The future of planet Earth is shaped by its citizens. How can we stand together and do what is best for our future and that of our home planet? As individual and as part of the organization Astronomers for Planet Earth, I see profound opportunities in our scientific background and our astronomical perspective to facilitate a change - a change towards a fruitful, responsible, and sustainable future. I see it as my obligation and intrinsic motivation to contribute to such a future and to an inevitable transformation that has already been pushed forward significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic - a global challenge just like climate change but on different time scales.
I am convinced that the present and future global challenges demand scientists to engage in the public debate. It is our responsibility to do so. As scientists, we have the privilege to understand and evaluate associated risks. And we are a fundamental part of society. Our job is not only to expand horizons but also to make the achievements of humankind accessible to the community. It is a natural desire of humans to ask questions, but also to understand the answers and be part of the process. Engaging with the public is imperative when aiming for an increased trust in science and an appreciation of science. I believe that public engagement should become a key part of the education and future careers of scientists.
A vivid, critical, and lucid exchange between fellow scientists is absolutely necessary to maintain and continuously improve on the quality of research, to tackle the complex and interconnected problems of the globalized world, and to help research results being trusted. In that context, I believe that interdisciplinary research needs to be supported and facilitated even more in the future.
As the COVID-19 pandemic hauntingly demonstrates, it is not always very easy to make the right decisions. What is the right decision anyway? It is getting more and more difficult for society to form an opinion given the overflow of information. It is not only the responsibility of us researchers to produce knowledge, but to take on a guiding role in the complex web of the "infodemic" (a term initiated by the WHO). We have the potential to assist society to make decisions in every-day life that are based on science. This also requires us scientists to speak up and intervene whenever needed. Keeping a healthy balance between information and understandability is certainly a challenge. I am keen to meet this challenge together with my colleagues.