Challenges to Science and Politics
Bonn, May 1990


In 1988-1989, after the Global Change Conference in Moscow, initiatives were started worldwide to study the challenges to Science and Politics under the premise that ther is something like Global Environmental. Each country was invited to present their view on the matter and present the status of what we know and what can be done in a synoptic exhibition whcih adresses the public, science, industry, and politic at the same time.

The author of this summary was invited, beside the research centeres who can contribute, like National Research, Frauenhofer, Max Planck,..., to contribute to such an overarching topic.Why the author as the only individual ? Good question in retrospect, I can only say that the mayor reseach centers had been my clients in the mid and late 80ies, I had worked with international publishers on themes like GLOBAL CHANGE and integrated research and management, had started some research initaitives on integrated environemtnal reasearch and management, and was a consultant to UNEP- HEM, an office to harmonize information about the Environment. As compatible and comparable data about the environment is a prerequisite to GLOBAL CHANGE research, and we already had contact to the German Chancellery, somehow it worked out. Not researchers or administrators with their in-depth knowledge, but independent writers and synthesisers were finally involved, like a journalist in charge of PR and media of the German research centers, Eberhard Gockel, and a researcher from a center for arctic research (AWI) who was later appointed head of the GLOBAL CHANGE secretariat (1992). By the way, inviting science writers and jounalists to do such jobs is the typical thing to do, when you want to make an exhibition for the public. You have to hire the "macroscopic" view, the step back and ability to see and visualize relations, which you can not maintain when you are personally involved and "in charge for certain details".

So what we are talking here about was a "one-time ever" event. No other country tried to put all together to see the CHALLENGES synoptically. The problem is one of language, do be right and precise and at the same time understood by children, scientists, politicians,... anybody. The other is neutrality, coherence and completeness, because everybody sees his work as of paramount importance and wants to present it, first to show is contribution, second to make shure funding continues or new programmes can find support out of the public or political will generated from the insight into "what is going on".

This paper is a report not only to make this exhibition public, as it was somehow lost in the world-wide political agenday, the Berlin Wall disapeared, and the interest was suddenly in the new directly at hand "bonazas" of the East, not into long term perspectives of economy and ecology with dubious qualities, trends, scales...
But the Exhibition made some records, it toured Germany for eigth years and was so well received that is a backlog for another 3 years of towns or universities interested to host the exhibition. Due to this demand and the rapid change of research and insight it was necessary to update the temporal presentation of research projects and, like an eternmal law, the number of posters presenting "unique" contributions of certain research institutes, grew gradually. The problem: research projects come and go but the central issues do not get teh needed publicity when the interest is primarily on the most recent research initiative.

But the public showed much interest in the overall theme and as there was never a catalogue prepared, people poored in to see the exhibition. After the organizing and contracted institution, the AGF chaged his name, becomming the Helmholtz Society it became necessary to change the central posters with the names and do a general overhaul in1997-8 as some posters where worn out after so much travel, and also some changes had to be made as our insight into what is going on changed gradually, maybe marginally some might say. But beside that, there were short term changes to be considered. For example our president (Richard von Weizsaecker, on a bicycle toshow life stile changes) had to leave his post and there is even an incomming president to beconsidered in 1999, as is predecessor might very well not be in place next year.

Fragmented intersts, short sightedness and vested interests
This paper is written as the whole exhibition is endangered, even though as up to date than never before during the last 8 years, the experts have met and found that certain details, typically in their specific range of expertise need and update and evn more naturally a new research programme! This is unacceptable to the author as his invited contribution was about to be implemented in the genaral (lasting) section and had bneen worked on for 8 years to present a new step in communicating complexity.

As a background: During the last 8 years the number of posters presenting research efforts of certain institutions increased gradually, totalling presently  *** boards and costing a lot of money as their is a high fluctuation, but naturally the central posters, the content, how things are connected and what needs to be done remained unchanged or only with minimal changes.

We can summarize: Institution in charge of research and in search for money from politics, are in the wrong place as curators of exhibitions which have a theme which covers societal, political, cultural, philosophical dimensions.
It was possible to create the exhibition as independent thinkers and writers in that institution had the power to invite contributors and keep interests of certain institution in check. But when such persons retire, we are confronted with a very serious alterantive, 1. the research centes consider Challenges to Science, Politics, even Culture and Humanities their turf and misuse the broad educational mission of the exhibition for their acquisition of research monies. 2. The administrator now in charge is not at all interested in the broader topic, even sherishes a "contrarian view" and creates all to have experts decide that details are "OUT OF DATE". In this case such posters should have been considered: "Aquisition of funds from politics" and been disposed like broschures anyway after a couple of months or have to pay to be part of an exhibition which was invited by politics to show alternatives for society and cultures.

What can we learn from that: