Dear ladies and gentlemen,
dear friends and supporters,
It's not just when we count the months that we start again in January with new elan. In the name of the Humboldt Foundation, I am sending you this letter to wish you a very happy New Year and encourage you to look ahead to the coming months with optimism and confidence.
Admittedly, the world has remained the same. The global challenges continue to be with us. In the 25th year of the 21st century, the consequences of global warming are more obvious than ever, and the polarisation of the world shows no sign of abating. This turning point has consequences for the Humboldt Foundation’s work, as well. Due to the tight federal budget, fewer resources are available. We therefore have to consolidate and focus. By setting additional priorities in the Foundation's work, we are concentrating on our core business with a new strategy in 2024.
Through its research fellowships and awards for outstanding researchers the Foundation reinforces the internationalisation of German science and academia and creates a network of trust beyond national affiliation. It may be a truism, but it is still very valid: the challenges facing the world can only be mastered by generating and implementing new scientific knowledge. Global cooperation in science is indispensable and thus needs to be constantly reinvented. Every day, the entire staff at the Humboldt Foundation strive to this end.
By introducing targeted measures, especially in the Georg Forster Programme, we want to expand our network in the so-called Global South. Depending on the definition used, up to 85 percent of the world population live in this region. It is our urgent responsibility to work together with outstanding researchers in this region to develop joint solutions to problems that affect us all as a global community. To do so, we must strive to ensure that knowledge sharing between the Global North and the Global South is more successful. During this summer’s Humboldt Residency Programme, we will consequently focus on the question as to how local actors can be better integrated in global strategies. It is our aim to promote as many scientific talents as possible so that, in the long term, they can create the general conditions for climate-neutral, technological and economic progress on the spot by integrating valuable, local knowledge.
We will, moreover, draw greater attention to the value of the Humboldt Network in German society. Via its own channels, the Foundation regularly portrays sponsorship recipients and their work, enabling citizens to experience how international research collaborations and science contribute to everyone’s benefit. In the workshop series, ComLab, sponsorship recipients and international journalists get together to produce outstanding joint examples of successful science communication.
At the beginning of this year, the realities of life for people in Ukraine, the Middle East and other areas affected by wars and crises are no different from those in November and December. Our thoughts and our sympathy are with all those suffering from terror, war and displacement. In the hope that 2024 will take us closer to peaceful solutions, we at the Humboldt Foundation are pleased that, at least in the field of science, we shall be able to continue supporting refugee and at-risk researchers through the Philipp Schwartz Initiative and the EU-funded MSCA4Ukraine Programme. These protection programmes are and will remain an important pillar in our portfolio.
Amongst the changes taking place in 2024 is the well-deserved retirement of our Secretary General, Enno Aufderheide. During his 13 years in office, he has lived and embodied the notion of the Humboldt Network and the premisses of our eponym. It is impossible to calculate the number of kilometres he has covered in representing the Foundation. In addition to his administrative and political activities he has sparked the enthusiasm of generations of Humboldt Fellows for the idea of a network, forged contacts and fostered them. We should like to thank Enno Aufderheide for his untiring commitment; we will miss him both as a person and as the judicious head of our Foundation. I look forward to continue shaping the Foundation’s work and developing its profile with his successor and the staff.
At a time defined by war and crises in which the balances and power relations are shifting on both a large and small scale, science and trust-based cooperation beyond national affiliation play a greater role than ever before. We are not burying our heads in the sand. As a science funding organisation, we are in daily contact with gifted, ambitious and, in many ways, outstanding personalities from all over the world who are helping to find solutions to global problems through their research. Their work gives us cause for confidence.
So, let’s keep sharing ideas and talking to one another. On every day of the year, we can contribute to the viability of our country and, to a certain extent, to that of the global community.
Prof Dr Robert Schlögl