Science and Society program
As a Leibniz institute, Senckenberg is obligated to pursue the Leibniz mission Theoria cum praxi and “examines the role of biodiversity in the Earth system dynamics – in the service of science and society.”
In the “Science & Society” program, Senckenberg provides knowledge, services, and products based on research and the collections that are relevant for society. Senckenberg meets societal actors from outside the sciences on an equal footing, takes up society’s need for knowledge and questions and integrates these in the research program to the extent that this is sensible and practical. The “Science & Society” program is divided into five sectors: Public Relations, Museums, Citizen Involvement, Consultation, and Application.
The overarching goals of the “Science & Society” program include to further develop and expand the mediation between science and society. On the one hand, this enables us to improve the transfer of knowledge to society and to provide society with relevant services and products; on the other hand, Senckenberg can take up society’s need for knowledge and reflect it in its research program, if this is sensible and practical.
With the establishment of the “Science & Society” program, Senckenberg’s communications experts are in permanent exchange with the scientists. The overarching goal of the Public Relations sector is to establish Senckenberg as the most important contact for media and society regarding all issues related to geobiodiversity research. In this regard, social media offer an enormous potential to inform the public about Senckenberg’s research as well as its museums, citizen science activities, and the collections. Interactive formats generate interest in Senckenberg’s work, personalize the research, and also reach younger target groups.
The three Senckenberg museums in Frankfurt, Görlitz, and Dresden make research results and knowledge about natural history available to all sectors of the population by means of permanent, special, and traveling exhibitions, lectures, and public events, while at the same time furthering the public’s understanding of science and natural history research as well as the conservation and sustainable use of nature. Increasingly, museums have become places for dialog between science and society; they are perceived as competent, independent public spaces where a critical discourse can take place between scientists and societal actors.
The overarching goal of the Museums sector is for Senckenberg to reach the people’s minds and hearts and impart scientific findings, current research results, and an understanding how science and research “function.”
Citizen involvement describes the cooperation of scientists and citizens in order to achieve common goals. At Senckenberg, this includes volunteer activities, citizen science, and the membership section of the SGN. On the one hand, volunteer workers include acknowledged experts suggested by the Scientific Committee and appointed as volunteers by the Administrative Board; on the other hand, there are honorary, voluntary helpers. All volunteers work without pay, either by conducting their own research projects or by supporting Senckenberg researchers, e.g., in maintaining the collections. In addition, the citizen involvement at Senckenberg comprises a large number of citizen scientists who conduct coordinated research projects, and the members of the SGN, who support Senckenberg financially, through their personal involvement, and through their networks. Traditionally, Senckenberg has seen a wide-ranging involvement by citizens recruited from all levels of society, whose cooperation extends to all of Senckenberg programs, e.g., the study of nature, maintenance and expansion of the collections, dissemination of the research results to the public, or the maintenance and care of the exhibitions. Our knowledge about nature is significantly expanded through our cooperation with Senckenberg members, volunteers, and citizen scientists, while at the same time being communicated to society.
An essential target group of Senckenberg’s “Science & Society” program are decision-makers in politics, public offices and administrations, in NGOs, and in the economy. Senckenberg aims to contribute to the exchange of knowledge between these decision-makers and the scientists and ensure that scientific evidence will play an increasing role in societal and political actions. This type of consultation is intended to lead to a better understanding and perception of the impact of changes in the Earth system on the wellbeing of human society. In addition, Senckenberg offers options for action and management recommendations intended to lead to a better protection and sustainable use of nature as the basis of our lives.
The overarching goal of the Consultation sector is for Senckenberg scientists to act as honest brokers who provide knowledge and options for action regarding societal and political decisions; in cases where this can be backed up by scientific evidence, Senckenberg can also make recommendations for action.
As part of the knowledge and technology transfer, Senckenberg holds a large potential for applications that will be systematically developed and increased. More than before, fact-based knowledge will be made available to societal actors and users and will be reflected in products, services, methods, patents, spin-offs, or partnerships with the economy. Moreover, new research projects relevant to society will be increasingly adapted to society’s need for knowledge in a joint co-design process between Senckenberg and the societal actors, leading to innovative, evidence-based approaches. In the medium term, Senckenberg also strives for a targeted development of services and products in areas where this is sensible and feasible due to Senckenberg’s scientific basis and the concrete interests and demands of certain groups within society.
The intended target groups are the economy, NGOs, public offices, cities and municipalities, as well as other societal decision-makers and actors from the fields of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. The application-relevant transfer is currently experiencing strong structural support, professionalization, and strategic expansion at Senckenberg. A transfer office created in the context of the LOEWE-TBG initiative, an active screening of the research content’s inherent transfer potential by the BMBF (Federal Ministry for Education and Research)-funded SMART project, and an additional fulltime position in the transfer field within the same project ensure that researchers will receive significantly higher support in the future when working toward the application or use of potentially suitable content.