The effects of scientific findings on society, the ethical dimensions of research, and the prospect of future scientific developments changing the way we live all have an immediate influence on the function and status of science in society. One of the main aims of the German National Academy of Sciences is to support the development of both science and society by offering scientific counsel in the form of statements and recommendations.
Events like the reactor core meltdown at Fukushima power plant and developments like those in modern medicine can often lead to a public debate about the advantages and risks of science and technology. On the one hand, we are dependent on their progress to secure our high standard of living. On the other, many fear that scientific and technological developments are endangering the natural world, which we depend on for our survival. An important task for the Leopoldina in this climate of uncertainty is addressing the complex consequences of new discoveries early on.
When mediating between science and society, the Leopoldina must rapidly respond to new social debate while also providing a well-informed scientific point of view. With regard to the energy debate, the Leopoldina fulfilled this responsibility by updating its statement on energy research in Germany. For new topics, research groups can quickly and proactively contribute to public debates, as was the case with the statement on pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, for example. And last but not least, the Leopoldina endeavours to be as transparent as possible on its own role in mediating between science and politics.
The German National Academy of Sciences strives to reach the widest possible audience when providing information about its findings on science and society. It writes in national newspapers to contribute to current debates on energy supply for the future, it publishes statements for the general public about ethically controversial topics like animal testing, and it organises events where the public can join in the debate.