Five years ago, on 14 July 2008, the Joint Science Conference of the German Federal and State Governments established the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina as the German National Academy of Sciences. In doing so, it created a legitimized institution that could deal with important future social concerns from a perspective completely independent of economic or political considerations, communicate its conclusions to policy makers and the public and be the voice for these concerns both nationally and internationally.
Since that time, Leopoldina members and other experts from different scientific disciplines have formed working groups to formulate position statements on pivotal social questions like, for example, antibiotic resistances, bioenergy or preimplantation genetic diagnosis. These statements are the basis for eventual policy recommendations directed to the members of parliament and the ministries on both the federal and state level as well as to the Federal Chancellery. At the same time the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina also provides information to the media and the public, thereby initiating debates within the society.
Since its appointment in 2008, 15 papers providing science-based policy advice have been generated. Many topics like, for example, “Energy Systems of the Future” or “Predictive Genetic Diagnosis” are examined by the Leopoldina in conjunction with the National Academy of Science and Engineering acatech and the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities. These three institutions form the Standing Committee of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. At present there are working groups drafting papers on such topics as palliative medicine, vaccination and personalized medicine.
Upon being appointed the German National Academy, the Leopoldina became the designated voice of German science for these and other topics in international academy associations and other forms of academy interrelations. It also serves to enhance international working relationships with regard to scientific issues that go beyond national borders by entering into cooperation agreements with national academies from other countries including, among others, the Indian Academy (INSA), the Korean Academy (KAST) and the French Académie des sciences.
In the run-up to the annual G8 summits, the Leopolina, in conjunction with the academies from the other countries, provides recommendations on subjects like climate change, education or health. In addition, it represents the German scientific community in international academy associations in which national academies group their activities according to distinct topics, as in the InterAcademy Panel (IAP) or InterAcademy Medical Panel. The offices of the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC), which incorporates all the expertise of the EU academies, has been located at the Leopoldina in Halle since 2010.
Since being named the National Academy, the Leopoldina has undergone a restructuring. The Leopoldina now has over 70 staff members working at its newly occupied (2012) headquarters on the Jägerberg in Halle and in its Berlin Office which opened in 2009. Since 2008, 301 new members have been admitted into the Leopoldina; the total number of members is currently around 1,500. These outstanding scientists come from over 30 different countries.
The Leopoldina organizes many different types of events for diverse target groups. These include symposiums and lectures for scientific specialists and the Leopoldina Annual Assembly, but also panel discussions, exhibitions, lectures and guided tours for those in the populace that are interested in the work the Leopoldina is doing. Once every year the Leopoldina opens its doors to the wider public for its “Leopoldina Night”.