High Award from China for Katharina Kohse-Höinghaus

High Award from China for Katharina Kohse-Höinghaus

Chinese Academy of Sciences admits chemist and GDNÄ board member as foreign member 

Katharina Kohse-Höinghaus is Senior Professor of Physical Chemistry at Bielefeld University and former President of the Combustion Institute. She represents the field of engineering sciences on the Board of Directors of the GDNÄ. On 18 November 2021, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced that Katharina Kohse-Höinghaus had been elected as a new foreign member. The long-standing list of foreign members comprises only about 100 people in total. These include the physicist Klaus von Klitzing, the biochemist Hartmut Michel and the mathematician Martin Grötschel. The biologist Herbert Jäckle was elected at the same time as Kohse-Höinghaus.

Prof. Dr. Katharina Kohse-Höinghaus. © Foto Norma Langohr, Universität Bielefeld

Wolfgang Wahlster is a new foreign member of the Czech Academy of Engineering Sciences

Wolfgang Wahlster is a new foreign member of the Czech Academy of Engineering Sciences

On 23 November 2021, the former president of the GDNÄ, Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Wolfgang Wahlster was accepted as a foreign member of the Czech Academy of Engineering Sciences (Cena Inženýrské akademie České republiky, EACR) in Prague.  

Professor Wolfgang Wahlster from the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) is known in the Czech Republic as a scientific pioneer in the field of Industry 4.0 and artificial intelligence. Industrial production is of great economic importance for both the Czech Republic and Germany. In both countries, industrial artificial intelligence is perceived as an innovation driver. 

For many years, Wahlster has been cooperating with Professor Vladimír Mařík in Prague, the founder of the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics and Cybernetics (CIIRC) at the Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU). Together, the two scientists have launched the Research and Innovation Centre on Advanced Industrial Production (RICAIP), which is funded with 50 million euros. 

The Czech Academy of Science and Engineering EACR is a partner organisation of the German Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech) and represents the Czech Republic in Euro-CASE, the European association of all academies of science and engineering.

Wahlster © GDNÄE

Former president of the GDNÄ, Professor Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Wolfgang Wahlster. © DFKI

High credibility confirmed again

High credibility confirmed again

Trust in science and research remains strong, especially in the Corona pandemic. But there are also sceptical voices. This was the result of a representative survey by Wissenschaft im Dialog (WiD), a non-profit organisation in which the GDNÄ is a co-partner.

The majority of people in Germany rely on science and research. In the current opinion poll “Wissenschaftsbarometer 2021”, 61 percent of respondents said they trust science rather or completely. This is similar to the previous survey in November 2020 (60%) and more than before the Corona pandemic began (2019: 46%, 2018: 54%, 2017: 50%).

Only in the Corona Special Surveys in April and May 2020 was the level of agreement higher, at 73 and 66 per cent respectively. 32 percent of respondents are currently undecided. This is the result of population-representative data from the Science Barometer, with which the non-profit organisation Wissenschaft im Dialog (WiD) has been surveying public opinion on science and research in Germany since 2014. Sponsors and supporters of the project are the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. The GDNÄ has supported the goals and diverse activities of WID for many years as a co-partner.


Germans’ trust in science and research has increased sharply with the Corona pandemic. © WiD

The high level of trust in science and research is also reflected in the desire for scientific policy advice. Thus, more than two thirds of the respondents (69 %) are of the opinion that political decisions should be based on scientific findings. 75 % think that scientists should speak out publicly when political decisions do not take scientific findings into account. An active interference of scientists in politics is desired by 32 percent of the respondents. Half of the respondents think that scientists should recommend certain decisions to politicians in the specific context of the Corona pandemic. 

However, it is unclear to many respondents (53 %) how policy advice on Corona works in Germany.  “People would like even more information about when and how scientific findings influence policy,” says Markus Weißkopf, Executive Director of Wissenschaft im Dialog.


What doctors and scientists say about Corona is most likely to be believed. © WiD

In the context of the Corona pandemic, trust in the statements of scientists is particularly high: 2021: 73 %, November 2020: 73 %, April 2020: 71 %. Only the trust in statements by doctors and medical staff on Corona is even higher (2021: 79 %, November 2020: 80 %, April 2020: 78 %). The statements made by representatives of authorities and agencies, journalists and politicians are trusted much less in comparison (2021: 34%, 21% and 18%). 

Despite the high level of trust in medicine and science, sceptical positions on the Corona pandemic also meet with approval. For example, 39 percent agreed somewhat or strongly with the following statement: “Scientists are not telling us everything they know about the corona virus” (19 % undecided, 40 % somewhat disagree or strongly disagree). Twenty-six percent agree with the statement that the pandemic is being made into a bigger deal than it actually is (12% undecided, 61% disagree or tend to disagree). 

“The results show that a minority doubts science – but a minority that has become louder during the pandemic,” says Prof. Dr. Mike S. Schäfer, Professor of Science Communication at the Institute of Communication Science and Media Research at the University of Zurich and member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Science Barometer.

Saarbrücken 2018 © Robertus Koppies

New survey by „Wissenschaft im Dialog“. © WiD

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Stuart Parkin – Encouraging young people to follow seemingly crazy ideas

“Let us encourage young people to follow seemingly crazy ideas”

Why Stuart Parkin, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Microstructure Physics, gave up his top job in California, how he is giving data processing a leg up and what future he sees for Germany.  

Professor Parkin, a few years ago you were still at IBM in Silicon Valley, now you work in Halle an der Saale. Was that a good swap?
I think so, even though the two stations are very different. However, they are similar in one respect, which is very important to me, and that is scientific freedom. I had that as research director at IBM and here at the Max Planck Institute for Microstructure Physics in Halle I can also determine my own course.

And yet it’s a big leap you’ve made: from industrial research to a publicly funded institute, from California to Saxony-Anhalt. What made you do it?
My love for my wife Claudia Felser. We met at Stanford and decided to move to Germany together a few years ago. She is a chemistry professor and director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden. We are not far from our home to our institutes. Not only do we share a fascination for new materials, we also work together on projects.


© Max Planck Institut fuer Mikrostrukturphysik

The Max Planck Institute for Microstructure Physics was founded in 1992 as the first institute of the Max Planck Society in East Germany. The research focus is on novel materials with useful functionalities. Today, the institute offers space for around 150 employees.

What exactly is your research about?
To put it in a nutshell: I create completely new materials for information processing. They are needed because we are at the end of the silicon age and urgently need basic materials for a faster, more efficient data world. Our materials consist of wafer-thin magnetic layers.  They make it possible to use the magnetic moment of the electron to store and process digital data, and not just its electrical charge, as used to be the case in semiconductor electronics. Spintronics is the corresponding technical term. I have dedicated most of my professional life to it and during this time I was able to make a significant contribution to the fact that magnetic drives are standard today. But that is only part of the story.

How does it continue?
One important spintronics application is the spin valves I invented. These are thin-film read heads that can detect very small magnetic domains on hard drives and significantly increase their storage capacity. More than ten years ago, the so-called Racetrack memory was developed under my leadership. This technology, based on magnetoelectronics, processes digital information a million times faster than conventional hard disks. Currently, together with my wife, I am researching skyrmions and antiskyrmions, i.e. nanometre-sized magnetic objects that could pave the way for ultra-fast and at the same time power-saving data processing in the future. Our results have been published in high-ranking journals, most recently in Nature.

When it comes to efficient information processing, the human brain is unrivalled. Do you draw inspiration from it?
Of course I do. I already started my first studies at IBM and we are also working in this extremely exciting field in Halle. We want to understand how the brain manages to trigger material reactions by means of tiny ionic currents. That is electrochemistry at its finest. Our goal is to mimic the incredibly economical and precise way the brain works. This cannot be achieved in the short term, you need staying power. 

What can be achieved in the next few years?
For me, it’s about accelerating the invention of new materials. That’s why I completely rebuilt the institute in Halle and received excellent support from the state of Saxony-Anhalt, the Max Planck Society and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. Today we work here in a large team of physicists, chemists and biologists – to name just a few disciplines. We have state-of-the-art imaging technology at our disposal and a new clean room in which we can produce the finest nanostructures.  Most of it we built ourselves, you can’t buy something like that on the market.


© burckhardt+partner

New research building for the chip technology of tomorrow (virtual view): With an investment of 50 million euros, the Max Planck Institute for Microstructure Physics in Halle is being expanded with modern laboratories and offices. The new building with a floor space of 5,500 square metres is scheduled for completion by the end of 2024. The institute will then be able to accommodate up to 300 employees.

Your research should be of great interest to industry?
That’s right. There are collaborations with the Korean IT company Samsung, for example. Other companies are also keeping a close eye on what we are doing. Among them is the American chip manufacturer Intel, which recently announced billions in investments in Europe. 

How do you rate the general conditions for your research in Germany?
We have really good conditions. A big plus is that Germany invests a lot in basic research, much more than other countries in Europe. There are excellent specialists in the country and ambitious young people with good ideas.

Where do you see Germany in international comparison?
There is still some catching up to do. Let’s take the example of the USA: there, digitalisation has really arrived in the middle of society, but I don’t see it that way in Germany yet. The powerful and rich companies in Silicon Valley can pay professionals high salaries, and we often can’t keep up. Moreover, many patent rights are in the USA – that also makes competition more difficult. The pandemic has shown how big the differences are between countries. All of a sudden, video conferencing was en vogue and US providers like Zoom or MS Teams were at the forefront. Why, I ask myself, is a German company like SAP not playing along? The prerequisites are certainly there.

How can Germany make up ground?
The best way is to invest in young people. We should encourage them to follow even seemingly crazy ideas and take risks. At universities, people should be able to learn how innovation works and how to compete successfully. Some Asian countries designate certain zones where company founders do not have to pay taxes for ten years. This could also be a model for us, especially in eastern Germany, where there are still many vacant areas.

The federal elections are just behind us, the coalition negotiations are underway. What do you expect from the next federal government in your field?
A strong push for digitalisation. As the leading economy, Germany should lead the way in this area and help Europe speak with one voice. That would be important in order to survive in international competition and to enforce important values such as data security.

You are involved in numerous professional societies. How important is your work in the GDNÄ for you?
I am a European and would like to contribute to making our continent more competitive. The GDNÄ can play an important role in this, for example by supporting young people. But also by inviting controversial, cultivated discussions about current scientific topics. I know this from Great Britain and would like to see more public debate of this kind in this country as well. It could be a good remedy for the increasing scepticism about science in society.

Saarbrücken 2018 © Robertus Koppies

© Sven Doering

© Sven Doering

Stuart S. P. Parkin

About the person
Stuart S. P. Parkin was born in Watford, England, in 1955. After completing his doctorate in solid-state physics at the University of Cambridge, he joined IBM as a postdoctoral researcher, where he was made a Fellow in 1999, the company’s highest technical award. Between 2004 and 2006, he conducted research at the Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) Aachen University with a Humboldt Research Award. Professor Parkin headed the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, and was director of the Spintronic Science and Applications Center (SpinAps), founded in 2004. He was also a professor at Stanford University. He is a member of numerous international academies such as the Royal Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has received numerous awards, most recently the King Faisal Prize 2021 worth 200,000 dollars. The physicist with three citizenships in the UK, USA and Germany has published around 400 scientific papers and holds more than 90 patents. Since 2014, he has been director at the MPI for Microstructure Physics Halle and Alexander von Humboldt Professor at the Institute of Physics at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. Shortly afterwards, Stuart Parkin joined the GDNÄ and was elected subject representative for engineering sciences.

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Wolfgang T. Donner: The GDNÄ bids farewell to its former Secretary General.

Wolfgang T. Donner

The GDNÄ bids farewell to its former Secretary General.

From 1999 to 2004, Dr. Wolfgang Donner was Secretary General of the Society of German Natural Scientists and Physicians (GDNÄ). In this function, the former member of the Executive Board of Bayer AG was responsible for the organisational preparation and implementation of important GDNÄ meetings. On 5 May 2021, Wolfgang Donner died in the circle of his immediate family in Cologne at the age of 86.  

The President of the GDNÄ, Professor Martin Lohse, says: “Wolfgang Donner led the GDNÄ with great commitment and reliability as Secretary General. The successful meetings of our society in Berlin, Bonn, Halle/Saale and Passau bore his signature. Later, he assisted our Board as  adviser and put his experience and networks at the service of the GDNÄ. We remain bound to him and his family in gratitude and sympathy.” 

Born in Breslau, Wolfgang Donner came to Hamburg after the war to study physics, where he passed his diploma examination in 1962. He then moved to the University of Frankfurt. There he earned his doctorate and did research for several years as an assistant at the Institute for Theoretical Physics. In 1967, together with his wife, he left for Australia by cargo ship. As a visiting scientist at the University of Perth, Donner began work on the two-volume textbook “Theory of Nuclear Spectra” and expanded his computer science know-how. He was to find his professional home at Bayer AG in Leverkusen, where he joined in 1968 and remained until his retirement in 1997. His field of work shifted more and more towards chemistry during this time, and he was very committed to the digitisation of research. In 1987, he was honoured for this with the Otto Bayer Medal; this was followed in 1990 by his admission to the Bayer Board of Directors. 

The GDNÄ will honour Wolfgang T. Donner’s memory.

Nobelpreisträger Paul J. Crutzen

Wolfgang T. Donner

Global success with “Industry 4.0”

Global success with “Industry 4.0”

Former president Wahlster on the fourth industrial revolution.

Ten years ago they summarised their ideas on the industry of the future for the first time under the term “Industry 4.0”, now professors Wolfgang Wahlster and Henning are celebrating the global success of their concept. The word mark “Industrie 4.0” went viral and with their vision of the digital factory of the future, the two pioneers inspired innovative projects worldwide. In a full-page article in the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung, former GDNÄ president and computer scientist Wahlster and former SAP board spokesman Kagermann trace the career of their concept and outline a new vision for its second half. The potential of Industry 4.0 is far from exhausted, the two experts write. They advocate the increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the industrial sector to meet the challenges of an economy that is both sustainable and competitive. At the Hanover Fair from 12 to 16 April, the success of this innovative concept from Germany will be celebrated, says Wolfgang Wahlster. In May, he will present the plans for the industrial AI phase at government level and discuss them with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Economics Minister Peter Altmeier.

Saarbrücken 2018 © Robertus Koppies
In conversation at the Hannover Fair: Henning Kagermann and Wolfgang Wahlster (right).

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