effects. New policies need to be introduced to resolve these issues.

Finally, not everyone supports the Paris agreement, notably the American president who said during his election campaign that ‘the climate change deal is bad for business.’ Is this really true?

Preliminary findings of our research show that it is not the case. The actual exposure to fossil fuels is small for the euro area and the exposure to climate-sensitive sectors is about 50 percent, which could be both a loss and an opportunity.

Research estimating the extent of climate change effects on business continues and there are many issues to be resolved. But it is widely realised that change is inevitable and society needs to be better prepared for it. With further research on well-defined paths to decarbonisation, safe asset allocation and climate-related financial disclosure, it will be possible to tackle climate change and ‘make our planet great again.’

Society’s Growing Need for Non-Formal Education

Our traditional system of formal education – with a teacher or professor in front of a classroom of passive listeners, backed up with a blackboard and lots of chalk – is becoming increasingly unfit for purpose. It’s generally good at tackling the basic needs of a fairly homogeneous group of people – mainly children and young adults from 6 to 18 with the possibility of ‘extension’ to college or university for those who ‘performed well’ in the first two levels of the system. But today’s world needs so much more.

In a fast-changing society with substantial technological advancements and unlimited global connectedness, lifelong learning has become a necessity, often long after people have left the formal education system. What’s more, the needs of specific groups of people don’t fit well in the current system and should be targeted in different ways.

 

Credit: Lamaip/iStock.com

Photo/Credit: Lamaip/iStock.com

 

As an example, we can think of the immense group of refugees who have arrived in Europe over the last five years with backgrounds ranging from an unfinished high-school education to advanced degrees in engineering, medicine, information technology, languages and so on.

There are also many contemporary challenges – such as migration, global warming, radicalisation and inequality – that are extremely complex and need a holistic and interdisciplinary approach. In turn, this requires very specific combinations of skills and knowledge. But the traditional education system is focused on disciplinary specialisation, rather than interdisciplinary combinations of skill sets.

 

The need for non-formal education

I believe that ‘non-formal education’ is the way to fill the growing gap that results from today’s more advanced and heterogeneous educational needs. Compared with formal education, non-formal education is less focused on the general and overall public needs of large groups in a society. It has been described as a complementary ‘educational activity carried on outside the formal system to provide selected types of learning to particular subgroups in the population, adults as well as children.’

Informal education – which encompasses all acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes from any kind of experiences – is an even broader, but also more ambiguous, form of education. Hence, compared with informal education, non-formal education happens in a more organised and structured way.

This distinction is significant, as non-formal education therefore requires a minimal level of resources to support an organisational structure. It can also be applied to focus on a particular group of people or niche activity; and it can be strategically managed in order to reach particular educational goals for such target groups.

Consequently, non-formal education is mainly provided by civil society and/or non-profit service organisations, and it can fill the gap between what is left open by formal education and what is naturally transferred through people’s daily social interactions. Given its organisational structure, it can be actively managed to provide educational solutions for concrete and tangible problems. 

Non-formal education has different functionalities. A major one is participant functionality. This means that non-formal education brings direct benefits for its participants, such as skills, experiences and personal networks.

Non-formal education also has social functionality, as it enables people to engage in society and it provides a platform for discussing and tackling local, regional and global problems. For example, in a study of the global scouts movement, I find that the social functionality of this non-formal educational movement is perceived very differently across countries.

 

Some questions for researchers and practitioners

Starting from the growing gap between the traditional educational system and desirable social outcomes, several questions for researchers and practitioners can guide us to shape the future of non-formal education:

  • First, can a full-scale non-formal education sector exist in addition to the traditional formal education system without both sectors being in too strong competition for the same resources?
  • Second, can both sectors strengthen each other, where the strengths of one sector compensate for the weaknesses of the other? For example, should the ‘efficiency’ of one sector be traded-off against the more adjusted targeting of the advanced and heterogeneous needs of the other sector? Or can accreditation, certification, evaluation of both sectors and the skills acquired in each sector be integrated. A starting point lies in a seminal set of first recommendations.
  • Third, how can non-formal education organisations – which are often operational as non-profit and/or social profit organisations – increase their legitimacy and public reputation to assure long-term resources for their mission and achievements?
  • Fourth, what steps should researchers, funding organisations and policy-makers take to quantify the needs and benefits of non-formal education? More and better data on non-formal education – similar to the PISA efforts for formal education – would be likely to result in more robust scientific insights and better policy recommendations.
  • Finally, how can participants/students improve their short- and long-term wellbeing through combining both educational systems in their lifelong learning path?

Why Every Young Scientist Should Apply for the Lindau Meeting

Over the last two months I have interviewed several young scientists who participated in #LiNo17 for my “Women in Research” blog – a blog to increase the visibility of women in research. Now after the meeting I contacted them again and they shared their #LiNo17 highlights and impressions with me. Enjoy!


Andrea d’Aquino from the US 

As I sat through each of the Nobel Laureate’s talks, I found that there was a common thread among each of their stories and lessons: persistence, tenacity, creativity and enthusiasm are key ingredients to success. With or without the Nobel Prize, each of these individuals persevered through challenges and remained curious about science; it was with a bit of luck and an immense amount of hard work that these scientists were able to achieve great discoveries and earn the Nobel Prize. Their stories have resonated with me and inspired me to never give up and to never lose sight of why I pursue science: to better understand the world. The Lindau Meeting was a unifying and inspiring experience. The chance to meet these great scientists in person allowed me to better understand and appreciate them not just as Nobel Prize winners but as people who have overcome many of the same obstacles we all face in science every day. They have shone a light on both scientific and political issues facing our world, and have addressed the many personal hurdles they have overcome throughout their careers.

Photo: Courtesy of Andrea d’Aquino

Nobel Laureates and young scientists including Andrea (front) during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Andrea d’Aquino

Along with meeting these inspiring scientists, I am so grateful for the many friendships I have made with students from all around the world. On the final day of the trip, we travelled to Mainau Island and back. On our way back, students from all around the world joined together for an afternoon of dancing and celebrating. This experience was clear evidence of the great friendships and bonds we had built on our trip. Students from all around the world connected over science, food and dancing, and I will always deeply treasure those friendships I made.   

This experience has made a profound impact on me and on my outlook on science and research. I think it’s incredibly important that young scientists — and in particular women and underrepresented minorities in science — have the opportunity to be involved in such an inspiring event. 

Read more about Andrea


Anna Eibel from Austria

Anna with Nobel Laureate Ben Feringa during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Anna on a panel with Nobel Laureate Ben Feringa during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Julia Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

For me, the Lindau Meeting was a very special meeting. Here, we did not discuss any particular research field in detail, as is typically done at scientific conferences. Instead, we discussed the global issues we face in science – ranging from climate change, green chemistry, carbon dioxide recycling and renewable energies to personalised medicine, antibiotic resistance and many other globally relevant topics, as well as science careers. The broad diversity of research topics introduced in the lectures of the Nobel Laureates gave the input for these “big picture” discussions, and I was impressed by the motivation and passion most of the laureates still show after many decades of doing research.

I particularly enjoyed connecting with the other young scientists, and I became aware of many interesting research fields and opportunities for potential future collaborations and career steps. I think participating in the Lindau Meeting is an excellent opportunity for getting inspired and connecting to scientists all over the world.

Read more about Anna


Antonella Coccia from Argentina

No words can describe the week at the Lindau Meeting. Well, maybe there is one that keeps sounding in my head: inspired. I feel highly inspired after my week at Lindau. The young scientists and the Nobel Laureates have inspired me in so many ways to pursue my career goals. 

Antonella with Nobel Laureate Mario Molina. Photo: Courtesy of Antonella Coccia.

Antonella with Nobel Laureate Mario Molina. Photo: Courtesy of Antonella Coccia

I attended as an undergraduate student, looking for – among other things – fields where to focus my graduate studies. I have found it, and I have found so many people willing to give me advice about it. 

It was the most unforgettable week. I am impressed by how approachable the Nobel Laureates were. They have shown to be incredibly humble even though they were awarded the most relevant prize in science.  They were always happy to answer my questions and to give me advice for my career.

 I am happy that I had the opportunity to share a week with people who have the same interests as me. I made friends from all around the world who taught me about their culture and were always open to discuss current issues taking advantage of our own different perspectives.

I feel so fortunate that I had the chance to experience the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting and I encourage every young scientist to attend it. It will give you a broader perspective of your career and it will give you the unique chance to be surrounded by the best of science.

Read more about Antonella


Diana Montes Grajales from Columbia

Diana Montes Grajales and Jana Kobeissi during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Diana Montes Grajales

Diana Montes Grajales and Jana Kobeissi during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Diana Montes Grajales

The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting is extraordinary; it is designed to share the experience and knowledge of the greatest leaders in science, the Nobel Laureates, with the next generation of scientists to encourage us to work hard for the benefit of the world and society. We live in convulsed times in terms of environmental depletion, violence and diseases; and we young scientist are called to help to address all these issues and pursue for a better world. When I applied for this event, I was a young researcher at Universidad Tecnólogica de Bolívar, in Cartagena-Colombia, and I never imagined to be accepted because I thought I was in the periphery of the world, but this is really an international meeting; this year, there were people from more than 70 countries with whom you have the opportunity to talk and plan collaborative work. The organisation and structure of the meeting is great: each of us had a personalised agenda, we had lectures, panel discussions and small group discussions with the Nobel Laureates from key topics in science to life experiences as well as many social activities in which you have the opportunity to interact with both Nobel Laureates and young researchers. Highlights of the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Chemistry were: the importance of developing environmental friendly technologies, working with green chemistry and facing the climate change problem as well as to link society to science, in terms of divulgation and pertinence of the research. There are also specific soft skills to pay attention to in science such as perseverance, passion and ethics. This is a unique experience, I hope you will apply and be the next young researcher in a Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting!

Read more about Diana


Emma Danelius from Sweden

Participating in the Lindau Meeting was certainly a great experience in many ways. First, it was truly inspiring to listen to and talk to the Nobel Laureates. They generously shared their exceptional research as well as their life experiences and advice for us young scientists, and I feel really fortunate that I was given the opportunity to partake in this event. 

Photo: Courtesy of Emma Danelius

Emma with Astrid Gräslund, member of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and secretary of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry, and other young scientists during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Emma Danelius

The academic dinner was great, with only a few students we got a lot of time to talk to some of the laureates and this was such a memorable night. What I had not expected before attending the Lindau Meeting was the impact that meeting the fellow young scientist would have on me. I was so inspired talking to young scientists from all over the world, all of whom shared the same drive, ambition and passion for science. All these warm, friendly, motivated and interested people created a unique and engaging atmosphere in Lindau, and that together with a great organisation made the meeting so exceptional. I had high expectations before the meeting, yet, they were surpassed. I would encourage every young scientist to use the opportunity to participate in future meetings, it really is a once in a lifetime experience. Especially young female scientist, go to Lindau and meet with other likeminded women like yourselves, with the same ambitions and future goals, it is such an inspiring event and maybe you will end up making some friends for life.

Read more about Emma


Eva Maria Wara Alvarez Pari from Bolivia 

The Lindau meeting has been a long standing intellectual legacy and an opportunity to interact with young scientists from more than 70 countries.  This whole week has reinforced my scientific focus and increased my emphasis in social issues. It gave me the most rewarding experience in my personal life. Nobel Laureates gave me advices to grow intellectually and personally. Running risks in scientific life. The diversity of this meeting has opened me the chance not only to exchange scientific topics of our own research, but it also has allowed me to switch from mine to other fields.

Oleksandra Trofymchuk	and Eva Maria Wara at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Eva Maria Wara

Oleksandra Trofymchuk and Eva Maria Wara at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Eva Maria Wara Alvarez Pari

I was fascinated to get to know more about the Nobel Laureates since I was a child. Unfortunately, in South American countries the chances to meet Nobel Laureates closely are unusual or a matter of luck. Last year, I have heard about eight women who participated in the previous event and it changed my life since then. Now, I cannot believe I belong to that select group of women who have taken part in this meeting. I invite every young scientist around the world to become part of this networking, creating links of scientific cooperation projects. I am pretty sure this event will give your life a 180 degree turn. It is a marathon week of interacting, discussion events with young scientists and laureates which believe it or not, could be extended until midnight.  I reiterate my invitation, and don’t hesitate or tell yourself you don’t feel up to this event. Just apply and give yourself a chance to experiment a transcendental meeting which is waiting for you.

Read more about Eva Maria Wara


Florencia Marchini from Argentina

Before coming to Lindau, I had the silly idea that I was attending a fancy conference and Nobel Laureates were some kind of celebrities that everyone would like to take pictures with. The Lindau Meeting couldn’t have been farther from that. Nobel Laureates not only have enlightened me with their bright ideas but also have touched my heart by revealing their most human side. Every time they showed pictures of themselves as young scientists at the end of their lectures, or talked about being rejected or not having enough money or even of having few time to share with their families and friends, I couldn’t help seeing myself. It was then when I got to understand that they came to tell us that we all are the same, that we all walk in the same direction if we are passionate, if we never give up, if we become experts in what we really like and if we continue in this path even after reaching the top of our careers. 

Florencia (front right) with other young scientists at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Florencia Marchini

Florencia (front, right) with other young scientists at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Florencia Marchini

But close exchange with Nobel Laureates has not been the only amazing experience I have had in Lindau. Sharing one entire week surrounded by young scientist from all over the world and learning that even coming from such different places and cultures we all have similar curiosities, same questions, same difficulties and that we are worried about the same issues, gave me enormous hope and gratitude, as it showed me that science connects us beyond borders and languages, because science is a language itself.

On Saturday at the registration, we were complete strangers to each other. But one week after that, when we left the boat at the end of the meeting, we all felt the power of the wind starting to blow. Something had changed us. We were physically exhausted, mentally blank, emotionally overwhelmed but with the eyes full of pictures and the heart full of hope. We connected, we felt each other.

I am sure that none of us wanted to leave Lindau, but I also think that it was the right time to do it, as we were taking with us the Lindau legacy. Don’t stay locked in the lab, share, connect. Have political awareness as well as social and environmental commitment. Be as persistent as passionate. Don’t feel guilty, feel responsible. Take action, there is plenty of work to do at home. And enjoy science because, as Nobel Laureate Peter Agre said to me, “Science is an amazing trip you will never know where is going to take you”.

Read more about Florencia


Hannah Noa Barad from Israel

I really enjoyed my experience at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. It was an amazing conference, in every aspect.

Hannah Noa during a zeppelin flight at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Hanna Noa Barad.

Hannah Noa during a zeppelin flight at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Hanna Noa Barad

First, the fantastic lectures given by the Nobel Laureates and the discussions that followed, where we were really able to get to know them on a personal level and hear about their life experiences as well as getting good advice from them for our careers. Second, the great networking and willingness to discuss science and get to know young scientists from all over the world was really a wonderful idea, and was truly felt everyday throughout the meeting. Third, the fun dinners and sponsored activities that were held throughout the conference certainly added so much to the whole event, including the panels that were held, which indeed were eye-opening. I feel that if a student or postdoc gets the opportunity to apply and go to the meeting they should do it. I have gained so much knowledge and new friends as well as potential colleagues from this conference, and I feel like a whole new world has opened up to me. Don’t miss out on this chance to benefit from getting to know the most amazing scientists and people from around the world, as well as see the beautiful city of Lindau which has been the home of the conference since it was first established. 

Read more about Hannah


Hlamulo Makelane from South Africa

Hlamulo Makelane made closing remarks as a representative of the young scientists at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: lvd/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Hlamulo Makelane made closing remarks as a representative of the young scientists at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: lvd/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

The 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting was a great opportunity that I will treasure forever in my career path. The Nobel Laureates’ talks, discussion sessions and panels were very informative, interesting, inspiring, and motivated me to continue with my research in sciences. Meeting young scientists from around the world working in different areas of chemistry was amazing. It has broadened my knowledge in the field and made me think about how we can integrate our research through collaboration and explore more ideas that we could apply to our research problems, or ways we could build something together that can be applicable to societal issues. I was not only inspired by the research of young scientists, I also found it exciting to meet people from different countries and cultural backgrounds because in this one week I learned a lot from different parts of the world and I had the pleasure to talk about life itself, not only science. I have made many new friends during the meeting and I would like to keep the network going by staying in touch with them. I did know that the meeting will host young scientists from about 70 countries and around 30 Nobel Laureates; however, being there and experiencing it, I felt like I was surrounded with people who see greatness in one another even when we didn’t see it in ourselves. I was humbled by the opportunity given to me to make closing remarks representing the young scientist at the closing of the 67th Lindau Meeting. This meeting has been truly a wonderful experience for me professionally and personally.

In conclusion, I was impressed by an equal number of women participating in the meeting, and I will strongly encourage other young scientists, especially women, to look forward to this career- and life-changing meeting and apply to participate.

Read more about Hlamulo


Jana Kobeissi from Lebanon

The 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting had everything that a scientist could ever wish for. Over a course of a few days, you get to attend lectures by and afternoon discussions with the Nobel Laureates themselves, and if you’re lucky enough, you can even share a table with one of them for dinner. The laureates not only discussed science, but also exposed their life experiences leading up to and after winning the Nobel Prize. They emphasised that even they made their own mistakes – had their own ups and downs – but they did not give up. Rather, they pursued projects even if the topics were not “hot” at that moment or even if others did not “believe” in their work. In short, they give you hope and inspiration. You’d even feel the urge to go to the lab RIGHT NOW and carry out experiments.

Jana with Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie. Photo: Courtesy of Jana Kobeissi

Jana with Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie. Photo: Courtesy of Jana Kobeissi

Furthermore, ever since day one, you are surrounded by enthusiastic – and extremely friendly – young scientists who are just as passionate about science as you are. You meet others from very different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, with whom you click right away, and as you converse with them and get to know more about their research, you realise just how international science is. The diversity of the participants sharply contrasts with the singularity of the main issue at hand: science!

I urge all scientists to apply to the Lindau Meetings, regardless of age. I am an undergraduate student, myself, and I found the meeting to be tremendously valuable: Now, I am connected with other undergraduates, PhD students, Post Docs, and even an assistant professor from all over the world. I was also fortunate to get worthwhile advice from some laureates regarding my future career in science. Getting this exposure early on, I believe, is very important. Finally, all of the above took place in one of the most beautiful and peaceful areas I have ever seen. All in all, the Lindau experience is perfect!

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Julietta Yedoyan from Armenia 

Julietta and Nobel Laureate Ferid Murad during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo:  Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Julietta and Nobel Laureate Ferid Murad during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

I heard I lot of great opinions about the Lindau Meeting from different sources, although I would have never imagined that nowadays there exists such a perfectly organised meeting, which brings together so many inspired and motivated people from all over the world to share their ideas and experience. It is an incredibly amazing and unique meeting where the young generation gets a chance to meet Nobel Laureates from different disciplines, getting involved in discussions about research and science in general as well as personal experience of the success which changed the world for the benefit of mankind. Before participating in the Lindau Meeting, I was not sure about the decision to stay in the science, being aware of all the obstacles that I should overcome in the future to establish myself as a scientist, and I was looking for some opportunities in industry, which is not an easy path either but a more or less stable field. However, during the discussion with some Nobel Laureates I got so impressed and inspired by their personalities and their research that I made the decision to totally change my plans about my future and to stay in science. I think being a scientist it is a vocation, it is not an easy path, but well respected. Moreover, the facts that your research can be important and that it can one day change the world to the better motivate me to sacrifice and struggle for the benefit of mankind.

Beside all the Nobel Laureates, I should mention the nice expression of all smart and well educated young people that I had a chance to meet; hopefully, to meet them again in the future and possibly cooperate and collaborate by sharing and exchanging ideas.

Special thank you to DAAD for my scholarship and for this great opportunity as well the whole Lindau staff for their very polite, thoughtful and super nice job!

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Karen Stroobants from Belgium

Karen with young scientist Michael Lerch and General-Director of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Ahmed Üzümcü on the Discussion Panel on 'Ethics in Science'. Photo: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Karen with young scientist Michael Lerch and Ahmed Üzümcü, General-Director of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, on the Panel Discussion on ‘Ethics in Science’. Photo: lvd/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

What I did on Friday 30th of June 2017, also my 30th Birthday? I woke up very early to walk to the harbour of Lindau, where a three-story boat was awaiting me, and 419 other young scientists. We set off to pick up 28 Nobel Laureates before continuing our trip to Mainau Island, which traditionally hosts the closing sessions of the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meetings. As I had been invited to be a panellist in the final discussion on ‘Ethics in Science’, I was slightly nervous. I was seated between laureate Martin Chalfie, and young scientist Michael Lerch, and I had the time of my life, answering questions in this amazing setting, and company.

And this was just the end of what became an amazing week, rising well beyond my expectations. Since that Monday, we had all been educated and inspired by the talks and discussion sessions with the laureates; we had truly connected with them, and with each other. Personal highlights were my short talk in Aaron Ciechanover’s Master class, the very kind interactions with Peter Agre and John Walker, but also the many inspiring conversations with fellow young scientists.

Such a unique opportunity, such an inspiring event, and a 30th Birthday I – without doubt – will never forget.

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Melania Zauri from Italy

Melania and Nobel Laureate Hartmut Michel at the Bavarian evening of the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Melania Zauri

Melania and Nobel Laureate Hartmut Michel at the Bavarian evening of the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Melania Zauri

Lindau (#LiNo17 for the twitter fans) was an extraordinary and unforgettable experience. I had the opportunity to meet the brilliant minds that shaped most of the science that I learned from the textbooks and to do so in a super informal and friendly environment. Moreover, there were about 70 nationalities and I felt that science provided us with a unified message for the society: facts have to come from good science and politics has to come afterwards. There was only one female laureate and she behaved marvellously showing that what matters is not your gender, but the passion and the curiosity that you can put in what you do. If you have those there will be no barriers to hold you back. I admired the humble attitude of the laureates – great people that in some cases made me cry. For example, Prof. Agre with his family history and the oil pump of his town showing a message of congratulations for the award of his prize, which, as he commented, usually shows only beer advertisements. I appreciated the energy of all of them and the willingness to engage in dialogue with the young scientists. Almost everybody displayed a slide in their presentations with advices for young scientists. The Lindau team was just amazing and for everything you needed they were there with an answer. I would recommend this meeting definitely to everybody who is willing to play the game, to share his/her experience and to get a power charge for the next decades. I think whenever I will think at those moments I will judge them as worth every second and thinking that if these people, despite their old age and their busy schedule came to Lindau for us, my energy and enthusiasm as a young scientist should be enough for the next decades.

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Monika Patel from India

Monika with Nobel Laureate Ben  Feringa at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Monika Patel

Monika with Nobel Laureate Bernard Feringa at the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Monika Patel

The 67th Lindau Nobel Meeting dedicated to chemistry was a week full of joy, knowledge, motivation, experiences, and inspiring people. Every professor shared their experience of being a Nobel Laureate and they guided the young scientist “how they can become a Nobel Laureate in future”.  It was great to receive tips from Prof. Bernard L. Feringa on being creative: think beyond someone’s imagination, and never give up. However, there is no substitution for hard work.  Prof. Richard R. Schrock was one of the coolest Nobel Laureates, who shared his positive attitude towards life and finding balance in the different phases of your life.  In addition, the meeting comprised several informal events such as the International Get-Together hosted by Mexico at the Dornier Museum, Friedrichshafen, cultural diversity at the Bavarian Evening and a boat trip along with a Science Picnic to the flower island Mainau. These events gave a platform for personal discussions with the laureates and other young scientists from different parts of the world.

But the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting was not only academically oriented, it was also a great platform to network with people from all across world. Events like these are really inspiring and give you energy to achieve your goals.

It’s one of the rarest opportunities that one can get in his/her carrier. Therefore, I strongly recommend other scientists to be part of this meeting and to fulfil your dreams.

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Sheela Chandren from Malaysia

Do you still remember how your first day of school went? Only this time, instead of teachers and new first-graders, the class was filled with the most brilliant people in the world and classmates that are so enthusiastic, you feel like the smallest person in the world. That was how I felt at the beginning of the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. However, as I attended more and more sessions, my opinion started to change. Don’t get me wrong, the Nobel Laureates are indeed wonderfully brilliant and the other young scientists are just pleasant to be around. But through the different sessions carried out, I realised a very prevalent common thing among all of us: the thirst for knowledge.

Sheela Chandren during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Sheela Chandren

Sheela during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Sheela Chandren

Although my level is nowhere near theirs, through their really interesting lectures, it was so fascinating to see how passionate they are in their own fields. I was thoroughly surprised that I enjoyed and understood the lectures that were quite unrelated to my research, such as cells, enzymes and diseases. Many of the laureates were really funny and I especially love how they tried different approaches to make their talk more relatable to us young scientists.

If I had to pick a favourite part, it would definitely be the afternoon sessions. During these sessions, not only were we allowed to ask questions to the Nobel Laureates of our choice, we were also able to get up close to them, hearing about their life experiences and journeys that led them to where they are now. While I am still in awe of them, we realised that they are also humans like us. These sessions managed to give me a new drive so that I am more motivated than ever to try my very best in my research.

So after these six wonderful days on the beautiful island of Lindau, did I get any smarter? Most probably not, although I really hope I did. Have I successfully predicted the next big thing in the world of science? Unfortunately, not yet. However, now I know for sure that I am one step closer to all that. Through this meeting, I found a renewed motivation for my research and I am more passionate than ever to continue exploring science. The other important thing that I came to realise is each and every one who identifies themselves as scientists is part of a very large community, through which we foster the exchange of knowledge.

Hopefully one day I will return to Lindau again – this time as a Nobel Laureate perhaps. Well, a woman can only dream!

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Thao Ngo from USA

Thao (front, left) with other young scientists and Nobel Laureate Richard Schrock during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Thao Ngo

Thao (front, left) with other young scientists and Nobel Laureate Richard Schrock during the 67th Lindau Meeting. Photo: Courtesy of Thao Ngo

The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting was incredible. More than one week after and I still cannot believe I had the opportunity to attend it. During the meeting, I met the most amazing group of people — the laureates, their spouses, young scientists and the organisers of the meeting. I was intimidated at first by the laureates and was afraid of making a fool out of myself. But after talking to them, I realised that there was nothing to be intimidated by because the laureates were there to talk to young scientists like myself to spread ideas and to inspire the next generation of scientists. During the meeting, social issues such as climate change and the current political climate came up quite often; I was extremely privileged to have heard in person the laureates’ opinions. In addition to discussing sciences and social issues with the laureates, I enjoyed talking with their spouses about their backstory. I tend to think of Nobel Laureates as super humans so having learned about their struggles, both in their scientific work and in their lives, I was put in perspective. I especially enjoyed meeting and making new friends from all around the world. I learned so much about research activities and research culture in different countries. One thing I really loved was every time I met a new young scientist, he/she would often say “I’m from here but I’m doing research there.” That was proof that science knows no boundaries and knowledge cannot be stopped at borders. If given the chance to, every young scientist should participate in a Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. The meeting truly is eye-opening and inspiring, in addition to being held on the beautiful island of Lindau.

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Some Surprising Words of Wisdom

Lindau Alumna Karen Stroobants during the Panel Discussion 'Ethics in Science' at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Lindau Alumna Karen Stroobants during the Panel Discussion ‘Ethics in Science’ at the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

We have had the privilege to take part in an event that I am sure we will talk about for long, and remember forever.

 This week, we have been educated by the most innovative chemists, and scientists, alive today. And where we indeed expected to learn about protein structures, novel methodologies and reaction mechanisms, some other words of wisdom genuinely came as a surprise. Harald zur Hausen, for example, has pointed out to us how important it is to acknowledge all contributors of ones work, whether they are human or collaborating cattle. Dan Shechtman has given us some essential dating advice; “thermodynamically, the perfect partner does not exist”. And according to William Moerner, watching ‘The Simpsons’ should be a fairly accurate method to predict whether one will obtain a Nobel Prize.

 

Martin Chalfie at the Science Picnic with young scientists during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie and young scientists during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

 We have been inspired by Nobel Laureates, who have really engaged with us throughout this week. I personally decided to take up my studies in chemistry after learning about Marie Sklodowska-Curie, and I am sure many of us have been strengthened in our enthusiasm to pursuit the scientific profession after engaging with all the role models we met here in Lindau. In addition to the inspiration we have all gained in our specific fields, I hope we collectively have been inspired to deposit our pre-prints in online archives. Many of us recognise problems in the current academic culture, and let me remind you that we are the next generation of academics, and we have the possibility to reshape this culture. We can start today, and the concept presented by Martin Chalfie can be our first step in this endeavour.

 We have connected, not only with Nobel Laureates but also with one another. All of you have expressed creative ideas, contagious enthusiasm and profound confidence during our conversations. However, I could not but notice that those young scientists who are attracted by the academic career path showed more of this confidence than those who are considering other directions. Of course as Peter Agre mentioned, I hope many of us will reach our scientific aspirations. I want to encourage in particular the motivated women I have met, so that Ada Yonath will over time enjoy female company on the Lindau stage.

 

Lindau Alumna Karen Stroobants at lunch with Nobel Laureate Aaron Ciechanover during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting , Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Lindau Alumna Karen Stroobants at lunch with Nobel Laureate Aaron Ciechanover during the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting , Picture/Credit: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

To the few who have, with hesitation, expressed their passion to become a teacher, please remember that Ben Feringa might not have taken up a career in science was it not for his high school teacher. To those who have discussed potential opportunities in the policy field, let me remind you that during the opening keynote lecture of this event, Steven Chu would have liked to tell us that science should always be coupled to society, economics, and politics. We need teachers and policy makers, who advocate for the scientific method, at least as much as we need Nobel Prize winners. So whatever career path you decide on, please let it be a positive choice, and one that will enable you to have fun.