Following a long break, it was finally possible to once again hold the Annual Meeting of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in person: After two annual meetings that had to be held digitally due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 600 researchers from throughout the world had the opportunity this year to gather in person in Berlin and share information and experiences face-to-face under the motto #AvHTogether.
“We did very much miss meeting with you”, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said this morning at his reception in the park at Schloss Bellevue as he greeted individuals currently being sponsored by the Foundation. In the years since the first meeting in 1955, the visit with Germany's president has become a tradition. It is also the highlight of the annual meeting. Still, Russia’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine overshadowed this reception as well: “This war is costing us valuable time – in science, in politics, in business and society”, said Steinmeier. “It is exacerbating the major problems facing humanity, which we can only solve in peace and through worldwide cooperation.” At the same time, he also stressed that: “Putin’s war does not paralyse us. On the contrary, it has increased our determination, also in the global scientific community.”
Steinmeier thanked the Humboldt Foundation and the German science organisations collectively for their collaboration with Ukrainian researchers even under the difficult conditions posed by the war and for the assistance they have been providing students and researchers who have fled Ukraine. “We know many Russian scientists are just as horrified by the war of aggression as we are, many have to endure censure and oppression in their country, many are seeking refuge in exile”, Steinmeier continued. It is good and important that the Humboldt Foundation is continuing to support Russian and Belorussian scientists and scholars who are at threat and want to teach and conduct research in freedom.
The motto #AvHTogether also embraces an ideal of commonality that makes it possible to overcome borders – be they scientific or political, said Hans-Christian Pape, President of the Humboldt Foundation, at the opening ceremony on Wednesday.
He stressed the enormous solidarity and practical help that is offered and practised in the Humboldt Network. “Within a very short time, more than 200 researchers and institutions in Germany had contacted us and agreed to help researchers who had to flee Ukraine and offer them work at their institutions.” However, potential Russian reformers need to be helped as well. Pape formulated the appeal: “They are needed for the future of a democratic Russia, they are needed for a more peaceful world.”
He also raised the question of how effective ideals are when hard-headed political interests are involved. “Science diplomacy is not a means for ending aggressive conflicts arising from power politics. Science diplomacy isn’t a quick fix. In the long term, however, the freedom of academia and the values lived in its orbit have a positive effect on the openness of societies”, is Pape’s conviction. Researchers are especially needed when it comes to actively protecting scientific and academic freedom.
During his reception for Humboldtians, Federal President Steinmeier presented the Philipp Franz von Siebold Award 2022 to the Japanese researcher Keisuke Goda in recognition of his exceptional scientific work and his outstanding contributions to fostering exchange between Germany and Japan. The reception in the park at Schloss Bellevue was followed by lectures and laboratory and campus tours at Adlershof, a centre for research and industry.
At the opening ceremony, Nobel Prize laureate and Humboldtian Emmanuelle Charpentier gave the keynote address about the importance of scientific collaboration for her work on the technology behind the “genetic scissors” which she outlined for the attendees. Charpentier was awarded an Alexander von Humboldt Professorship in 2014 and has conducted research in Germany ever since.
Video of the Annual Meeting’s opening ceremony can be viewed here: https://www.humboldt-foundation.de/annual-meeting-2022
(Press release 20/2022)
Every year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables more than 2,000 researchers from all over the world to spend time conducting research in Germany. The Foundation maintains an interdisciplinary network of well over 30,000 Humboldtians in more than 140 countries around the world – including 57 Nobel Prize winners.