At today’s event to celebrate the change in office in Halle (Saale), microbiologist Jörg Hacker handed the chain of office belonging to the President of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina to climate researcher Gerald Haug. Gerald Haug has been elected for a five-year term that will begin on 1 March 2020. Jörg Hacker headed up the Academy for ten years and is retiring at the end of two terms. Minister of State Hendrik Hoppenstedt gave a speech on behalf of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Saxony-Anhalt Minister-President Reiner Haseloff gave a welcoming address at the event to mark the change in office.
In his valedictory speech, Jörg Hacker stressed the importance of the freedom of science but also said: "It goes without saying that when we are defending the freedom of science we also need to take responsibility for ensuring that the freedom we have within our research and teaching promotes the common good even if this is often a long and convoluted process." Hacker thanked his successor Gerald Haug for their work together in the past and said: "This chance to work together has made me confident that the Leopoldina will continue to thrive with you as its President and head down new avenues too."
In his acceptance speech, Gerald Haug said: "The valedictory speech of my predecessor Jörg Hacker and the ceremonial address given by Chancellor Merkel were a clear reminder of two things: just how much responsibility falls onto the President of the Leopoldina’s shoulders and the wealth of opportunities he has to advance the world of science and its dialogue with society." In his speech, he listed climate change, digitalisation and global health as being on the list of top priorities right now. Touching on the Academy’s science-based policy advice work, Haug said: "It is very important to me that we work on our ability to anticipate issues that are set to become hugely relevant in the not-too-distant future. We need to be in a position to address urgent societal issues, at a national and international level, within a matter of weeks, but nevertheless working independently and being dependable."
Gerald Haug was elected as a member of the Leopoldina’s Earth Sciences Section in 2012. From 2015 to 2020, he was a member of the Senate of the Academy. In 2016, he was elected as spokesperson for Class I: Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Engineering. Haug contributed to multiple science-based policy advice publications, including last year as one of the two speakers of the working group "Climate goals 2030: Towards a sustainable reduction of CO₂ emissions". In 2015, Haug co-authored the statement on the future of the Earth’s oceans developed by the G7 countries’ academies of sciences in preparation for the summit in Elmau and ultimately submitted to the heads of state and government of the G7 countries.
Gerald Haug is a climate researcher, geologist and paleoceanographer. He conducts research into climate change over the last thousands and millions of years. As part of this work, he examines sediment cores drilled up from the bottom of oceans and lakes. The chemical composition of the various layers of sediment reveals information about the climate conditions at the time when each layer was deposited. Haug uses this research to reconstruct climate conditions throughout history and how they have changed. He also researches the correlations between the climate and cultures.
In his ten years in office, Jörg Hacker established the Leopoldina as a well-recognised counsellor on societal challenges, both nationally and internationally, and a prestigious partner in the global dialogue between academies. Many statements on future issues such as bioenergy, climate protection, preimplantation genetic diagnosis and genome editing were published during his tenure and garnered much attention. In terms of current public debate, the Leopoldina issued statements, for example, on the energy transition after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, on the Ebola outbreak of 2014 and on the pollution of respiratory air with nitrogen oxides and particulate matter in 2019. The Leopoldina expanded its global reach and entered into more partnership agreements with national science academies in countries such as Israel, South Africa and China.
As the National Academy of Sciences, the Leopoldina offers independent science-based policy advice in relation to relevant societal issues. It does this by drafting statements on the basis of scientific knowledge. The Leopoldina works closely on this with the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities and acatech - the German National Academy of Science and Engineering. The Leopoldina is a member of the Alliance of Science Organisations. As the National Academy of Sciences, the organisation also represents the German scientific community on international boards, offering science-based advice at the G7 and G20 summits, for example. With some 1600 members from more than 30 countries, the Leopoldina has collective expertise from virtually all fields of science at its disposal. The Leopoldina was founded in 1652 and appointed Germany’s National Academy of Sciences in 2008. Since gaining its status as the National Academy, the role of the President has been a full-time commitment.