DWIH focus topic 2021: Societies in transition: impacts of the pandemicThe corona pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for and importance of innovations. This applies both to the medical fight against the virus and to the battle against its consequences.
Focus on the five DWIH locations
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53175 Bonn (Germany)
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Professor Joybrato Mukherjee
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Dr Kai Sicks
Fazit Communication GmbH
Frankfurt am Main
Susanne BaumannState Secretary of the Federal Foreign Office
The Federal Foreign Office is proud to support the German Centres for Research and Innovation (DWIH), which are a successful instrument in the field of research and academic relations policy.
The centres in New York, São Paulo, New Delhi, Tokyo and Moscow provide German science organisations, universities and private sector researchers with a shared platform abroad, while nurturing contacts with innovators in host countries and showcasing Germany as a location for research and innovation.
We are monitoring the current situation in Ukraine and Russia with great concern. We are endeavouring to continue dialogue through civil society structures in the field of science and research insofar as possible – not least through the centre in Moscow.
The German Centres for Research and Innovation are an integral part of our science diplomacy, through which we connect science and foreign policy. Global challenges, such as the current pandemic, climate change and sustainable development, can only be mastered by means of intensive cooperation between science and politics at international level. The centres put forward potential responses to such pressing tasks of our times. In 2021, for example, the focus was on “Society in transition: impacts of the pandemic”.
German companies were at the forefront of the development of vaccines. The German Government likewise made a key contribution to this effort by supplying vaccine doses free of charge, expanding vaccine production capacities and supporting COVAX.
We are also delighted to be opening a sixth centre in San Francisco in 2022, which will focus on the strong bond between science and research in the Bay Area. I would like to thank all the contributing partners as well as the DAAD and the staff at the centres: you all play your part in the great success of the DWIH, thereby contributing to international academic freedom and evidence-based foreign policy.
State Secretary of the Federal Foreign Office
Professor Dorothea WagnerChair of the German Council of Science and Humanities
2021 was a year of learning and of change for the German Centres for Research and Innovation. While our focus at the beginning of the pandemic was still on finding provisional solutions, we had to accept in 2021 that the “post-pandemic era” would not begin as quickly as everyone had hoped. The DWIH responded by devising new ways of pursuing their work. In the process, they discovered that this allowed them to target an entirely new audience and in many cases significantly extended their reach. And at the same time, it is my impression at least that our joint focus topic of “Society in transition: impacts of the pandemic” has prompted us to engage in perhaps even more intensive exchange with one another than in the past. I have been very impressed by the creativity that the centres have shown in this context.
A “society in transition” is of course something we have also experienced at first hand. Rarely has such a process of transformation been as visible as in recent years, and for those of us who remained here in Germany it has been beneficial to have our networks all over the world. Being in touch with offices in other countries and other continents has helped us gain some distance and realise that alternative courses of action are always possible, even in times of crisis. For making this possible, I would like to convey my especial thanks, also on behalf of the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany, to those DWIH staff who remained “on site”, often under difficult conditions.
Yet there was also cause for celebration in 2021: following intensive discussions, it was agreed that the network should be extended for the first time since the DWIH teamed up under one umbrella. The number of main supporters for the new DWIH San Francisco is testimony to how much interest there was in such a step. I wish the new centre the best possible start and hope this will be just the beginning for the network of DWIH.
Professor Dorothea Wagner
Chair of the German Council of Science and Humanities
DWIH MoscowThe German Centre for Research and Innovation Moscow championed German-Russian dialogue in 2021.
Dr Andreas Hoeschen (DAAD)
Advisory Board Chair
Dr Jörn Achterberg (DFG)
German Centre for Research and Innovation Moscow
Prospekt Wernadskogo 103
Building 3, Entrance 2
119526 Moskau, Russland
Supporters of the DWIH Moscow
A word from ...
A word from ...
Dr Ursula Paintner, director communications of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), about the situation following Russia’s attack on Ukraine
The DAAD has significantly scaled back academic exchange with Russia in response to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Funding for German students and researchers to spend time in Russia has been suspended, and the DAAD has called upon German universities to freeze institutional cooperation with their Russian counterparts. At the same time, however, we want to be able to remain in contact with Russians, especially with critical students and researchers. Consequently, applications for scholarships to come to Germany are still possible, and the offices of the DAAD and the DWIH in Moscow will also be kept open for as long as circumstances permit. The DWIH continues to a limited extent to function as an important and necessary exchange forum for its stakeholders in a difficult situation.
What opportunities are there for the DWIH Moscow to follow up on the work done in the past years?
That will depend very much on how the situation unfolds. First and foremost, we are all hoping that the violence will end soon. Only then will we be able to see when and how political developments allow academic relations to be cultivated again in Russia. If we then still have ties with civil society that we can build on, we will have achieved a lot.
Focus on the DWIH Moscow
Focus on the DWIH Moscow
Dr Andreas Hoeschen
To create as many as 100 new, interdisciplinary clusters at the country’s universities – that is the goal that the Russian government has set within the framework of its new “Priority 2030” funding programme. This highlights the importance of collaborative research, which is to help universities network and improve their international competitiveness. In February 2021, more than 100 representatives of predominantly German and Russian universities were invited by the DWIH Moscow, the Russian Association of Global Universities and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) to attend an expert seminar entitled “Science clusters: Structure and success models”. It focused on how such clusters can be organised in a way that reflects all the various disciplines and interests, and on how to deal with legal challenges such as the issue of intellectual property.
Scientists from institutions such as RWTH Aachen University, the University Alliance Ruhr and Freie Universität Berlin reported on the German Excellence Initiative that enabled them to set up clusters of excellence. On the Russian side, speakers included experts from the cluster “Digital Biodesign and Individualised Healthcare” based at Sechenov Medical University in Moscow and from the Ural Mathematical Centre (UMC) at the Ural Federal University. “This event was very useful when it came to sharing experiences, as more such clusters are to be set up in Russia at present and the meeting presented a very good opportunity to explore how international collaborations between Russian and German clusters could be initiated”, says Mikhail Rusakov, programme manager at the DWIH Moscow. The formation of science clusters remains an important issue in Russia.
Together with the German Embassy in Moscow, the DWIH addressed the urgent need for climate action in the German-Russian Science Forum, a format that took place twice in 2021. For example, a two-day forum in March that was entitled “Green Transformation of the Global Economy from a German and Russian Perspective” focused on climate policy and current environmental issues. At the second forum in November on “Sustainable Mobility. Urban Planning. Climate Change”, the topic of transport mobility and the consequences for the environment, health and the climate took centre stage. “Concrete examples from the cities of Moscow and Berlin gave participants an insight into how the transport infrastructure there is changing”, says Rusakov. In Moscow, for instance, almost all buses nowadays are zero-emission electric vehicles, underground trains run at two-minute intervals during peak periods and using an app to order a taxi is now the norm. In Berlin, on the other hand, the extensive network of cycle paths is exemplary. Mobility habits are also changing in Russia’s regions. The southern Russian city of Krasnodar for example is planning to revise its mobility concept and set up a rapid-transit rail system based on the model of Karlsruhe, its twin city in Germany.
While the first Science Forum had to be run as an online-only event, most of the speakers at the event on sustainable mobility were able to attend in person. Other formats were also held on a hybrid basis, such as when Russian and German scientists who had taken part in the MOSAiC Arctic voyage came to the German Week in St Petersburg in April. They talked to attendees as well as an online audience about their experiences during the one-year international expedition that had been organised by the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) based in St Petersburg and the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven. “The event really profited from the fact that the researchers were able to discuss their findings in a very broad context with the audience”, sums up DWIH Moscow Director Dr Andreas Hoeschen.
The DWIH also made the best of the pandemic situation at the “German-Russian Week of the Young Researcher”, which already took place for the eleventh time in October. “Given how difficult it is for young researchers to forge new contacts and share experiences during a pandemic, it was particularly important for this event to be run, even if participants were only able to meet virtually for one day”, believes Andreas Hoeschen. During the first part of the event, senior representatives such as Dr Alexander Khlunov, director general of the Russian Science Foundation (RSF), Professor Yuri Balega, vice president of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor Sergej Salikhov, vice rector of the National University of Science and Technology NUST MISIS, DFG President Professor Katja Becker and DAAD President Professor Joybrato Mukherjee took stock of Russian-German research cooperation against the backdrop of the pandemic. In the second part, German-Russian research projects were presented by young researchers. DWIH Director Hoeschen stresses: “Exchanging experiences on a solely digital basis is not ideal, but we were nonetheless right to offer the format, as it did at least allow the young scientists to remain in contact.”
DWIH Moments 2021
DWIH Moments 2021
Moscow: Modern mobility in focus
At the same time, the hybrid format offered some valuable flexibility: those who couldn’t attend the event in person were able to take part virtually and thus see for themselves how intensively Russia and Germany are searching for sustainable mobility solutions. Issues such as the consequences of urban mobility for the environment and health were addressed at the Science Forum, as were concrete concepts for sustainable mobility. Participants were encouraged to think “beyond the car-friendly city” and to consider the opportunities for and limitations of cycling in major cities. “Climate change and indeed the pandemic are putting great pressure on cities in Russia and Germany to change”, says Mikhail Rusakov. “The German-Russian Science Forum explored ways of overcoming this challenge on an interdisciplinary basis.”
Cooperation for the sake of the climate
Cooperation for the sake of the climate
Furthermore, the government adopted a climate protection strategy in November 2021 aimed at slashing carbon emissions by 80 percent as compared with 1999 levels by 2050. It also sent a surprisingly large delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November 2021. “Climate policy has been accorded significantly higher priority in Russia”, notes Hoeschen.
Against this backdrop, the digital German-Russian Science Forum “Green Transformation of the Global Economy from a German and Russian Perspective” was staged in March 2021 by the DWIH Moscow and the German Embassy in Moscow. Participants spent two days discussing which possible solutions could be found in the area of climate change in both countries and how the EU and Russia could jointly contribute to better climate and environmental protection. It became clear for example in sections entitled “Climate strategies in Germany and Russia under the conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic” and “Coal regions in Germany and Russia: Development prospects for a coal-free future” that Russia’s economy will need to be restructured and follow a decarbonisation approach. This is partly because Russia is keen to ensure that it does not lag too far behind the EU, which has set itself the goal of climate neutrality by the year 2050 in its Green Deal. The prospects for German-Russian collaboration in the area of hydrogen were one focus of the Science Forum. It emerged that Russia intends to give greater priority to hydrogen production in future, albeit based on natural gas. By contrast, Germany is pushing ahead with green hydrogen that is produced using electricity from renewable energies.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CIVIL SOCIETY
In recent years, German-Russian collaborations have been established particularly in the field of climate research, as highlighted by two events in 2021 in which the DWIH Moscow was involved: at the German Week in St Petersburg in April, for example, Russians and Germans who had taken part in the MOSAiC voyage to the Arctic discussed the objectives and results of this one-year research expedition. And in November, a project run by the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) was presented in Moscow; singled out for an award by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is entitled “Together for a better climate – active science diplomacy with Russia (BRIDGE)”. The GFZ has been able in the last few years to set up successful cooperative ventures with Russian partners in climate and sustainability research.
The role of civil society became especially clear during the Science Forum in March. “Our objective was to engage in an interdisciplinary discussion about climate change, exploring the subject from different angles”, emphasises Mikhail Rusakov, programme manager at the DWIH Moscow. Dr Alexey Kokorin, director of the Climate and Energy Programme at WWF Russia, illustrated for example how important civil society is in the decarbonisation process. “The EU’s Green Deal cannot be used as a means of exerting pressure on governments and the population if they do not understand why certain climate adaptation measures are necessary”, the WWF representative said, pointing to successful projects that have involved the Federal Environment Ministry’s International Climate Initiative (IKI) in Russia. At the Bikin River in the Far East, for instance, virgin coniferous forests have been placed under protection because they play a vital role in climate protection by storing carbon dioxide. In a parallel step, measures were put in place at the local level to finance some of the activities. “If positive outcomes in climate adaptation go hand in hand with positive emotions, the Russian population will also take a positive view of decarbonisation”, was Kokorin’s conclusion. DWIH Director Andreas Hoeschen emphasises: “Climate protection and the consequences of climate change remain important and will continue to be monitored by the DWIH Moscow.”
DWIH New DelhiThe German Centre for Research and Innovation New Delhi reaches its target groups with highly effective and tailor-made networking services.
Dr Katja Lasch (DAAD)
Advisory Board Chair
Dr Vaibhav Agarwal (DFG)
German Centre for Research and Innovation New Delhi
21 Jor Bagh
New Delhi – 110003, India
Supporters of the DWIH New Delhi
Focus on the DWIH New Delhi
Focus on the DWIH New Delhi
Dr Katja Lasch
The DWIH New Delhi has drawn some creative conclusions from life with the pandemic: with coronavirus restrictions making face-to-face events difficult, the DWIH levelled up its technique and used its own small studio to stream events and improve the professional touch of moderation. Interactive and innovative formats were presented in these events, from a digital lounge and exchanges in open mic sessions to rapid-fire lectures.
Technological and digital upgrades are by no means the only things that the DWIH New Delhi incorporated into its programme in 2021. It was rather a question of gaining deeper insights into when and why people log on to a virtual event or use the website, explains Director Dr Katja Lasch. “The virtual context highlights the need to take strategic decisions about how best to reach one’s audience.” Consequently, the DWIH New Delhi decided in 2021 to optimise its events and productive network activities and tailor them more precisely to the requirements of its target groups.
This involved a great deal of hard work and time, spent for example on conducting background discussions with invited speakers in the run-up to and on the sidelines of events. As far as the new topics were concerned, brainstorming sessions were held with various stakeholders with a view to jointly preparing appropriate formats. What kind of offering would be attractive? What expectations do people have? These and other questions were asked by Katja Lasch and Programme Manager Aadishree Jamkhedkar – prompting some very helpful responses. “Many of those surveyed were happy that we were asking them directly about what they needed!”, explains Jamkhedkar. The result of these conversations helped establish a guideline for all the DWIH New Delhi’s activities. “We also use our communication channels to present our thematic focus in an easily recognisable form”, adds Jamkhedkar.
BROAD-RANGING PERSPECTIVES ON THE PANDEMIC
Back in April, the DWIH New Delhi and its supporters had already organised two consecutive web talks about what is being done to protect the elderly and about innovations in ventilators, tying in with the focal topic pursued by all the DWIH in 2021, namely “Society in transition: impacts of the pandemic”. At a symposium devoted to this topic in September 2021, Indian and German speakers then talked to a wide audience about the commonalities and differences in national responses to the pandemic, the reshuffling of regional and global structures, the future of work and learning, and the whole question of information, uncertain knowledge, conspiracy theories and the role of media.
In July 2021, another web talk series on artificial intelligence (AI) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations explored AI for education, agriculture and health research, following up on the web talks about the pandemic’s impact on geriatric care and medical technology. In June, a Science Circle Lecture – a well-established serial format run by the DWIH New Delhi – had already looked at how a strategic “data collaboration” between India and Germany in the area of artificial intelligence could generate value for the healthcare sector, as well as in the fields of agriculture, engineering and mobility.
“To accompany the events, these focus topics were also addressed in our newsletter, which appears three times a year”, explains Aadishree Jamkhedkar. This allowed complementary content to be presented, for example about healthcare and economic perspectives – from both German and Indian viewpoints. “The authors came from our circle of partners and speakers. This is part of the DWIH New Delhi’s strategic networking approach.”
NETWORKED AND HIGHLY INNOVATIVE
Another focus in the second half of the year was the commitment to a highly innovative start-up culture. In December 2021, for example, the new “Incubators Connect” format was premiered; it forms part of the wide-ranging entrepreneurship and start-up programme alongside the successful “Falling Walls Lab India” and “Innovators Connect” events that are already well established. The DWIH New Delhi specifically fosters cooperation with incubators so as to get potential founders at German and Indian universities interested in bilateral exchange and the range of information and networking opportunities on offer. Furthermore, this bilateral exchange is increasingly being supplemented by international discourse. Organised by the DWIH New Delhi, a joint format for all DWIH – designed as a compact world tour for German stakeholders in the area of entrepreneurship – proved extremely popular. In typical start-up presentation style, the five DWIH representatives had just two minutes to pitch the entrepreneur and start-up system of their respective DWIH host country. Katja Lasch, who chaired the event, was extremely pleased with the response from the more than 100 digital participants. “The launch of Indo-German discourse for international panels and the collaboration with the other DWIH are two other important results of our strategic consultations last year.”
DWIH Moments 2021
DWIH Moments 2021
EXCHANGE ON CLIMATE ACTION
International dialogue in New Delhi
“This was the first time we had collaborated with such a large number of international speakers for the Indo-German Forum – from postdocs and experienced scientists to political advisors”, explains Jamkhedkar. The 34 experts came not only from India and Germany, but also from South Africa, Australia and the European Union, contributing numerous fascinating viewpoints. “We had digital conversations with all the speakers in order to discover what is and will be of particular interest now and in the near future in the international research and innovation landscape.” This was a time-consuming but very worthwhile approach, the programme manager remarks. “We were thus able to identify some key interconnecting issues on which to focus systematically in our future networking activities.”
Targeted support for start-ups
Targeted support for start-ups
Focus on innovation
“Incubators Connect” is the latest example of this systematic approach followed by the DWIH New Delhi. “Launched in December 2021, this format complements our activities for start-ups, which have once again proved highly successful”, explains Aadishree Jamkhedkar, programme manager at the DWIH New Delhi, which runs a wide variety of activities: the inspiring “Innovators Connect” series at which founders from Germany and India share experiences, obtain information and network with researchers and incubators; the web talk series on the internationalisation of start-ups; the target group-oriented social media activities, and the “Falling Walls Lab” platform for young scientists with ideas for start-ups, which is a particular magnet in India.
During the “Indo-German Start-up Week” organised by its partner German Indian Startup Exchange Program (GINSEP), the DWIH New Delhi also arranged a virtual fireside chat in September 2021, focusing on the challenges and prerequisites for taking research-based start-ups to the market. Furthermore, an online event initiated by the DWIH New Delhi in October 2021 explored the topic from a wide range of perspectives with colleagues from the DWIH New York, São Paulo, Moscow and Tokyo – its title was “Go Global with your Start-ups”. The speakers gave the German start-up scene an interesting overview in just one hour of the innovation ecosystems in India, the US, Brazil, Russia and Japan.
With its “Incubators Connect”, an online format, the DWIH New Delhi offers networking opportunities for those centres at universities and non-university research institutions in Germany and India that provide support for start-up processes and foster entrepreneurship among students and researchers. The goal of “Incubators Connect” is to enable these incubators to engage in cross-border exchange on successful practical examples and to promote a discussion of grants and other support for science-based start-ups. “The kick-off event already brought around 60 institutions together on the platform and additionally gave them the chance to get to know one each other in one-to-one conversations”, says Aadishree Jamkhedkar.
“In our capacity as a DWIH, we support the transfer of technology”, emphasises Katja Lasch. “It is only logical therefore that our new ‘Incubators Connect’ format also enables us to focus on spin-offs from universities and non-university research institutions.” To reach out to founders in the academic environment, to accompany and supervise the start-up process and to help them build up their international networks, it makes a lot of sense to involve these incubators, explains the DWIH director. “Teaming up with incubators to support international start-up processes is in the interests of everyone involved.”
This was the conclusion drawn for example during brainstorming sessions with selected incubators and start-ups from India and Germany that the DWIH New Delhi organised, likewise in 2021, as part of its efforts to structure its own offerings more systematically. “As a result, we were able to significantly raise our profile as a DWIH and highlight our role”, says Katja Lasch. “We are establishing and offering a quality-assured network that is needed in this area.”
It also became clear in 2021 that staging small, themed events to support science-based start-ups is more beneficial and effective than providing broader-based information services. In 2022, the DWIH New Delhi will therefore be partnering incubators to run topic-specific workshops for entrepreneurs – on subjects such as patents in the life sciences or artificial intelligence (AI). “This is the key lesson we have learnt from our systematic approach”, sums up Katja Lasch. “Rather than offering wide-ranging but rather general activities for start-ups, we can better reach our target group and bring the right partners together by organising a number of carefully coordinated and highly focused formats and by collaborating with incubators.”
Go Global with your Start-ups: Video
“Excellent opportunities for Germany and India”
“Excellent opportunities for Germany and India”
Three questions for Professor Deva Priyakumar, expert in machine learning for chemistry and biology at the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in Hyderabad
The role of technology in healthcare has surged exponentially during the pandemic. AI and other data-driven technologies are playing an important part in diagnosis, drug and vaccine development, as well as in our general understanding of epidemiology and virology. At the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in Hyderabad we started to collect data about the pandemic early on. That has already proven very helpful in the fields of risk stratification, mortality prediction and drug discovery. Large quantities of data and algorithms are crucial when it comes to finding patterns that would otherwise be easily overlooked.
You participated in the “AI in Healthcare” Web Talk organised by the DWIH New Delhi in July 2021. What were your takeaways from the event?
The first take-away for me was to learn more about how the DWIH New Delhi works to bring together innovators from India, Germany and other countries so that they can cooperate for the benefit of science and new technologies. The “AI in Healthcare” Web Talk was a very interesting exchange with other experts in the field of artificial intelligence from Germany and Japan. Amongst other things, we brainstormed about possible collaborations with our initiative IHub-Data at the IIIT, with which we are focusing on data storage, analysis and services.
Generally speaking, how can India and Germany learn from one another in the area of artificial intelligence?
Traditionally, Germany is a frontrunner in science and research and I highly appreciate the contacts enabled by the DWIH New Delhi’s work. There are excellent opportunities for Germany and India to collaborate in different areas of artificial intelligence, especially in applied research in areas such as healthcare. The number of students educated and trained in artificial intelligence in India is unparalleled. For example, at IHub-Data we offer a 36-week course in “Foundations of Modern Machine Learning” and courses on “Machine Learning for Drug Discovery”, amongst other things. There’s a huge talent pool in India with great potential for future collaborations.
DWIH New York
DWIH New YorkThe German Center for Research and Innovation New York fosters dialogue about the innovation cultures of Germany and the U.S.
Benedikt Brisch (DAAD)
Head of Programs
Dr. Jan Lüdert
Advisory Board Chair
Professor Kurt H. Becker
(NYU Tandon School of Engineering)
German Center for Research and Innovation New York
871 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017, USA
Supporters of the DWIH New York
Focus on the DWIH New York
Focus on the DWIH New York
In 2021, the DWIH New York was able to resume many activities that had previously been curtailed due to the pandemic. “Our main concern, after all, is to advance the transatlantic discourse of science and business – especially when it comes to addressing major challenges such as the pandemic or climate change,” says Benedikt Brisch, director of the DWIH New York. “And in that, the change of administration here in the U.S. has brought a clear turnaround. The new U.S. administration has made it very clear that it sees science as playing a central role in society. So, we’ve tried to use that as tailwind to our advantage.”
In this context, the issue of innovation funding is central to both the U.S. and German governments. While the U.S. is ramping up investments in research and development to avoid falling behind China, Germany also sees the need to invest more in research and development – for example, to bring findings from basic research into application more quickly. “A New Era for Research and Innovation? Innovation Policy in the USA and Germany After the Pandemic” was the title of a web talk for which the DWIH New York brought together experts from both countries in July 2021: Kathleen Kennedy, Executive Director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, Professor Rena Conti, Associate Research Director of Biopharma and Public Policy at Boston University’s Institute for Health System Innovation and Policy, and Professor Georg Krausch, President of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. “A particularly exciting point was to consider how cooperation and competition actually interact,” emphasizes Benedikt Brisch. “Might it even be necessary to think of the two together, as ‘coopetition,’ in order to achieve the best results?”
The appreciation of scientific facts is indispensable for innovation, especially as it pertains to the stability of future intergovernmental cooperation. This was the topic of the online discussion “‘Knowledge Diplomacy’ in Times of Disruption and Beyond” on July 22, 2021, with Dr. Esther Brimmer, Executive Director of the Association of International Educators NAFSA, and Dr. Georg Schütte, Secretary General of the Volkswagen Foundation. The panelists explored to what extent the language of diplomacy has shifted beyond mere intercultural understanding given the increasing science-based nature of politics. And if so, how can one even guarantee that a scientific statement is sound? “There was a big consensus that science should be even more involved in policymaking, with a special emphasis on the public communication of scientific facts,” says Benedikt Brisch.
A scientist who exemplifies this communication is climate researcher Professor Friederike Otto. At the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, she conducts research on extreme weather and its impact on society. Using the new field of attribution science, which she helped develop, it is possible to calculate the contribution of climate change to catastrophic weather events in real time. Otto’s 2019 book, Angry Weather, became a bestseller. She presented her research at the DWIH New York as part of the three-part series “Business, Science, Culture: Climate Edition.” “We found Friederike Otto’s catchphrase of ‘angry weather’ a great example of successful science communication,” says Benedikt Brisch. “People can directly relate to that. And that’s a first, important step in such a complex challenge as climate change.” One of Friederike Otto’s key points in her presentation was that we must strive not only for direct solutions, but also for adaptations to the change that is already taking place. This was precisely the central theme at the DWIH New York’s FUTURE FORUM 2021, which took place as a hybrid event online and in Chicago on October 14 and 15. Titled “Before After,” the focus was on DWIH’s 2021 focus topic, “Society in transition: impacts of the pandemic.”
“We wanted to bring together personalities from science and business to jointly consider how we can become more resilient as a society,” Benedikt Brisch mentions. A panel held under the heading “Unusual Pairings,” which brought together a matchmaker from Chicago with a German expert in telehealth applications, met with great response. Titled “Opening Up Virtually: Sharing Intimate Details Across Virtual Borders,” the panel addressed the exciting question of how online doctor searches could benefit from matchmaking mechanisms implemented in dating apps. Benedikt Brisch believes that the new German government, elected in 2021, will also vouch for the fact that the creative scientific and entrepreneurial exchange between the transatlantic partners remains on good footing. “It’s great to see how many overlapping interests exist between the U.S. and Germany – and how good the conditions are for cooperation in the coming years.”
DWIH Moments 2021
DWIH Moments 2021
Strengthening start-ups in New York
To change that, the DWIH New York partnered with the German American Chamber of Commerce New York to launch the STEP USA University Program in November 2021. In a week-long virtual bootcamp, selected spin-offs from German universities were able to prepare for a potential market entry in the U.S. Topics included the U.S. venture capital scene, legal frameworks, and exchanges with startups already successful in the U.S. market. For Kathrin DiPaola, the new format was a particular highlight because it was able to provide concrete tools for implementing ideas. “We can only master the challenges of the future if we bring innovations into application more quickly.” Together with the GACC NY the DWIH New York is planning an in-person STEP USA University Program for 2022.
As a journalist and consultant in the fields of ecology and urbanism, Wolff herself has been using storytelling methods for years to convey the heart of complex scientific issues to a broad audience. She was already able to demonstrate how well this works in a presentation at the DWIH New York’s FUTURE FORUM in 2020. “When we were planning for the year and thought we absolutely had to offer something on the topic of science communication, it made sense to ask Solène to be a workshop leader,” says Dr. Kathrin DiPaola, DWIH New York’s 2021 program manager.
In the “Science Storytelling Workshop” led by Solène Wolff, which took place virtually on June 15, fifty scientists from Germany and the United States gathered to learn the necessary techniques for effective science communication. “We wanted to provide something like a toolbox that everyone could use in their everyday lives,” DiPaola said. The reasons for German researchers’ reservations also quickly became apparent. “Many are afraid of losing their reputation in the scientific community if they simplify statements,” Wolff said. “Yet simplification for the purpose of greater outreach can bring enormous benefits.”
By contrast, U.S. colleagues have already internalized this strongly. “And this is exactly the setting we had hoped for: an exchange between two different scientific cultures, both of which can learn an enormous amount from each other,” said Kathrin DiPaola. One German researcher, for example, remarked somewhat shyly that no one outside her specialist circle would be interested in her topic anyway: small worms that live in polar ice – a topic that garnered excitement in the chat with an explosion of questions. “It was great to see how some participants suddenly realized: My research is exciting for many. I just need to have the courage and the opportunities to tell people about it.”
FIGHTING FOR INTEREST
In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that scientists must become active themselves to communicate their findings, says Solène Wolff. “For a long time, people thought that scientific knowledge would come to the people by itself, as it were – communicated by the media. We now know that this is not enough. You really have to fight to win over the public for scientific knowledge.”
With more than three hundred requests, the demand for the “Science Storytelling Workshop” was so great that the DWIH New York offered another workshop format: July 20 marked the launch of the Science Story Exchange (SSX), a series of events that will continue in 2022. Young scientists can apply in an open call and are then brought together at random. The first exchange on science communication introduced Fazilet Bekbulat, a doctoral student at the Institute of Pathobiochemistry at the University of Mainz, to Dr. Shawana Tabassum, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Texas at Tyler. “Now they may even start a joint project,” Kathrin DiPaola tells us.
The lecture “Speak Data” (June 22) and workshop “Telling Stories with Data” (August 20) built on the fact that good science communication is also always based on communicating data in an understandable way. For “Speak Data,” the DWIH New York enlisted the renowned artist Giorgia Lupi to encourage her audience to get creative beyond pie charts. Led by Professor Daniel Sauter of the Parsons School of Design, “Telling Stories with Data” allowed participants invited by the DWIHs New York and Tokyo to collaboratively develop ideas for data visualization and discuss them. “Science communication is really close to our hearts,” said Kathrin DiPaola. “I’m sure the topic will continue to engage the DWIH New York in the future.”
“Changed meaning of public spaces”
“Changed meaning of public spaces”
Three questions for Dr. Katja Simons, Executive Director of Campus OWL in New York
We found the question of how the meaning of public spaces has been changed by the coronavirus pandemic very fascinating and felt that this was an excellent opportunity to discuss the subject in front of an audience during a joint event with the DWIH New York. Campus OWL has long been one of the DWIH’s supporters. Elizabeth Sikiaridi, a professor at the OWL University of Applied Sciences and Arts and Director of the Master’s in Sustainable Landscape Design and Development, developed a concept that we then explored with other experts.
Who else did you invite to the discussion?
The sociologist Dr. Mona Sloane from the NYU Center for Responsible AI, an expert in artificial intelligence and inequality, and Dr. Harriet Harriss, an architect and Dean of the Pratt School of Architecture in Brooklyn, joined Elizabeth Sikiaridi in a discussion of how people can come together in public spaces, including across social boundaries, despite high levels of digital individualization. The pandemic has increased our need for outdoor spaces in which to be active and to rest. We cannot underestimate the importance of such places for our physical and mental wellbeing. The DWIH offers an open platform for creative exchange on innovative ideas. The DWIH’s extended network and fascinating focus topics allow us to forge new contacts.
Was the web talk able to increase German-American exchange even beyond the event itself?
Yes, a more lasting exchange did indeed come about between colleagues at the OWL University of Applied Sciences and Arts and their counterparts at the Pratt School of Architecture. The latter were interested in the Master’s in Sustainable Landscape Design and Development and are now considering setting up something similar in New York. One special feature of this degree course is its relevance to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in areas such as climate change, biodiversity, food security, and migration. If a similar course of study is established at the Pratt School of Architecture, exchange programs between the two schools may well be set up in the future.
DWIH São PauloThe German Centre for Research and Innovation São Paulo organises a wide variety of events and exchange on pressing future issues.
Dr Jochen Hellmann (DAAD)
Advisory Board Chair
Sören Metz (Technical University of Munich)
German Centre for Research and Innovation São Paulo
Rua Verbo Divino, 1488 – Térreo
04719-904 São Paulo – SP, Brazil
Supporters of the DWIH São Paulo
Focus on the DWIH São Paulo
Focus on the DWIH São Paulo
Dr Jochen Hellmann
“Outstanding teamwork” is DWIH São Paulo Programme Manager Marcio Weichert’s summary when he looks back at 2021. This is because the DWIH team once again found itself facing a planning situation that was anything but straightforward in the second year of the pandemic. “Brazil was particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Science and business were also badly affected by the health and economic damage it caused”, explains Dr Jochen Hellmann, director of the DWIH. Given this situation it is all the more remarkable that the DWIH São Paulo was able to initiate, run or support 21 event projects – for the most part in virtual form.
The DWIH’s focus topic for 2021 also reflected what the team was essentially experiencing on a day-to-day basis: “Society in transition: impacts of the pandemic”. On three days in November, the DWIH staged its outstanding series “DWIH São Paulo Online Talks” (or DSPOTs for short). Each saw two guests – one from Brazil and one from Germany – reporting from their respective country’s perspective on the impacts the pandemic had on social inequality and health, business, urban development and mobility. “The DSPOTs series was thus able to communicate some up-to-date research findings”, stresses Marcio Weichert.
One key conclusion drawn from research into the effects of the pandemic was that the pace of social injustice is accelerating worldwide. Lena Lavinas, a professor at the Institute of Economics at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, illustrated the very considerable extent to which the focus on private finance is increasing social inequality in the housing market and the area of healthcare in Brazil. This was confirmed by Professor Till Bärnighausen from the Institute of Public Health at Heidelberg University’s Medical Faculty: “The pandemic has further accelerated and exacerbated inequality in this world, which is driven by the inequality in the healthcare sector.”
The subject of health also dominated the Falling Walls Lab Brazil in 2021. Of the 56 proposals submitted by young researchers, the jury picked three that highlighted solutions in healthcare. Georges Khouri, a biotech master’s student at the State University of Londrina, was awarded Innovator of the Year. Having been able to travel to Berlin to take part in the Falling Walls final, he presented the prototype of a multi-test device that can quickly and cheaply diagnose Chagas disease, leishmaniosis and malaria. Khouri also won the audience award in the pitch competition in November 2021 at the end of the Innovation Week staged under the umbrella of “Research in Germany” by the DAAD and TU9, the alliance of leading universities of technology in Germany.
A rapid testing kit was also developed by Hilab, a start-up from the Brazilian state of Paraná that won the Startups Connected competition “A Healthier Life – Solutions for People, Societies and the Environment” in 2021. Hilab’s winning solution was a mobile mini laboratory that can perform full-scale Covid-19 testing and deliver the results in digital form within just 25 minutes. Thanks to the award, the company can take part in the accelerator programme of the German-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce (AHK São Paulo) and benefit from the DWIH São Paulo’s network of contacts. As Jochen Hellmann emphasises: “There are currently more unicorns – as successful start-ups worth more than a billion dollars are known – in Brazil than in Germany. So it is definitely worth establishing closer ties with Brazil.”
The German-Brazilian Digital Education Forum funded by the DWIH São Paulo also explored the effects of the pandemic in 2021. Digitisation of teaching is one of the biggest shifts that the coronavirus pandemic accelerated. “Covid-19 has given rise to a sense of urgency when it comes to rethinking conventional higher education models and created a new virtual context that higher education institutions cannot ignore”, opined Brazilian Professor Marcelo Parreira do Amaral from the Institute of Educational Science at the University of Münster.
Many other transformations are being additionally accelerated by climate change. The 9th German-Brazilian Dialogue on Science, Research and Innovation, which took place online, was devoted to the topic “Cities and Climate”. The central focus was on the global and local impacts of climate change and the opportunities to adapt to this change. German-Brazilian cooperation at the municipal level was also strengthened by the virtual 4th Klimapolis workshop in December 2021. German and Brazilian experts showcased examples from so-called real-world laboratories, i.e. test cities for sustainability as Diadema in the state of São Paulo. Furthermore, the third DWIH São Paulo Online Talk in 2021 highlighted just how much climate change and the pandemic as drivers of change shape urban development. The talk focused on possible social policy measures that could be implemented in cities burdened by the pandemic and new models for using public space for societal exchange. Jochen Hellmann summarises the transformation that the DWIH São Paulo itself has undergone as follows: “There was not a single meeting at the DWIH São Paulo in 2021 that did not raise the question of how society will communicate in future.”
DWIH Moments 2021
DWIH Moments 2021
Climate dialogue in São Paulo
Speakers included Thelma Krug, Brazilian vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Professor Marcos Buckeridge, coordinator of the USP Global Cities Program at the University of São Paulo. Among the participants was also Professor Stefan Rahmstorf from the Potsdam Institut for Climate Impact Research, one of Germany’s most renowned climate experts. “Cities and their inhabitants must be involved to a greater extent in the fight against climate change, as climate goals have been based too much on national and international targets to date”, is how Marcio Weichert sums up one message to come out of the dialogue. The event will also have a long-term impact: the DWIH São Paulo has made the recording available not only to its partner organisations, but also to civil service staff.
The bioeconomy and more
The bioeconomy and more
A SUSTAINABLE NETWORK
“GIZ Brazil employs more than 100 people in Brazil, pursues a whole host of projects with universities and Brazilian research institutions and boasts a sizeable network of its own”, says Marcio Weichert. For Weichert, programme manager at the DWIH São Paulo, his centre’s growing network gives rise not only to all kinds of new opportunities; it also boosts the DWIH’s activities in the area of sustainability. “Like Fraunhofer, which has already been supporting us for many years, GIZ is helping us broaden our programme in Brazil by adding key fields such as the bioeconomy and eco-friendly energy sources.”
Within the framework of a Fraunhofer Project Center, for example, the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging (IVV) has already been collaborating for ten years with the Institute of Food Technology of the State of São Paulo (ITAL) in Campinas. The DWIH supported these activities from the outset, allowing 14 bilateral research and development (R&D) projects to be launched. Of the eleven bioeconomy projects initiated, four new German-Brazilian projects were approved under the umbrella of the CORNET transnational collective research network in 2021 alone. Thanks to its success, the Project Center was upgraded by Fraunhofer in November 2021 and became the Fraunhofer Innovation Platform for New Food Systems at ITAL (FIP-NFS@ITAL). “The fact that the DWIH funded centralised discussions, supported workshops and established links to leading actors in science and industry played a key role in the success of the activities”, explains Alexandre Martins Moreira, coordinator of bioeconomy projects at FIP-NFS@ITAL.
NEW SMART MATERIALS
The research topics pursued by the Fraunhofer Innovation Platform reflect recent enquiries received from the food and packaging industry in Brazil and Germany. “These concern for example new plant-based sources of protein for the food industry and animal feed, healthy ingredients derived from by-products of the food industry, novel packaging materials, or active and intelligent packaging systems”, explains Martins. The approval of funding in October 2021 for a 15th R&D project within the framework of the German-Brazilian Bioeconomy Initiative is another success.
“In Brazil, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is regarded as the leading German organisation in the green hydrogen debate”, Marcio Weichert explains. Funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and run by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, “EnergInno Brazil 2022” is a campaign that kick-starts research collaborations. Numerous networking events relating to this topic that are planned at the DWIH São Paulo in 2022 were already set in motion in 2021, the DWIH São Paulo cooperating to this end with Fraunhofer, the German-Brazilian Chamber of Commerce (AHK São Paulo) and other actors.
Now that GIZ Brazil is on board, the DWIH São Paulo also has an actor in its network that is running an important aviation project. Entitled “Climate neutral alternative fuels” (ProQR), it is focusing on decentralised and more eco-friendly methods of producing kerosene – using for example wind power or photovoltaic plants in smaller production units – so that fuel can be produced locally rather than having to be transported long distances by truck. Teaching material relating to the method, which was developed at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), was produced in cooperation with the German Aerospace Center (DLR). With a view to transferring this knowledge to Brazilian universities, the DWIH São Paulo and its newest supporter organised two web seminars at the end of 2021. As Marcio Weichert emphasises: “Thanks to our wide network, work on this innovative topic could be presented to lecturers in Brazil, who in turn will be able to pass it on to others.”
“Systemic approach to fight climate change”
“Systemic approach to fight climate change”
Three questions for Professor Marcos Buckeridge, director of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at the University of São Paulo (USP)
I always emphasise the systemic approach to sustainability actions as the only solution to fighting climate change. Cities are where most people live and will live in the 21st century. Urban areas, which I call “urbsystems”, are not independent of rural and industrial areas. This means that adjusting urbsystems to withstand the effects of climate change is intrinsically related to sustainability within cities and other planetary systems, such as the ocean, forests and agricultural areas.
In your view, has the coronavirus pandemic made the fight against climate change more difficult?
In a sense, yes, because we lost two years while we were occupied with the fight against the pandemic. On the other hand, the battle against coronavirus proved that we could use science and technology much faster than previously thought. At the start of the pandemic we were told that it would be impossible to produce vaccines against Sars-CoV-2 in less than two years. However, the pandemic was brought under control more quickly, and in many places we have vaccination levels of over 90%. The fact that several developed regions of the world are still resistant to the use of vaccines taught us that something is still missing, namely an understanding of the enormous potential and benefits of science for humanity.
In 2021 you were the keynote speaker at the 9th German-Brazilian Dialogue on Science, Research and Innovation. What opportunities do you believe that German-Brazilian cooperation presents in view of the climate crisis?
Besides the exchange of technologies and experiences, which seems obvious, cultural complementation could be one of the most critical strengths of interaction between countries like Germany and Brazil in addressing the effects of climate change. Whereas Germany prizes efficiency and excellence in management, Brazil, because its culture is strongly influenced by tropical diversity, displays high levels of creativity and the potential to adapt technologies to new purposes. A dialogue between the two cultures could produce emergent properties beneficial to both sides.
DWIH TokyoThe German Centre for Research and Innovation Tokyo engages in German-Japanese exchange to address societal changes.
Dorothea Mahnke (DAAD)
Dr Laura Blecken
Advisory Board Chair
German Centre for Research and Innovation Tokyo
OAG Building 4F
7-5-56 Akasaka, Minato-ku,
Tokyo 107-0052, Japan
Supporters of DWIH Tokyo
Focus on the DWIH Tokyo
Focus on the DWIH Tokyo
The coronavirus pandemic shaped not only the content but also the format of DWIH Tokyo’s events in 2021. “It was already clear to us and our supporters when we were planning the year that there would be no major face-to-face events while the pandemic was still ongoing”, reports Dorothea Mahnke, director of the DWIH Tokyo. “We decided instead to offer a number of smaller online events; this also allowed us to reflect the broad thematic diversity of our extensive network of partners.”
One outcome was the new “Coffee Talks” format that was launched in 2021. In chaired online conversations lasting roughly one hour, scientists from Germany and Japan were able to present their work and share their thoughts on research and innovation. “We wanted to move away from established online panel discussions and create an attractive and vibrant new format”, explains Axel Karpenstein, who was responsible for programme management at the DWIH Tokyo until the autumn. “Our goal was to make our events as accessible as possible.” In 2021, the DWIH Tokyo organised a total of six Coffee Talks, with up to 200 listeners each. While five of the Coffee Talks were devoted to specific topics such as the future of work, artificial intelligence or the use of hydrogen as an energy source, the first event on 9 March established the thematic framework for many of the later discussions. Together with Fumikazu Sato, deputy director general for science, technology and innovation at the Japanese Cabinet Office, and Dr Lothar Mennicken, head of the Science and Technology Section at the German Embassy in Tokyo, light was shed on the important new role that innovation plays in the science promotion strategies of the Japanese and German governments.
The date of the event had not been chosen by chance: the same month, the Japanese government had unveiled its 6th Science, Technology and Innovation Basic Plan. “The term innovation had never featured so explicitly in any previous basic plan”, notes Axel Karpenstein. “This was naturally of particular interest to us given the intermediary role we play between German and Japanese research activities. After all, efforts are also being made in Germany to promote innovation to an even greater extent.” According to Fumikazu Sato, Japan’s new Basic Plan is intended to pave the way for society’s transition to a data-based “Society 5.0” in which technological innovations are used to tackle complex future challenges. “We urgently need to ensure that technological developments are implemented more quickly”, asserted Lothar Mennicken, also looking at the German research landscape.
How can innovations help us address complex problems? This question plays a central role in the work done at the DWIH Tokyo. As Dorothea Mahnke emphasises: “Our strength is our ability to establish a dialogue between Germany and Japan. Though in many ways quite similar, these two societies follow different approaches when it comes to tackling crises – and can learn a lot from one another.” She believes this has been highlighted in particular by the debate about resilience that was triggered mainly by the Covid pandemic: one reason why Japan survived the crisis relatively well in her opinion is that its society has a deeply rooted sense of responsibility for the community and great experience in handling major disasters. This is a topic that was raised by the DWIH Tokyo at its symposium “Coping with the crisis – The psychosocial impact of the pandemic” that was held on 10 June 2021 and was one of the year’s outstanding events. The subject of artificial intelligence, which has been one of the focal topics for the DWIH Tokyo ever since the Japanese-German-French AI symposia were launched in 2018, also featured in some of the events in 2021. During a Coffee Talk entitled “AI and its Role in Learning, Memory and Decision-Making” (6 July), Dr Nicolas Schuck (Max Planck Institute for Human Development) and Dr Mingbo Cai (International Research Center for Neurointelligence at the University of Tokyo) investigated the interrelationship between the neurosciences and AI. In “The Ethics of AI” (6 December), Professor Shoko Suzuki (Kyoto University) and Professor Ute Schmid (University of Bamberg) explored how research can help identify the social, economic and ecological effects of AI.
Just how many innovative ideas and approaches there are in Germany and Japan became clear during the fifth edition of the TechBIZKON start-up pitch contest on 7 December, which was jointly organised by the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan (AHK Japan) and the DWIH Tokyo. Young entrepreneurs from Belgium, Germany, Italy, Japan and Austria pitched their ideas for combating the climate crisis. First place in the competition was won by a start-up from Germany that presented a method of precisely measuring air quality. “As the threat posed by the climate crisis worsens, it was very encouraging to see how many possibilities to tackle it actually exist”, says DWIH Programme Manager Dr Laura Blecken. “We will certainly be continuing these discussions.”
DWIH Moments 2021
DWIH Moments 2021
NEW: “COFFEE TALKS” IN TOKYO
Can Germany perhaps learn something from this? Absolutely, believes Karpenstein, who joined Fumikazu Sato, deputy director general for science, technology and innovation at the Japanese Cabinet Office, and Dr Lothar Mennicken, head of the Science and Technology Section at the German Embassy in Tokyo, in a discussion of the topic during one of the “DWIH Coffee Talks” – an online format that was launched in 2021. Dr Laura Blecken, who took over programme management at the DWIH Tokyo again after returning from maternity leave in the autumn, experienced something similar at the start-up pitch event “TechBIZKON – Greentech”, which was supported by the DWIH Tokyo as co-organiser. She was impressed by the variety of innovative approaches the founders presented to combat climate change. “The challenges of our time are immense – but we have a huge spectrum of innovations to tackle them.”
RESILIENT IN TIMES OF CRISIS
“At first we were handling 120 consultations per week, a number that had risen to 600 per day by the height of the fourth wave in August 2021”, reports Ozora. To meet the sharp rise in demand at all times of day and night, Ozora works with a team of people spread all over the world, thereby taking advantage of the different time zones.
“For us, ‘ibashochat’ exemplified how Japanese society deals with the complex challenges posed by the pandemic”, explains Axel Karpenstein, who together with Dr Laura Blecken was responsible for programme management at the DWIH Tokyo in 2021. Ozora presented his online platform to a German-Japanese audience at the symposium “Coping with the crisis – The psychosocial impact of the pandemic” (10 June 2021). Organised by the DWIH in collaboration with the Japanese-German Center Berlin (JDZB), the event aimed to combine academic perspectives with those from the field to provide a holistic view of the social and psychological impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Germany and Japan. It became clear among other things that stress, depression, anxiety and suicide were more prevalent among young people under 30, women, single parents and lower income households, while the older generation and people with high incomes or education levels were hardly affected. The pandemic thus exposed pre-existing disadvantages in the societies of both countries.
“We were interested in the key question of resilience: Which coping strategies are actively employed here in Japan and how might they differ from a German or European approach?”, explains Dorothea Mahnke, director of the DWIH Tokyo. With over 300 registered participants from universities, research institutes, public administration and the interested public, the symposium met with broad interest.
GLOBALISATION AND VARIATIONS
Another aspect was addressed in a lecture given by the psychologist Yukiko Uchida, a professor at Kyoto University’s Kokoro Research Center. In her research, Uchida studies cultural variations in the way emotions are perceived and social contacts are cultivated. “How we as humans define our own wellbeing depends on local cultural contexts”, she says. “Yet these are changing due to the effects of globalisation.”
Uchida explained that this also has direct implications for Japanese society and its strategy for coping with the Covid-19 crisis. On the one hand, an individual’s wellbeing in Japan is based on identifying and sharing with others, which she believes makes it particularly difficult to do without interpersonal contact. On the other hand, she says that this attitude leads to a much greater acceptance of the Covid-19 protective measures than can be observed in German and European culture, which is founded more on individuality.
However, the key objective of Yukiko Uchida’s lecture was to put this distinction between an interdependently oriented Japanese society and an individualistic German society into perspective and stress that Japanese people are beginning to desire personal freedoms. “Many people in Japan also find social conventions such as the typical thoughtfulness and considerateness tiring. And many found it a relief not have to maintain this the whole time thanks to the containment measures”, comments Uchida.
Ultimately, she believes Japanese society is characterised by a combination of mutual consideration and a striving for openness, just as German society is – what is not the same is that the two parameters are weighted differently in the two countries. In Dorothea Mahnke’s opinion, the symposium thus highlighted new opportunities for intercultural dialogue. “It is fascinating to see how similar Germany and Japan are in many respects, and how Japan actually showed itself to be more resilient during the pandemic. Exploring the reasons for this will certainly be an important issue for some time to come.”
“Interaction between tradition and ultra-modern technology”
“Interaction between tradition and ultra-modern technology”
Three questions for Professor Shoko Suzuki, Leader of the Artificial Intelligence Ethics and Society Team at the RIKEN Center for Advanced Intelligence Project (AIP)
My first contact with the DWIH Tokyo came about as a result of the 2nd French-German-Japanese Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, at which I ran the session on AI and education. In addition, I had the opportunity in December 2021 to speak about ethics in artificial intelligence during a Coffee Talk hosted by the DWIH Tokyo. It is important, not least when it comes to promoting young scientists, for us to explore the ethical issues of artificial intelligence.
What can Germany and Japan learn from one another in this field?
One shared treasure trove of experience that both countries can draw on in this context is the European Enlightenment that also influenced Japan, especially through philosophical exchange with Germany. This forms the basis for a self-confident image of what it means to be human – something that is very valuable when dealing with artificial intelligence. At the same time, the Japanese traditions of thought, influenced by Buddhism, Shintoism and Confucianism, are also important. Japan is familiar with a whole range of philosophical perspectives, which for example also explains the country’s great openness to robots. Japan is a place where the interaction between tradition and ultra-modern technology can be experienced.”
The DWIH focus topic in 2021 was “Society in transition: impacts of the pandemic”. How in your view will the experiences gained during the coronavirus pandemic change our societies in the long term?
All over the world, the pandemic made it quite clear how crucial it is for there to be successful interaction between politics, science and technology. It is important that we abandon any notions we may have about simply tackling and eliminating coronavirus. The Buddhist idea of peaceful coexistence between all living beings can even be applied to a virus, though we need to combat it with our human wisdom. The lamentable international spread of the virus is partly the result of our globalised world, despite its high degree of interconnectedness benefiting us in all kinds of ways. In the future, we will need a code of ethics, with regard both to pandemics and artificial intelligence, that looks ahead to a greater extent and takes conflicting decisions into account.