570 Humboldtians at Schloss Bellevue

Annual meeting of the Humboldt Foundation in Berlin: Federal President Steinmeier received researchers from approximately 80 countries and presented the Siebold Award for outstanding services in fostering exchange between Germans and Japanese.

More than 570 international researchers who are currently guests at a German university through a sponsorship from the Humboldt Foundation gathered in Berlin in June for the Humboldt Foundation's annual meeting. The highlight of the meeting was the reception given by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at Schloss Bellevue. The researchers – many of whom came with their families ‒ also used the opportunity to share their experiences and take part in lectures and discussions. In addition, a number of awards including the Humboldt Alumni Awards were presented to the winners. 

Critical thinkers welcome

“We meet today in times rife with contradiction, especially with regard to the status of science”, Steinmeier said, addressing his guests in the park at Schloss Bellevue. On the one hand, the need for knowledge in an ever more complex world is growing. On the other hand, “the rejection of knowledge and reason, the maligning of expert advice are increasing”, Steinmeier noted. He encouraged the Humboldtians from throughout the world and the German research community to become more involved in the social dialogue: “Any time or place the social climate becomes stifling, it is here that we need the fresh air universities provide.” With an eye to developments around the world, Steinmeier stressed: “Wherever science and scientists come under pressure, please know you are welcome here ‒ as excellent researchers, as critical thinkers and as individuals.”

The President of the Humboldt Foundation Helmut Schwarz also encouraged the Humboldtians to make use of every opportunity to talk in public about what they as scientists or scholars do to combat tendencies that are hostile to science. "It should be a matter of course that critical thought and independence ‒ alongside a thorough, well-informed analysis ‒ are indispensable in a complex, globally interconnected world, and that this requires an open-minded, pluralistic society”, he said at the opening of the annual meeting at the Technische Universität Berlin.

Philipp Franz von Siebold Award presented

Also during the annual meeting, President Steinmeier presented the Philipp Franz von Siebold Award 2017 to the Japanese philosopher Hiroshi Abe in recognition of outstanding services in fostering exchange between Germans and Japanese.

Abe has made outstanding contributions to Japanese philosophy, with a special focus on questions of environmental ethics in the Asian tradition of thought. Heidegger and existential philosophy are additional focal areas in his academic work. Hiroshi Abe has been a full professor of philosophy and logic at the School of Human and Environmental Studies of the University of Kyoto, Japan, since 2016.

Left to right: Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Hiroshi Abe, Elke Büdenbender
Left to right: Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Siebold Award Winner Hiroshi Abe, Elke Büdenbender
Photo: Humboldt Foundation/David Ausserhofer

Focus on Sub-Saharan Africa

The annual meeting also offered the African German Network of Excellence in Science – (AGNES) an opportunity to present its work at the Humboldt Lunchtime Fair held at the Technische Universität Berlin. AGNES aims to intensify African-German collaboration in the scientific matters. It seeks to assist young African researchers and make the Humboldt Network better known in Sub-Saharan Africa. As part of these efforts, a total of 60 AGNES Junior Research Grants were awarded in the years from 2012 to 2016. In addition, thanks to funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the AGNES Grant for Intra-African Mobility was awarded to young researchers from Sub-Saharan African for the first time last year. This grant enabled them to work in other African countries. 

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