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 the unique astronomical perspective to facilitate and support the ongoing transformation towards a fruitful, responsible, and sustainable future.
I am convinced that the present and future global challenges demand scientists to engage in the public debate and to build bridges to society. As scientists, we have the privilege to understand the complexity of global challenges and to evaluate associated risks. We are also a fundamental part of society. Our job is not only to expand the horizons of knowledge 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. This can only work, if scientists are trusted. I believe that open communication and in particular 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 allow research results being trusted. In that context, I am a strong believer of interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research.
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 as 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.