Gerald Haug is the new president of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. He was elected in a secret written vote taken by the Leopoldina Senate. On 1 March 2020 this renowned climatologist will take over the position from Jörg Hacker. The microbiologist Hacker directed the academy since 2010 and is now retiring as scheduled after two terms. Haug (born 1968) will be the XXVII Leopoldina president. He is a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz as well as a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich/Switzerland. The handover ceremony will take place on Thursday, 20 February 2020.
“Gerald Haug has an uncanny faculty for communicating scientific topics to policy makers and the society at large. Moreover, he is actively involved with a wide variety of national and international scientific networks. These attributes make him particularly well suited to lead the Leopoldina in its role as a national academy with its mandate to provide science-based advice for political and social institutions and to maintain its worldwide affiliations with other science academies,” observed Leopoldina President Jörg Hacker about his successor. “In choosing Gerald Haug to head the Academy, the Senate has elected a scientist who early on gained recognition for his excellent research,” added Hacker.
Gerald Haug had this to say after his election: “I would like to build on the successful work of Jörg Hacker in his ten-year tenure as President of the Academy. As the National Academy of Sciences, the Leopoldina has great potential to actively and effectively influence and support the formation of opinions about political and societal issues.” Haug looks to focus on “fact-based, balanced and transparent scientific advice that takes the interests of all the different social groups into account. Leopoldina can thus make an important contribution to the consensus on current issues and future topics, a task that is becoming increasingly important in our fast-changing and ever more complex world – on the national, European and worldwide level.”
Gerald Haug became a member of Leopoldina´s Earth Sciences section in 2012. In his role as an elected representative for this section, he has been a member of the Senate of the Academy since 2015. In 2016 he was elected by the Senators from each of the sections in Class I, which includes the disciplines falling under the headings “mathematics, natural sciences and engineering”, to be the spokesperson for the entire Class I. He collaborated on numerous publications dealing with science-based political advice, most recently as one of two speakers for the “Climate targets 2030: Towards a sustainable reduction of CO2 emissions (2019)” working group. In 2015 Haug was the co-author of the position statement regarding the future of the oceans, which was prepared by the G7 science academies in preparation for the Elmau summit and handed over to the heads of state and governments of the G7 nations.
Gerald Haug is a climatologist, geologist and paleo-oceanographer. He studied the development of the climate over the last thousands, as well as millions of years. In the process, he examined sediment cores, which are drilled up from beneath the floors of oceans and lakes. The chemical composition of the different sediment layers provides clues to the prevailing climatic conditions at the time the respective layers were deposited. It is thus possible for scientists like Gerald Haug to reconstruct historic climate conditions and their development over time. In addition, Haug studied the interactions between climate and cultures. By investigating core samples from off the coast of Venezuela he was able to find evidence of historical periods of drought that correlated in time with the fall of the Mayan civilization. Haug also found clues to the impact of climate change on historical developments in other regions, such as a relationship between times of weakened monsoons and the demise of several Chinese dynasties.
Gerald Haug´s research endeavours have won numerous accolades. In 2007 he was a recipient of the German Research Foundation´s (DFG) prestigious Leibniz Prize. Prior to that, in 2001, the DFG had already awarded him the Albert Maucher Prize for Earth Science. In addition, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich honoured him with the Max Rössler Prize in 2010. Haug has been a member of the Academia Europaea since 2008. The Academy of Sciences and Literature Mainz appointed him a member in 2018.
Gerald Haug studied geology in Karlsruhe. For his doctorate he moved to the University of Kiel, where in 1995 he received his PhD. He then worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada and at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA. In 1998 he spent two years as a Research Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, USA. At the start of the 2000s he became an assistant professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, where he habilitated in 2002. In 2003 he took over the post of section head at the Geo Research Center in Potsdam and was appointed professor at the University of Potsdam. In 2007 he was appointed full professor at ETH Zurich. Since 2015 he has been Director of the Department of Climate Geochemistry at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz and a Scientific Member of the Max Planck Society. Haug will maintain his position at the Max Planck Institute in a part-time capacity.
In the ten years of his tenure Jörg Hacker established Leopoldina as an acknowledged authority and advisor on the problems confronting society and as a respected partner in the international dialogues between academies around the world. Under his leadership, much-noticed statements on future topics such as bioenergy, climate change, preimplantation genetic diagnosis and genome editing were published. In recent public debates, for example, Leopoldina voiced its opinion on the energy turnaround following the reactor accident in Fukushima in 2011, on the Ebola outbreak in 2014, and on the pollution of respiratory air by nitrogen oxides and particulate matter in 2019. During Jörg Hacker's term of office, the G7 summit consultations were enhanced and intensified through the increased participation of the science academies of the participating countries and the enlarged G20 consultations were established as well. Leopoldina also expanded its global contacts and instituted partnership agreements with other national science academies, including those of Israel, South Africa and China.
As the National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina provides independent science-based policy advice on socially relevant issues. To this end, the Academy prepares statements based on scientific findings. It cooperates with the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities and the acatech – National Academy of Science and Engineering and is also a member of the Alliance of Science Organisations. Leopoldina represents German science in international committees, including the science-based consultations that take place at the G7 and G20 summits. With around 1,600 members from more than 30 countries, Leopoldina brings together expertise from virtually every scientific field. It was founded in 1652 and was named the German National Academy of Sciences in 2008. Since being named the National Academy, the presidency has been held as a full-time position.