Future Earth Summit 2021

DIE Director Prof. Dr. Anna-Katharina Hornidge and DIE Deputy Director Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz took part in panels at the Summit of the German Committee for Sustainability Research in Future Earth.

From 8-9 July 2021, various departments and international scientists* came together at the Summit of the German Committee for Sustainability Research in Future Earth (DKN) to exchange ideas in a virtual setting on this year’s theme „German Sustainablity Science Summit 2021“. The DKN is an independent scientific advisory body funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Besides the chairperson Prof. Dr. Daniela Jacob, Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz is one of the nine members of the DKN, who are appointed by the DFG for three years (current term of office from 2019-2021).

The DKN focuses on sustainable development within the German and international society. It represents an exchange and networking platform for the scientific community. In the annual DKN Summit, latest scientific findings are presented and discussed; both between different groups of scientists and in debates with political actors.

The German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) participated in a number of panels at this year’s DKN Summit, being represented by DIE Director Prof. Dr. Anna-Katharina Hornidge and Deputy Director Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz. First, SDSN Germany held the panel „Science as a Transformative Lever for Sustainable Development – Science Policy as a Game Changer“, hosted by Dr. Sabrina Schulz and Prof. Dr. Anna-Katharina Hornidge. In addition to Prof. Hornidge’s impulse, Prof. Jacqueline McGlade (Professor of „Natural Prosperity, Sustainable Development and Knowledge Systems“ at the Institute for Global Prosperity, UCL, London), R. Andreas Kraemer (Founder and Director Emeritus of Ecologic Institute, Berlin) as well as Dr. Steffi Ober (Initiator and Co-spokesperson of the project „Forschungswende“) contributed insights on their perspectives. The panelists emphasised the indispensability of scientific advice for future-oriented, sustainable policy-making. This requires both, an active advisory service from the scientific community and a willingness on the part of policymakers to accept scientific findings and integrate them into day-to-day political decisions.

Second, Prof. Dr. Hornidge organised the panel „Science Narratives in Policy Advice – for exploring the coastal/marine science-society-policy nexus“, together with Beatrice Dippel (DIE) and Dr. Sebastian Ferse (Executive Director, Future Earth Coast). Four panelists reflected on the collaboration between science and policy in the field of sustainable ocean management: Dr. Jacqueline Uku (WIOMSA), Dr. Michael Siebert (GIZ), Ilka Wagner (BMU) and Prof. Dr. Martin Visbeck (GEOMAR). Participants agreed that an increasingly uncertain time, in which social inequalities are growing and the world faces a rapidly changing global climate, that these developments require a shared vision for a sustainable future – a perspective that goes beyond the current guidelines of the 2030 Agenda. The co-construction of diverse and positive ideas based on empirically grounded scenarios can only work through transformative, sustainable approaches and a dialogue between global and locally grounded narratives. In this regard, the momentum of the UN Decade of Marine Science is a promising opportunity.

Prof. Dr. Imme Scholz also hosted one panel at the DKN Summit, titled „Normativity in Sustainablity Research“, which was attended by Prof. Dr. Konrad Ott (Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, CAU) and Prof. Dr. Martin Quaas (German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, iDIV). Discussants were Prof. Dr. Melissa Leach (IDS), Dr. Jana Zscheicschler (ZALF) and Prof. Dr. Raphael Ziegler (HEC Montreal).

The 2021 DKN Summit concluded with a panel on „Perspectives of International Sustainability Science“, organised by DKN Chair Prof. Dr. Daniela Jacob. Scientists such as Dr. Faten Bahar (University of Carthage) and Prof. Dr. Johan Rockström (PIK Potsdam), Prof. Dr. Konrad Ott (CAU Kiel); Prof. Dr. Peter Schlosser (Arizona State University), Prof. Dr. Martin Visbeck (GEOMAR), and Prof. Dr. Anna-Katharina Hornidge reflected on the discussions of the Summit and pointed out several conclusions for the further development of the field of sustainability research. The panellists emphasised the urgency of this particular research field and the transformation of the science system as a whole. Science must overcome the idea of being a motor for linear growth as it is still the case today in influential approaches inspired by modernisation theory. Instead, science should see itself as a motor of circular, ecologically and socially sustainable prosperity. This ‘great transformation of science’, however, would not merely occur in science alone, but would be embedded as an integral part of the great transformation towards sustainability of social and economic systems. Sustainability research must further expand the developments already made in the direction of transformative science, also with regard to the intersection of science, society, private sector and politics. This requires appropriate funding structures and incentive mechanisms, especially for young scientists who are still mainly socialized into purely disciplinary logics.

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