Energy supply, climate change, digitalization, or the Covid pandemic – science is in higher demand than ever. When developing viable solutions, dialog between science and society plays an important role. Exchange with citizens is in the focus of the current Science Year “Participate!” of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. For this reason, the Annual Celebration 2022 of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) also concentrated on the participation of citizens in research processes and the importance of science communication.
“Asking questions, discussing, establishing hypotheses, rejecting them, and developing new ideas and approaches to solutions are vital to a scientific institution,” says the President of KIT, Professor Holger Hanselka, at the annual celebration. “Research at KIT interacts with the needs of society. This is true for our profile-sharpening topics of energy, mobility, and information as well as for climate research.” Knowledge and technology transfer are closely related to research and represent a permanent task.
As a result of the pandemic or climate crisis, the society’s wish to participate in science has increased. “To find answers for the challenges of our times, we need not only exchange among scientists, but also dialog with society,” Hanselka points out. “Interaction with society” was one of three thrusts of measures mentioned in KIT’s successful proposal for the University of Excellence. To strengthen this interaction with society, KIT is developing new forms of participation. Examples are the KIT Science Week that took place last autumn, citizen dialogs, or real-world labs, where citizens are in active contact with researchers.
During the last two years that were determined by the Covid pandemic, KIT learned a lot: “Digitalization has significantly boosted our research, academic education, innovation, and administration. Our research process has been further developed by an increased use of digital tools. Online meetings have made our work location-independent and more flexible,” the President of KIT summarizes. In future, KIT will continue to use online tools, Hanselka adds.
A milestone of the past year was the KIT Further Development Act. It was adopted by the Baden-Württemberg State Parliament in February 2021. According to KIT’s President, it will advance the unique merger of a university and a large-scale research institution. “This merger gives us the opportunity to be an internationally visible lighthouse. We have the chance to combine research-oriented teaching, research, and innovation more than any other university or national research center in Germany,” Hanselka says. “This will make us stronger in international competition and it will fuel our responsibility for society.”
“I am very happy that Karlsruhe Institute of Technology again provides a stage for the motto of this science year “Participate!.” It fits to a time in which science and expertise are in greater demand than ever,” says Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Federal Minister of Education and Research. “Together, we will move the dialog with society and citizens into the center, thus inviting them to ask questions. We need every smart idea.”
“Research and innovation capability are the basic prerequisites for the development and well-being of a society. To support the former and maintain the latter, science, industry, and civil society have to understand themselves as equal partners,” says Theresia Bauer, Baden-Württemberg Minister of Science, Research, and the Arts. “With all its activities and its outstanding commitment, KIT makes a large contribution in this respect.”
“Transparency, information, and dialog with society are central elements to promote the understanding of facts and enhance trust in science and research,” underscores Stefan Quandt, Member of the Supervisory Board of KIT. “In this connection, the second KIT Further Development Act is a big help. It will advance the KIT merger and strengthen research, academic education, and innovation as well as the transfer of knowledge to society.”
Dr. Frank Mentrup, Lord Mayor of the City of Karlsruhe, praises cooperation between the city of Karlsruhe and KIT: “We citizens of Karlsruhe are proud of “our” KIT and its outstanding scientists. Our initiative karlsruhe.digital is aimed at interconnecting science, industry, culture, and administration for Karlsruhe to become the driver of digitalization, thus improving its competitiveness, quality of life, and sovereignty.” The city very much wishes to provide its citizens with an easy and understandable access to science and research, Mentrup continues and mentions the successful cooperation of KIT and the city of Karlsruhe during the EFFEKTE festival.
Panel Discussion: Participate!
Are we all scientists? How does science have to communicate between citizen dialog and talk show? Under the motto of the current science year “Participate!,” these questions were discussed by Professor Senja Post, Scientific Director of ZAK I Centre for Applied and General Studies at KIT, Professor Christof Weinhardt, Head of KIT’s Institute of Information Systems and Marketing, Beatrice Lugger, Managing Director of NaWik gGmbH, and Mirko Drotschmann, journalist and science communicator.
2022 KIT Department Teaching Awards for Research- and Application-oriented Education
With department teaching awards, the Executive Board of KIT honors individuals, working groups or organizational units of KIT departments, whose courses are characterized by research- and application-oriented education modules, new forms of learning and teaching, interdisciplinarity, or a high current relevance of the knowledge conveyed.
Professor Alexander Wanner, KIT Vice-President for Higher Education and Academic Affairs, presented the award to 14 KIT lecturers to honor their outstanding commitment. The award in the amount of EUR 10,000 each is granted every year to teaching staff of the eleven KIT departments.
Click here for the videos on the award winners (in German): https://www.kit.edu/kit/fakultaetslehrpreis-2022.php
Keynote: Digital Knowledge Formats on the Fast Track
To reach the target groups, every piece of knowledge needs to have a specific form. In his keynote lecture, YouTuber and KIT alumnus Mirko Drotschmann spoke about how knowledge and science can be communicated successfully to younger people. With his YouTube channels “MrWissen2go” and “MrWissen2go Geschichte,” he has millions of followers.
Being “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for the society and the environment. It is the objective to make significant contributions to the global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility, and information. For this, about 9,800 employees cooperate in a broad range of disciplines in natural sciences, engineering sciences, economics, and the humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 22,300 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science by offering research-based study programs. Innovation efforts at KIT build a bridge between important scientific findings and their application for the benefit of society, economic prosperity, and the preservation of our natural basis of life. KIT is one of the German universities of excellence.