Göttingen, the city of science, is not called so for nothing at all. In nineteenth century, seven professors from Göttingen university, now popularly called Göttinger Sieben, dared standing up against the Kingdom of Hanover, protesting against the alteration of the constitution. Inspired by them the Göttinger Achtzehn, a group of 18 nuclear scientists from the city stood against the Adaneuer government to stop propagation of nuclear weapons in 1957. Clearly the university here has always kept itself connected with politics, contributing in shaping the policies and creating Germany as a liberal country.
Today, on 22nd April, 2017 it stood by its tradition where the Göttingers took to a peaceful demonstration to March for Science. Starting at around 10 am, the march gathered around 2000 Göttingers – a huge, diverse, international crowd ranging from university students, researchers, politicians, media personnel and science supporters outside academia. The reasons for their participation varied widely – for funding, evidence-based policy making to creating a collaborative space between researchers, advocating for open science and to create access to scientific research for public.
Yuko Maeda, one of the organizers of the event said, “Science is a core democratic value. I stand up for communication of science. The discussion should not around the facts (that we get from science), but rather what do we do with those facts.” The President of the university, Prof. Ulrike Beisiegel emphasized on the importance of people understanding the philosophy and process of science, dealing with hypothesizing, experimentation, analysis and validation. On similar lines, Prof. Quadt, a particle physics researcher himself, reminded the audience of the famous quote by Richard Feynman – “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.” He aptly reminded the audience the importance of pursuing global science, relating with the advances in particle physics, a field that has largely benefited from international collaborations. A Turkish academician, who lost her research position for being a part of Academics for Peace petition in Turkey, and now staying in exile in Germany, emphasized on the needs of ensuring a world that embraces diversity. And the Minister for Science and Culture in the state of Niedersachsen, Ms. Gabriele Heinen-Kljajić, who was present for the event, expressed solidarity for the threatened researchers and journalists worldwide.
And if you are still apprehensive of what an amalgamation of science and politics should look like, take a look at the pictures from the event. Remember that this is a March for Science, not for scientists. It is a global march that can affect all of us, as mankind. And science cannot keep itself away from politics, for then you risk not being a part of the policy making.
Illustration: By Ipsa Jain
About the author:
Somdatta Karak works with Club SciWri as a project co ordinator and Corporate Liaison. She is a doctorate in neuroscience from Georg August University, Göttingen, Germany and has been a Teach for India fellow (2014-16). She loves putting her analytical skills to build newer and more sustainable solutions, enjoys traveling and communicating and takes every opportunity to expand her horizon.
You can reach her here.