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"An example of everything that can be done on virtual platforms": Federal President Steinmeier at the Humboldt Foundation’s digital Annual Meeting

No. 14/2020

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updated on 1 July 2020

More than 1,000 individuals from approximately 140 countries participated online

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Germany’s Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier had to move his annual reception for fellows of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation from the park at Schloss Bellevue to the internet. “The Humboldt Foundation’s Annual Meeting is a wonderful example of everything that can be done on virtual platforms. It shows how valuable digital meetings can be – even though they are no substitute for meeting in real life”, said Steinmeier in his virtual greeting. He emphasised the importance of the contributions being made by science and scholarship and the Humboldt Foundation’s international research network during the crisis: “Especially now, we are realising just how much we need global cooperation. For a crisis like the present one, there is no national solution. Even though borders need to be closed temporarily, scientists and politicians must not fall back into isolation or going it alone”, Steinmeier stressed. “We must pool our efforts so that we can develop treatments and vaccines. And we must continue cooperating with a view to fighting climate change, hunger and poverty."

We Are – Humboldt – Family

The Humboldt Foundation held its entire Annual Meeting in digital form this year with more than 1,000 participants from some 140 countries on 24 and 25 June. The programme featured not only discussions, talks and workshops but also music, science slams and a children’s programme. In keeping with the spirit of international exchange and the family-like character of the network, individuals from throughout the world who have been sponsored by the Humboldt Foundation have also produced a video to the disco classic “We are Family” that was released at the Annual Meeting.

The Foundation has organised the meeting around the motto of its campaign #ResearchAcrossBorders. “By doing so, we are sending a signal for international cooperation in research during this pandemic”, said Hans-Christian Pape, President of the Humboldt Foundation. “This crisis is changing the world. Only by working together and sharing the science, will we be able to find solutions. For those who are still in any doubt, the Covid-19 crisis is a wake-up call: international cooperation and openness will take us forward – not nationalism, not new borders”, Pape stressed. He also made a strong statement for fostering rational interaction and fighting populism. “We have to defend scientific freedom and scientific thinking against populism and conspiracy theories. After all, these are currently doing the rounds and spreading – just like a virus that threatens to infect ever larger groups and knows no bounds."

"We are staying in contact. Especially now."

The guests and speakers at the virtual meeting included Michelle Müntefering, Minister of State in Germany’s Federal Foreign Office. She presented the Humboldt Alumni Awards for innovative networking initiatives. “The Foundation is sending an extremely important message with its digital meeting. That signal is: we are staying in contact. Especially now.” said Müntefering. “The Covid-19 pandemic has once again made it clear to us all that we will be able to master the enormous global problems of the 21st century only as a global community. And that research will play a key role in this connection”, Müntefering continued. Wolf-Dieter Lukas, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, also underscored the importance of science and scholarship during the current crisis: “Policy-makers need scientific knowledge to make informed choices. It is a major task for free science to engage in dialogue and enable informed debates”, Lukas emphasised.

The kick-off to the Annual Meeting is available on Youtube. Day 2 of the Annual Meeting was held using a special event platform and was not open to the public.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time researching in Germany. The Foundation maintains a network of well over 30,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in more than 140 countries worldwide – including 55 Nobel Prize winners.

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