Statement of Board of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings
During the Agora Talk session “The Future of Structural Biology” (recording available here), Nobel Laureate Kurt Wüthrich did not only speak to the topic, but used the session to talk about gender discrimination. He stated that he himself felt discriminated against as a man (timecode 28:50). A Young Scientist spoke up during the following Q&A, stating that she felt very uncomfortable to hear him speaking about male discrimination, given the systematic and structural discrimination that women have to face (timecode 46:35). Kurt Wüthrich then said that he felt “unjustly attacked” by the Young Scientist.
Professor Wüthrich later addressed the organisers with detailed feedback that will be considered for the organisation of future meetings.
During the aforementioned session, the moderator tried to return to a discussion of structural biology, suggesting discussing the issue raised by the Young Scientist in the Open Exchange session, which was scheduled later that day (timecode 34:00).
As part of its week-long programme, the meeting featured a multitude of sessions on Nobel Prize and Young Scientists’ research, as well as opportunities for personal exchange and several topics addressing the role of science in society, such as the opening panel discussion on “Diversity and Merits in Science”, as well as two workshops on the same topic.
Following the Agora Talk on structural biology, Countess Bettina Bernadotte af Wisborg, president of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, invited Young Scientists, who had voiced concerns regarding the “male-discrimination” statement, to discuss their views. These exchanges took place on several occasions during the meeting week. On the last main programme day, she addressed all participants with an update on the recent exchange and invited all participants to provide further feedback.
Assessment and Action
The Board of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings has arrived at the following assessment:
Using a topical scientific session to address matters of personal grievance does not correspond to our values, ideas and guidelines for the meetings and the programme. Professor Wüthrich’s statement regarding him feeling discriminated-against is covered by his right to free speech. All participants must make sure to engage in a constructive dialogue, including choice of words and tone of voice.
The board will furthermore suggest to the Council to consider the following improvements for the next Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in 2024:
- Continue with measures that support a constructive climate of exchange, such as the Code of Conduct, appointment of an ombudsperson, anonymous reporting channels.
- Increase the visibility of and active knowledge about the Code of Conduct
- Brief moderators to handle similar situations appropriately
- Consider to involving Young Scientists and/or Lindau Alumni during the planning phase
- Continue to consider further suggestions for improvement, e.g., derived from the workshop results or made by participants
The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings invite participants from over 100 countries to Lindau, beyond barriers of age, nationality, religion, gender, socio-economic status, and whatever else may divide us. The programme is dedicated to dialogue enabling new insights, allowing for novel perspectives, and establishing life-long connections. This special mission requires an open mind: open to life experience different from one’s own, open to sensitivity and compassion, open to embrace other cultures. Furthermore, it requires tolerance and an emphasis on common ground.