Why Communicating Science and to whom?

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.

Credit: Nils Pickert

Public Talks and Lectures

Public talks are one way to bridge the gaps between science and society. As a scientist, I want to take on a guiding role and allow insights into cutting-edge research, and to make understand also the complexities of science that play important roles in everyone's daily lives. With my work, I also hope to increase trust in sciences in general.

  • 04/2021 — Virtual Talk via the "Haus der Astronomie" on "Vergänglichkeit im Universum - Nachhaltigkeit auf der Erde"
  • 01/2021 — Virtual Colloquium Talk at the Chalmers University of Technology, representing the organization Astronomers for Planet Earth
  • Since 09/2020 — Numerous Planetarium Shows and Public Talks at the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Center
  • 02/2019 — Lecture on the evolution of stars and their remnants as part of the "Big History" lecture series, Univ. of Amsterdam
  • 11/2018 — Space-Talk event "Space Sarau – Encounter between Art, Music and Astrophysics", Amsterdam: "An illustrated history of the Universe"
  • 10/2018 — Talk at the public "Astroseminar", University of Münster, Germany: "Vom (un/be) greifbaren Universum und unserer (un?)fassbaren Zukunft"
  • 07/2012 — Talk at "Wissenschaft macht Schule", Marie-Therese Gymnasium Erlangen, Germany: "Radiointerferometrie - der Zugang zu den Tiefen des Universums"
  • 07/2010 — Talk at "Wissenschaft macht Schule", Marie-Therese Gymnasium Erlangen, Germany: "Aktive Galaxienkerne"

Media

Credit: Nils Pickert

Science Slams

Accelerated developments in fundamental research require elaborate science-communication techniques. “Science-Slams” are highly effective. The basic aim is to make research approachable and relatable. This approach should remove barriers between science and society, facilitate trust in science, and foster interdisciplinary research. Science-Slams also help us scientists to improve our skills to pitch our work.

Outreach Projects

My intrinsic motivation behind dedicated outreach projects is participation. Science needs to be relatable and experienceable in order to build sustainable bridges between science and society and in order to foster trust in science.

  • 04/2020 — Support of the final assignment of Pierre Rottmair, student of communication design, with an interview. What is the future of humankind when facing the long-term effects of climate change? Can space exploration provide a plan B? After consulting with colleagues from the space exploration department at ESA, I provided answers to these and many more (scientific) questions, also providing my personal take as astronomer. His final work, the illustrated information magazine titled "Millionen Lichtjahre von Wiesbaden entfernt", contains an exciting balance between hard facts and science fiction, as well as our interview.
  • 2014-2017 — Master Classes in Astroparticle Physics: Fundamentals of Astroparticle Physics, live experiment with a nebular chamber, extraction of real data taken with the Pierre-Auger Observatory
  • 10/2017 — Feeding the Instagram Channel of the Univ. of Erlangen-Nürnberg (#FAUtakeover) with impressions from our daily work at the astronomical institute (Dr. Remeis Observatory)
  • 06/2017 — Project with the faculty for design (Univ. of Würzburg): design of astrophysical outreach material
  • 02/2016 — Project interfacing sciences and arts with the school of design (Munich, Germany): design of outreach material on orders of magnitudes in the Universe and on Earth; free art- and photographic works on the basis of scientific information provided in an informal Q/A session.
“Science is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding.” (Brian Greene)
Image credit: DESY, Science Communication Lab