Science all around the World: A Photo Project

650 young scientists from 88 different countries participated in the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. One of them was Sarah Katharina Meisenheimer who is currently doing her Ph. D. in non-linear optics at the University of Freiburg, Germany. At Lindau she was especially fascinated by the cultural diversity of the meeting participants – that’s how the idea behind the photo project ‘Science all around the World’ was born. Miss Meisenheimer took portrait shots of 76 of the young scientists at the meeting. In the pictures they all carry signs with the word ‘science’ written in their respective native tongues.

In a short interview for our blog Miss Meisenheimer tells us more about her project.

Sarah Katharina Meisenheimer with Osmond Mlonyeni at #LiNo15.

Sarah Katharina Meisenheimer with Osmond Mlonyeni at #LiNo15. Photo: Sarah Katharina Meisenheimer

Miss Meisenheimer, what’s ‘Science all around the World’ about?

With this photo series I want to show how science connects people globally. No matter how different languages, cultures and walks of life may be – just take a look at all the faces and the handwriting – all young scientists I met at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting are still connected through the desire to create something new.

How did you come up with the idea for the project?

On the second evening of the meeting I was strolling through the Lindau alleyways. Suddenly, I think ‘All those different faces connected by science are way more exciting than these pretty old buildings!’. Then I just wanted to capture all the different languages and handwritings I had seen on the first two days.

Do you have any favorites among the 76 portraits?

No, it’s really hard for me to pick out single portraits. It’s the diversity in facial expressions, clothing styles, letters and languages that makes them so special. Every picture reminds me of these short encounters and of the moment I released the shutter.

Which languages do you speak? Is there even any time left for language learning besides doing research?

My mother tongue is German. I am fluent in English since I have been living abroad in English speaking countries several times. I also speak French a little and was able to pick up Spanish during my undergraduate years at university. But I would love to learn even more languages like Arabic or Chinese because they tell you so much about the people and their cultures.

How important are global thinking and international networking for you today as a scientist?

International scientific exchange is absolutely natural for my. Skyping, emailing and conferences on all continents are already a fixture. As a scientist I feel very privileged because I get to know people from everywhere who share the same drive for knowledge.

It has been half a year since the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. What are the lasting impressions?

I was especially impressed by the enthusiasm for science shown by the meeting participants, Nobel laureates and young scientists alike but I will also forever remember the open-mindedness and curiosity – without them a photo project like this wouldn’t have been possible!

And now, the photos (to proceed to the next one, simply click on the image):

(Copyright for all photos: Sarah Katharina Meisenheimer)

Fotoserie: Wissenschaft aus aller Welt

650 Nachwuchswissenschaftler aus 88 verschiedenen Ländern nahmen an der 65. Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagung teil. Eine von Ihnen war Sarah Katharina Meisenheimer, die an der Uni Freiburg im Bereich der nichtlinearen Optik promoviert. In Lindau faszinierte sie insbesondere die kulturelle Vielfalt der Tagungsteilnehmer – so entstand die Idee zur Fotoserie “Wissenschaft aus aller Welt”. Frau Meisenheimer portraitierte 76 der jungen Wissenschaftler auf der Tagung. Diese tragen auf den Bildern jeweils ein Schild mit dem Wort “Wissenschaft” in ihrer jeweiligen Landessprache.

Im Kurzinterview für unseren Blog verrät Frau Meisenheimer mehr über das Projekt.

Sarah Katharina Meisenheimer mit Osmond Mlonyeni bei #LiNo15.

Sarah Katharina Meisenheimer mit Osmond Mlonyeni bei #LiNo15.

Frau Meisenheimer, worum geht es bei „Wissenschaft aus aller Welt“?
Mit der Fotoreihe „Wissenschaft aus aller Welt“ möchte ich ausdrücken, dass Wissenschaft Menschen weltweit verbindet. Egal wie unterschiedlich die Sprache, Kultur und Lebensweise auch sein mag – wie man an den Gesichtern und Handschriften sieht – alle jungen Wissenschaftler, die ich bei der Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagung getroffen habe, wollen etwas Neues schaffen.

Wie kamen Sie auf die Idee zu diesem Fotoprojekt?
Am zweiten Abend der Tagung schlendere ich mit meiner Kamera durch die Gassen von Lindau. Dabei kommt mir plötzlich der Gedanke, dass die vielen verschiedenen Gesichter, die die Wissenschaft zusammen führt, viel aufregender sind als schöne alte Gebäude! Ich will die Sprachen und individuellen Handschriften, die ich an den ersten zwei Tagen gehört und gesehen habe, festhalten.

Gibt es unter den 76 Portraits welche, die Ihnen besonders am Herzen liegen? Wenn ja, warum?
Nein, ich es fällt mir sehr schwer, einzelne Portraits hervorzuheben. Gerade die Vielfalt an unterschiedliche Gesichtsausdrücken, Kleidungsstilen, Schriften und Sprachen macht die Portraits so besonders. Jedes Foto erinnert mich an die kurze Begegnung und den Moment, in dem ich den Auslöser drückte.

Welche Sprachen sprechen Sie denn selbst? Bleibt neben der Forschung überhaupt noch Zeit zum Sprachenlernen?
Meine Muttersprache ist deutsch. Ich spreche fließend englisch, da ich schon mehrmals im englischsprachigen Ausland gelebt habe. Französisch spreche ich auch ein bisschen und Spanisch konnte ich an meiner Universität während des Bachelorstudiums lernen. Aber ich würde gerne noch mehr Sprachen, wie z.B. arabisch oder chinesisch, beherrschen, denn sie sagen so viel über Menschen und ihre Kulturen aus.

Wie wichtig sind globales Denken und internationale Vernetzung heute für Sie als Wissenschaftlerin?
Internationaler wissenschaftlicher Austausch ist für mich völlig selbstverständlich. Skypen, Emails und Konferenzen auf allen Kontinenten sind nicht mehr wegzudenken. Als Wissenschaftlerin bin ich sehr privilegiert, da ich überall Menschen kennen lerne, die der gleiche Drang nach der Erkenntnis verbindet.

Die 65. Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagung ist nun ein halbes Jahr her. Welche Eindrücke bleiben für Sie unvergesslich?
Besonders die Begeisterung für die Wissenschaft aller Teilnehmer, der Nobelpreisträger wie auch der jungen Wissenschaftler, hat mich sehr beeindruckt. Aber auch die Aufgeschlossenheit und Neugierde wird mir immer in Erinnerung bleiben, sonst wäre ein solches Fotoprojekt nicht denkbar gewesen!

Und hier die Fotos (zum Wechseln einfach auf das nächste Bild klicken):

Nature Outlook 2015: Science Master Class

The tradition continues! Once again our media partner Nature has released a supplement for their publications that covers the research discussed at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings.

The annual meeting between Nobel laureates and young researchers in Lindau, Germany, provides a unique opportunity to glean gems of advice for a successful career in science. The 2015 meeting cast a spotlight on super-resolution microscopy, as discussed in depth in this Nature Outlook, as well as fields as diverse as memory formation and the Higgs boson.

The supplement is available for free in ist entirety. To access it simply click on the cover below.

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Lindau Alumna Anaïs Orsi wins Prix L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science

When Anaïs Orsi joined 649 other young scientist this summer at the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting the sunny weather was a welcome change to the conditions she usually faces during her regular research work investigating climate change in Antarctica. For her scientific work and her role in promoting gender balance in research she was now awarded the prestigious Prix L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science. Since 1998 the UNESCO partners with the L’Oréal Foundation to award outstanding female researchers in life and material sciences. Nobel Laureates and Lindau regulars Elizabeth Blackburn and Ada Yonath are among the previous prizewinners.

 

2016 Prix L'Oréal-Unesco for Women in Science winner and alumna of the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting Anaïs Orsi.

2016 Prix L’Oréal-Unesco for Women in Science winner and alumna of the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting Anaïs Orsi.

 

 

Do you enjoy your research? What do you enjoy about it most?

I enjoy my research, of course! I am very interested in my subject matter, which is to understand how climate changes. I am always curious to read about other people’s findings. Besides the subject matter, I particularly enjoy that my work includes many different scientific disciplines and activities. I process geochemical samples in the lab, I write computer code, I organize the logistics of field experiments. Sometimes, I spend the whole day digging snow in Antarctica, and other times, I present my results in front of a large international crowd at a meeting. What I do involves basic physics and chemistry, but also knowledge of glaciology, oceanography and atmospheric dynamics. It is also very international, and my closest collaborators are in Europe, the USA and Japan. Being at this interface is very stimulating.

 

Is there any next project for you?

There are a lot of next projects. They involve producing new climate records of the recent past from Antarctica, to go deeper into the topics I have been working on. They also include the development of new paleo-climate proxies using noble gases. I try to balance really risky projects with safer ones.

 

Logging an ice core hole for temperature in order to measure the recent warming trend at WAIS-Divide, Antarctica (Photo : David Ferris).

Logging an ice core hole for temperature in order to measure the recent warming trend at WAIS-Divide, Antarctica (Photo : David Ferris).

 

Do you have any scientific role models?

In my scientific community, I am very impressed by the women that have come before me, in particular Dorthe Dahl Jensen and Valerie Masson Delmotte. I have learned a lot from my PhD advisor Jeff Severinghaus. In particular, he would never complain about things that cannot be changed, and he was always encouraging. I would systematically come out of a meeting more hopeful than when I got in.My favorite scientist of all time is probably Frijtof Nansen, the Norwegian. He has done many different things in his life and is there to demonstrate that we don’t need to think that our career should be one straight railroad track.

 

Did your participation in the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting contribute to your own research or your interest in science?

Attending the Lindau meeting broadened my view of how science is conducted. I realized that chemists working on developing nanotechnologies have a very different experience of science than I do. But I also found out that astrophysicists are very similar to climate scientists: new knowledge comes from new observations.

 

Taking ice cores in the Arctic. (Photo : Mikko Vihtakari)

Taking ice cores in the Arctic. (Photo : Mikko Vihtakari)

 

What does winning the Prix L’Oréal change for you?

In the short term, the l’Oreal prize gives me the opportunity to develop my network of collaborators internationally. It is precious, because it gives me more independence as a young scientist. It also gives me more visibility as a female scientist, and gives me a chance to share my passion with girls who may be hesitant to embrace science careers.

 

Talking about woman in science, is a female researcher exotic in the wilds of Antarctica?

It is somewhat exotic, but women are always welcome. If they have a choice, guys prefer to have more women around in a field camp. I was worried at first that I would not be strong enough, but strengh is far from being the most important skill. First, comes a positive attitude: high spirits and the ability to keep the crew motivated in spite of the cold for months is a better predictor of productivity than strength. Second comes good communication, so that everyone feels involved and understand how decisions are made. Women are as good as men in both of these things, and there is no reason to doubt that. I just wish that one day, there will be enough women doing polar field work that logistics would issue us field clothes fit for women!

 

Analyzing the snow properties on sea ice, as part of the N-ICE cruise in June 2015 in the Arctic (Photo : Mikko Vihtakari).

Analyzing the snow properties on sea ice, as part of the N-ICE cruise in June 2015 in the Arctic (Photo : Mikko Vihtakari).

Reflections of Mainau and Lindau: An eternal reminder of a scientist’s social responsibility

If there was a heaven on Earth for scientists, then it would be found in Bavaria in the beautiful town of Lindau. And if motivation on how to effect social change could be bottled up in one location, then it would be on Mainau, the beautiful flower island of the Bernadotte family. Picture: Insel Mainau/Peter Allgaier.

If there was a heaven on Earth for scientists, then it would be found in Bavaria in the beautiful town of Lindau. And if motivation on how to effect social change could be bottled up in one location, then it would be on Mainau, the beautiful flower island of the Bernadotte family. Picture: Insel Mainau/Peter Allgaier.

For us young scientists, this was always going to be the conference that would become the yardstick against which all previous and future meetings would be measured. But if our experiences at Lindau during the week were extraordinary, then the events of Mainau on Friday 3rd July 2015 were truly transcendental.

In spite of (or perhaps because of) the challenging world in which we live, young scientists aspire to keep a healthy balance of idealism and pragmatism. We receive education and training. Along the way, we become involved in research that will potentially improve quality of life or man’s understanding of the world. We hope to make a positive difference to society or another person’s life story, help the next generation, and, in doing so, pay forward the kindness provided to us by our own mentors. In the professional world of a developing scientist, this is the great Circle of Life.

For the young scientists, this week was not just about learning from Nobel Laureates and senior scientists how to perform good science and become successful, but also how one should live when one has become successful. We were taught, through the Laureates’ personal examples, to remain humble, always aiming to respect others and achieve a balanced perspective, while continuing one’s work and striving for the betterment of mankind. Throughout the week, the Nobel Laureates allowed us into their world: they gave us their time, and granted us privileged access to their life stories and thoughts. They also conveyed their hopes and concerns for the future. We heard about the important problems of feeding the ever-growing population of the world, supporting science and scientists in Africa, ending child exploitation and supporting their universal right to education. We learnt the importance of an education in science, the need for scientists to communicate effectively, and how this could help society, as a whole, on so many different levels.

 

The Nobel Laureates on stage signing the Mainau Declaration 2015 (Harry Kroto). Photo: L. Wang

The Nobel Laureates on stage signing the Mainau Declaration 2015 (Harry Kroto). Photo: L. Wang

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But Mainau brought all these ideas to a whole new level. There, the Nobel Laureates provided an eternal reminder of the importance of a scientist’s social responsibility. The vision of the Nobel Laureates signing the Mainau Declaration 2015 is something that I will remember forever – walking onto the stage as a group, holding arms, supporting each other, laughing, chatting, smiling as they each waited their turn to sign. These images remain a powerful illustration of the strength of unity, in purpose and conviction.

I felt enormous pride and admiration as Brian Schmidt stood up as spokesperson for the Mainau Declaration 2015, and the solidarity and unity of all four Australian Nobel laureates as they joined an ever-growing number of Nobel Laureates gathered on stage, many of whom I was privileged to talk to during the course of the week. In terms of inspiring social responsibility, few things can motivate a young scientist more than watching one’s heroes united on stage, participating in a cause important to our future and that of our children.

We left Mainau and Lindau, knowing that we had witnessed history in the making – a declaration that will hopefully help steer humanity in the right direction.

And, having been transformed and inspired by this amazing week, we hope to pay forward the amazing opportunity given to us by the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and the Nobel Laureates – to dedicate ourselves to science and society, now and forever more.

Five Questions to a Nobel Laureate: Martinus Veltman

Veltman

How much sleep do you get and how does it affect your work?

I try to sleep never less than 8 hours a day. If I sleep less than that, I am not effective.

 

Are you addicted to anything? Science can’t be the answer.

Am I addicted? No. I’m not addicted to anything. Except maybe to eating. I eat every day.

 

What’s your idea of the perfect holiday?

Well you see my idea of a perfect holiday is something that changes from time to time. When I was thirty my idea was different from today. But I would say that the perfect holiday for me right now, well, is staying home. Well a little bit ago I think I would have liked to hang around in a beach.

 

Where do your best ideas come from?

Well, that is difficult to say. You will not get ideas if you’re just in the middle of nowhere. It is only when you work that you create the questions. It is a difficult process. It requires you to work and to think all the time. You have to stay busy.

 

What is the one advice you would give to young scientists?

Do only that what you like most. If you work on something that you don’t like, then you will not do well.

Interview: Kailash Satyarthi

Image: R. Schultes/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Image: R. Schultes/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Dressed in a crisp, white kurta, the winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize cut quite an imposing figure on stage at the Bodensee-Gymnasium high school in Lindau. He addressed a roomful of 11th grade students, breaking the ice with big, booming hellos and a joke. Over the course of the next hour, he told them about his work—a narrative peppered with illuminating anecdotes and a lot of inspiration.

Satyarthi walked them through his now storied struggle against child labour and child trafficking in India, the national and international campaigns he has led to further the cause, the successes and the work that remains to be done. He inspired a new movement in India for liberating child slaves—84000 children have been rescued thus far. He has led social campaigns that have culminated in policy changes at the highest levels: the Indian Constitution has been amended to make education a child right and new international laws against child labour have been passed.

 

 

An exuberant Satyarthi then shared his plans to launch his largest, most ambitious campaign yet, for which he hoped to recruit 100 million young people across the world, who would unite to rescue 100 million less fortunate children. He repeatedly emphasized that no problem in the world is isolated. “People can’t live in islands of prosperity anymore,” he said. He urged the students to start thinking globally and warned that no one was truly safe as long as there were poor or underprivileged people anywhere in the world.

To illustrate the power of consumers, Satyarthi narrated his efforts in leading the first ever consumer awareness campaign in Europe and the US against the use of handcrafted rugs and carpets made by children from India. The campaign culminated in the introduction of labels that certified products as child labour free and sensitized consumers to pay heed to the origins of the products they buy. Being aware and spreading awareness is one way to contribute to change, he summarized.

“I want to ignite the change in you,” he declared in conclusion. He enjoined them to act: “Don’t stand on the fence and cheer. Jump in the ring.”

 

Image: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Image: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

In an interview with the Lindau Blog after his interactions with the students, he shared his expectations and experiences at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, and how he thinks scientists could help further his cause.

What is the most significant impact that the Nobel Prize has made to your efforts?

Some difference is visible, but I won’t call it a big difference unless I see things changing on the ground, and at the higher levels of policy. I can give you one instance of change: I have been campaigning for the inclusion of explicit language in the sustainable development goals, which are going to be rolled out soon. People were listening, but not at the highest levels. After the Nobel Prize, I have been able to take it to the UN Secretary General and many Heads of States. And I see lots of support. So hopefully it will be done by September.

Another example is in India where I have been demanding for an amendment in the law against child labour for many years now. Now, the present government has introduced a new amendment. I’m not very happy about this amendment. There are a lot of lacunas. But again, I’ve been able to talk to people at the top, and I have more or less convinced them to bring it back to the Union Cabinet. There are some good signs, but these have to be translated into action on the ground.

Did you have any expectations coming to the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting? What will you take away from your time here?

My expectation was simple and clear. Scientists—both Laureates and young scientists whose voice, knowledge and presence matters a lot in the world—should not remain alienated from some of the harsh realities of the world. They are very busy in their laboratories pushing the frontiers of knowledge, and the world is using that knowledge. Especially after I got the Nobel Prize, I have come to realize that the moral power that Laureates enjoy is largely going unharnessed, especially in the betterment of children’s life (since that is my personal mission). I hope to convince these people to speak up and help raise awareness. But first they have to be sensitized. I’m sure that many people who I spoke to here were sensitized about these issues. For some it was shocking. I wanted to challenge their conscience.

What is the most striking difference between speaking to school children and addressing adults, like the scientists at the Meeting?

I’m always better connected with the children and young people. Their hearts are pure, their minds are still open, they are more unbiased and have fewer inhibitions.

What was impression of the pupils whom you interacted with here in Lindau?

Youngsters are more or less the same all over the world. Depends on how we connect with them. They are full of potential, idealism and energy. They are hungry to do something. If we are not able to give them anything worthwhile, frustration is bound to ensue. I’m quite pleased to interact with them, and I could see a great response from them.

Nobel Laureates have a bigger reach and platform. What about the average scientist who wants to make a difference, how can they help?

They can help in many ways. One is by spreading their knowledge of fundamental sciences to others. There’s a big gap between scientists and the non-scientists. I like to call it democratizing science. They can also take out a little bit of time to visit schools, however occasionally, to teach children. The most fundamental thing they should strive to inculcate in young minds is that science must not be misused by vested interests. There are also other problems on the horizon like climate change, where they can play a huge role. Scientists need to come together to solve such issues.

 

Image: Ch. Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate meetings

Image: Ch. Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate meetings

Five questions to a Nobel Laureate: William Phillips

William-Phillips-collagex

How much sleep do you need and does it affect your work?

On average, I go to sleep between 12.30am and 1.30am. Then I get up around 7.30am. I’m probably not efficient when I’m tired, like everyone else.

Are you addicted to something? Science cannot be the answer

I don’t believe I’m addicted to any chemical. I drink a little but no coffee. Mostly I get caffeine from diet colas, but I don’t particularly like them.

What’s your idea of a perfect holiday?

We have a joke in my family. It’s not considered a holiday if it involves physics or family. And under that definition, we have not had a holiday since 1972. According to a more normal definition, a holiday is at a place which has a lot of stimulating features, either artistically, naturally, intellectually, or in the company of good friends. On that scale, this conference is just like a holiday.

Where do your best ideas come from?

The past, that is I had all my good ideas when I was young. Now the best ideas are not my ideas but those of the young people I work with.

How does creativity play a role in science?

The only way science advances is through creativity, if you define creativity as doing something new. What things lead to creativity? That’s different for different people, but for me I find it in the company of smart people. It comes from throwing ideas around, discussing and beating them out. I like a good fight, scientifically speaking, because it is when we disagree with something that we are likely to learn something new.

Harald Martenstein unter Nobelpreisträgern: Eine Hassrede gegen die “geistige Sklaverei” des Islamismus

Literatur-Nobelpreisträger machen sich in Lindau rar, aber diesmal ist Wole Soyinka gekommen, ein 80jähriger Nigerianer. Der erste Afrikaner, der den Preis bekommen hat, 1986. Der Eintritt zu seinem Vortrag ist frei, aber es sind fast keine Lindauer im Stadttheater. Der Saal ist trotzdem voll. Die jungen Wissenschaftler sind da. Am Ende  gibt es eine stehende Ovation.

Soyinka hat in Nigeria fast zwei Jahre im Gefängnis gesessen, wegen Friedensaktivitäten im Biafrakrieg. Er hat ein Anliegen, und er trägt es in einer hinreißenden Mischung aus Pathos, Ironie und Sarkasmus vor. Seine Rede ist eine Hassrede, das kann man so sagen. Sie richtet sich gegen den Islamismus, gegen den Terror der Gruppe Boko Haram, die in ihrem Herrschaftsgebiet in Nigeria die Sklaverei wieder eingeführt hat. Geistige Sklaverei, das ist sein Wort für den Islamismus. Soyinka spricht über Islamschulen, an denen es nur ein Buch gibt, nur den Koran, wo absoluter Gehorsam gelehrt wird, wo der Zweifel, die Diskussion, die Kreativität und jedes Verständnis für eine andere Weltsicht verboten sind. Und er zieht eine Parallele zum Marxismus, der ja, wie der Islam, eine mörderische Variante hervorgebracht hat.

Die verbreitetste Übersetzung von „Boko Haram“ lautet „Bücher sind Sünde“. Es geht solchen Bewegungen immer darum, dass bestimmte Texte für unantastbar erklärt werden, und andere für verboten. Und es geht immer um Erleuchtung. Wenn man einen prototypischen Namen finden müsste, sagt Soyinka, einen Namen, der für alle Terrorgruppen passt, dann hieße dieser Name „Leuchtender Pfad“.

 

Image: Ch. Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

Image: Ch. Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

Wer das Paradies verspricht, der bringt die Hölle. Das ist Soyinkas Botschaft. Ich kenne keinen deutschen Intellektuellen, der in diesem Ton über den Islamismus spricht, dessen Ziel die Wiedereinführung einer Art Sklaverei und die Zerstörung der Kultur ist. Als ich wieder im Hotel bin, googele ich „Islamismus“ und „Berliner Akademie der Künste“. Ich finde einen Appell „Rettet die Kultur!“, relativ neu, vor etwa einem Jahr. Er richtet sich gegen das Freihandelsabkommen mit den USA.

Ein paar Stunden vor Soyinkas Auftritt war ich wieder einmal auf dem Zukunftstrip. Die Veranstalter hatten einige Nobelpreisträger gebeten, sich über die Welt in 50 Jahren Gedanken zu machen, 50 Jahre, diese Zeitperspektive taucht in Lindau sehr oft auf. Vielleicht, weil viele das noch erleben können. Die alten Nobelpreisträger und ein junger Wissenschaftler saßen vor Journalisten und erzählten, was in 50 Jahren ihrer Meinung nach möglich sein wird, garantiert oder zumindest sehr wahrscheinlich. Sie waren vorsichtig, man will sich ja nicht lächerlich machen. „Na ja“, sagte einer, „wir werden dann nicht mehr da sein, also, was soll`s.“

Die Menschen werden Leben erschaffen können, sie werden neue Geschöpfe erfinden und herstellen. Wir werden das Gehirn sehr genau verstehen, wir werden Gehirne programmieren können wie Computer. Krebs wird wahrscheinlich besiegt sein. Es gibt irgendeine neue Art der Energieversorgung. Wir können Ersatzorgane züchten und transplantieren. Am schwierigsten wird es wohl bei den Augen.

Frage an die Preisträger: Wovon sollte die Wissenschaft besser die Finger lassen? Tödliche Viren, das kann ganz, ganz übel werden. Wer weiß, was es in den Geheimlaboren der Militärs alles schon gibt. Eine Atomkatastrophe ist nichts, gar nichts gegen so einen Virus. Und intelligente Roboter, an sich wird deren Herstellung irgendwann kein Problem mehr sein. Aber diese Kerle können wirklich eine Menge Ärger machen.

Letzte Frage: Welches Problem wird nicht gelöst werden können, niemals? Die Nobelpreisträger überlegen. „Angst“, sagt jemand. Der Inder Venki Ramakrishnan glaubt, dass alle Wissenschaft vergeblich ist, wenn nicht irgendwie das Wachstum der Weltbevölkerung gestoppt wird.  Dann ergreift Arieh Warshel das Wort, ein 75jähriger Israeli, der in den USA lebt und 2013 den Preis für Chemie bekommen hat. „Kriege“, sagt er. „Es wird immer Kriege geben.“

Women in Science: Some Global Perspectives

Do women scientists still encounter issues in their careers that men don’t face? What do young scientists think? Does it depend on where the scientist is from? What better place to find out than the Lindau Meeting? This year’s meeting has 650 young researchers from 88 countries, and about 42% of them are women.

 

Image: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Image: Christian Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

While the majority agrees that there are issues specific to women that need to be addressed, whether through systemic policies, support or education, it is immediately apparent that more men disagree. 9 out of 25 men surveyed said that they think there is no issue. Some of them don’t see breaks in careers as detrimental; others think the problems are similar for men and women. A few of them, all physicists, honestly admitted that they simply didn’t know enough women scientists to know what the issues are, which makes a case for promoting more awareness. On the other hand there were only 2 women (out of 25) who said they didn’t believe women had it harder than men. “They say that it’s such a big problem. Where I live it’s not hard,” said one young woman from Germany. The majority, however, believed there were differences, the extent and flavor of which were different in different countries and cultures.

“It is an issue, not just in Mauritius, but across Africa,” said Vidushi Neergheen-Bhujun, a member of the Global Young Academy, which has a ‘women in science’ group actively involved in mentoring young women. “Science is still sexist especially in terms of the opportunities we get,” she added. The situation in India is similar in many ways. Seema Mittal, a young scientist at the India Innovation Research Center said, “I see fewer women around me wanting a career in academia given its challenges—bureaucracy, power structures, balancing family.” Networks and mentors go a long way in working around bureaucracy, and she feels men have much stronger networks that they can tap into.

Some cultures pressure women into starting families early. The burden of caregiving also falls largely on the woman in these cultures. Researchers, both men and women, from Pakistan, Cameroon and Iran observed that this was responsible for large numbers of women dropping out of science in their countries. Notably, men from these countries, and from India too, were quick to offer introductions women participants from their countries to talk about these issues—they didn’t perceive themselves as part of this dialogue. To make any progress towards equality, a big part of the efforts in these countries need to focus on raising awareness, both amongst men and women.

 

Image: R. Schultes/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Image: R. Schultes/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

There were, however, many women who acknowledged that they had personally never encountered significant bumps in their careers so far on account of their gender. Most of these women were from Europe and the US. But they do foresee problems along the way. “What I notice in my own life and in others is that having a family is when problems come. Universities are supportive; they do want to hire women. But it is hard to make it work especially with the nomadic life of a postdoc. I see a lot of people leave the field if they feel they can’t combine that. It’s not a matter of flat out discrimination. It’s simply that more often, women choose family over career. It’s the way the system is developing,” said Else Starkenburg from the Leibnitz Institute for Astrophysics, Germany.

Starkenburg even spoke at one of the Meeting’s master classes about what she called the “leakiest part of the pipeline” for women, the postdoc years. She proposed several solutions that could help: paid maternity leave, paternal leave options, support for travel with caregivers and child and return/part-time fellowships. She urged people to counter biases with information and also think about their own biases.

In the ensuing audience interaction, one young scientist from Caltech insisted that men need to be invited to participate in this dialogue. “Mandating maternity leave is not a good idea unless you also mandate paternity leave. We keep reinforcing the bias when we talk about it only as women’s issues,” she said.

Following up on her idea, young male scientists were asked whether they would take paternity leave if offered. Only five (out of twenty-five) said yes, they would. Out of these, one of them, a German, had indeed availed of paternity leave, and was happy to report that he hadn’t suffered any adverse consequences as a result. Two others were from Greece. “In Greece, we have mandatory nine months of military service. We take a career break for that anyway. So we don’t think a paternity break will be that different. In fact, we’d much prefer the latter,” they said.

Six out of twenty-five men said they weren’t sure about taking time off and may consider it if the situation allowed it at the time—if their wives worked in a stable, well-paying job or they weren’t in a crucial transition period in their careers. The rest said no, even though some of them had previously acknowledged that women’s issues in science need to be recognized and better support provided. Fifty percent of the men believed it would affect their careers. While the idea of fathers taking time off is still very new, it is being increasingly considered in some countries and may prove to be a good equalizer.

South Africa is among the nations that has done well in promoting women in science. “There is support all the way through our careers. These efforts have been around for about 20 years now, and there is a visible change,” said Deveshnie Mudaly. This is also true of Israel, which offers many schemes and fellowships to support women. Rules that require faculty applicants to do postdocs abroad complicate matters, since it is hard to relocate with family, but efforts are on to change these stipulations.

While the so-called baby penalty monopolizes much of the dialogue about women in science, there are other facets to consider as well. “Women don’t self-nominate themselves for opportunities,” said Laurel Yohe, a young researcher from the US. She added that it is also important for women to be aware of things that are not natural to them, like negotiation skills. “Just being clued in to these things early on would help,” she said. Another problem that repeatedly surfaced was the lack of role models and mentors for young women to look up to and learn from. Even in countries where there are increasing numbers of women students and postdocs, there are significantly lower numbers of women professors. Paige Cooper, also from the US, said, “Having women to talk to would be most useful—women who are older, who are mentors, as well as peers who share my experiences.”

Qianyuan Tang from China pointed out that stereotypes are a big problem. “There is a mistaken notion that women are not good at mathematics. Even though it is not true, hearing it often and from an early age makes some women less confident of their own skills,” he said.

Another policy-level solution that has been tried in Europe is reservation. New laws in many countries require companies to increase the number of women in their boardrooms. This has provoked many mixed reactions. One young female scientist hailing from Italy was against this practice. “Quotas are not good. In many ways, they are counter productive,” she posited. “It is not uncommon to hear people—both men and women—say, that you got the job because you are a woman.”

 

Image: R. Schultes/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Image: R. Schultes/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Nobel Laureate Elizabeth Blackburn has successfully juggled family and career. She believes that good childcare, a supportive spouse and a network of peers can help women sustain their careers in science through the demanding baby years. She maintains, however, that there are significant conscious and unconscious biases that women still have to battle in the workplace. “People will say they are not sexist. But there are a lot of unconscious biases that they are unaware of,” she said. She hopes that things will change, that younger people may have views that are more informed by open discussions of these issues. She is among those who believe that gender quotas would help to counteract unconscious biases.

Many things still need to change to improve the gender balance in science. Some countries have a much longer way to go before they become truly inclusive, while others are farther along that road. It is heartening to note that the women, on the whole, are hopeful and optimistic about the years to come. “Of course, I wish it weren’t an issue any more, but things are definitely much better today,” said Moran Shalev Ben-Ami from Israel. Several scientists pointed out that the Lindau Meeting itself is a case in point—while only 3 out of 65 Nobel Laureates were female, the number of young women scientists attending the Lindau Meeting was almost equal to the number of men. Many young scientists expressed the hope that things will only get better as people age out of preconceived notions that may have existed in the past. The fastest way forward is to be vocal, raise awareness about particular issues, ensure that men are a part of the dialogue and the proposed solutions, and to learn and incorporate successful practices from other countries.