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In 2018 the German National Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina commences its tenth year as German National Academy of Sciences. The Leopoldina, founded in 1652, was appointed National Academy on July 14, 2008 by the Joint Science Conference of the German federal and state governments and assumed the position of advisory body on scientific issues for society and policymaking alike. In association with the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities, acatech - German National Academy of Science and Engineering and other scientific organizations like the German Research Association, the National Academy indicates the current state of research and adopts positions on fundamental questions of our time. It furthermore represents German sciences and humanities in international forums and advises the government in preparation for the G7- and G20-summit. Key topics are currently digitalization and its societal consequences, the world's food supply, disease control and demographic changes.
After 10 years as the National Academy of Sciences, current Leopoldina-President Jörg Hacker foresees an increasing need for science based policy advice: „Decision-makers in politics today are confronted with increasingly complex issues and gladly embrace our expertise. Here we place particular emphasis on presenting scientific recommendations in easily comprehensible terms. We are currently witnessing an increased necessity for a balanced scientific voice in political and societal debates. In association with our partner academies, it is our goal to enrich and develop such debates.“
The body of academy members consists of outstanding scientists, who either work for universities and research facilities such as the Max Planck Society, the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association or the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, or work in the industrial sector. Their interdisciplinary task forces work on issues with a need for political action such as antibiotics research, reproductive medicine, genome research, big data, the scientific system or the consequences of demographic change. Experts from various disciplines contribute their individual perspectives on any given subject in working groups. They balance the current state of research and options for action are presented in written statements. Before being published, the papers are examined by independent scientists in an external assessment process. With these statements, the Leopoldina procures a scientific basis for discussions, decisions and legislation to political actors. In doing so, the Leopoldina acts completely independent from political and economic interests.
Once appointed National Academy, the Leopoldina assumed the responsibility of providing science-based policy advice in intensive collaboration with the Union of German Academies of Sciences and Humanities and acatech - German National Academy of Science and Engineering. The National Academy coordinates the standing committee, which was established as a forum for the representatives of the aforementioned academies to deliberate quarterly on specific subjects for the working groups and publications. Their pooled expertise positions any resulting political consultations on a broad scientific foundation.
More than 130 statements, recommendations and discussion papers were presented by the Leopoldina during these past 10 years, many of them in collaboration with national and international partner academies and other scientific organizations. Special general resonance was generated by the recommendations on energy policy after the events in Fukushima (2011), the statements on pre-implantation diagnostics (PID) in Germany (2011), the analysis of possibilities and limitations of bioenergy (2012/13) as well as the analysis on practice and research of palliative care (2015), just to mention a few. Prolonged discussions on the adoption of new methods to change the genetic material arose after the statements on opportunities and limitations of genome editing (2015). Fundamental medical-ethical questions and questions on cohabitation in a digitized society are also key topics for the National Academy in the new year.
On an international level, the Leopoldina advises the G7- and G20-summit meetings of the Heads of State and government in collaboration with other national academies and contributes a scientific view to the negotiation process. After preparing the G7-summit in Schloss Elmau 2015, the Leopoldina also took the lead in preparing the recommendations of the scientific academies for the G20-summit 2017 in Hamburg. In 2015 the academies emphasized the need for action on infectious diseases, antibiotic resistance, poverty-related diseases and a sustainable future of the oceans. At the G20-summit the focus of the scientific recommendations was placed on improvements of global health care.
The Leopoldina, founded in 1652 by four physicians in Schweinfurt/Germany as the Academia Naturae Curiosorum, is the oldest continuously existing academy of scholars in the world today. Deepening scientific understanding of the natural world and improving communication between researchers of that time was the common goal of its founding fathers. In 1878 the Leopoldina settled in the town Halle on the river Saale after more than 2 centuries of frequent relocation following its respective president. Academy members included, among others, Marie Curie, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Alexander von Humboldt, Justus von Liebig and Max Planck. Today the Leopoldina counts more than 30 Nobel Prize laureates among its members. With a total of 1,500 current members from more than 30 countries, three quarters come from Germany, Austria and Switzerland.