‘Science and technology can find sustainable solutions for many challenges’


Countess Bettina Bernadotte, the President of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting addressing the gathering at the 62nd Meeting of Nobel Laureates at Lindau. – Photo: R. Prasad

The 27 Nobel Laureates walked in a line into the famous Inselhalle hall at Lindau, Germany to a standing ovation from about 592 young researchers from 69 countries. The 62nd Nobel Laureates Meeting from July 1 to July 7, dedicated to physics, was then opened on Sunday by Countess Bettina Bernadotte, the President of the Council for the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting.

In her welcome speech, Ms. Bernadotte urged the student researchers to fully utilise the opportunity as the Laureates have come to Lindau to educate and interact with them. “Gain inspiration and establish valuable new contacts and networks,” she told the young researchers. Numerous lectures, discussion sessions, panel discussions and science master classes are lined up for the next one week.

Eighteen students from India who are doing their post-graduation, and doctoral and post-doctoral programmes are participating in the meeting this year.

Ms. Bernadotte urged the participants to experience “the spirit of Lindau” – “a shared enthusiasm for science and a shared desire to address challenges facing the world. You will discuss research questions and relevant issues, just as generations of Laureates and excellent young scientists have done since 1951.”

The three core ideas of the meeting are to “educate and inspire” the student researchers and “connect” them with the Laureates.

“Your stay at Lindau will result in valuable lessons learnt, and gaining inspiration for scientific work that will be useful for a lifetime,” Ms. Bernadotte reminded the students. Though 27 Laureates are gathered here, unlike other conferences, the Lindau meeting is held for the benefit of young researchers attending the programme. The focus is to provide them a platform to interact closely with the Laureates and raise questions and receive guidance from them.

“The idea of CERN was initiated at Lindau,” the Countess told the students, adding, “we want you to take full advantage of this meeting [by raising questions]”.

Science and technology and innovations using cutting edge technologies have become vital for achieving sustainable solutions for many of the challenges that people are facing today. There is hence a need to raise public awareness. The Lindau meeting is ideally placed to connect science and society at large.

For the second year in a row, teachers have been invited to participate in the programme. The main intention behind this is not only to recognise their contribution but to ensure that they go back and share the spirit of science with their students. This will, in the long run, help in attracting more and better students to science, she said.

“Science cannot perform miracles,” warned Annette Schavan, Federal Minister, Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Germany) in her welcome speech. The need is for countries and political establishments to become serious. Research policy makers are facing challenges now from climate change, energy supply and global health. Germany has increased its budget for science by 53 per cent during the last seven years.

“We need sustainable solutions,” Ms. Schavan said. “Transforming the energy systems is one of the priorities in Germany.” Setting new priorities in research will go a long way in making better use of renewable energy.

“The end is to phase out nuclear energy and complete the transition to renewable energy,” Ms. Schavan said. “This way Germany wants to make an effective contribution in fighting climate change.”

Green technologies have therefore gained centre stage. The central idea is to use natural renewable resources so as to makes sure that the actions of the current generation do not destroy the resources of future generations. It is for this reason that energy that has been chosen as one of the key subjects of this year’s meeting. The other two main themes identified are cosmology and quantum physics.

As a mark of recognition of their valuable contribution to science and technology and innovation, Tony Tan, President of the Republic of Singapore and Ferdinand K. Piech, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Volkaswagen AG were inducted as new members to the honorary Senate of the Foundation Lindau Nobel Laureates meetings at Lake Constance.

(This Correspondent is one of the two journalists from India participating in the 62 Nobel Laureates Meeting at Lindau, Germany, at the invitation of the German Research Foundation, Bonn.)

Published in The Hindu on July 2, 2012