For nearly 70 years, the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings have provided an international forum for laureates and promising young academics to exchange knowledge and ideas. This summer, a PhD candidate from the University of Zurich, Karin Prummel, had the honor of attending: The biologist got through a strict selection process and was invited to take part in the event as the recipient of a grant from the Internationale Bodensee Hochschule. In Lindau, she had the unique opportunity to discuss central questions about academic learning and its place in society, as well as her own research, with illustrious Nobel laureates. UZH News asked her about her experiences at the meeting.
Markus Rhomberg: What impression did the Nobel Laureate Meeting make on you?
Karin Prummel: The time I spent in Lindau was a one-of-a-kind experience. The exchanges with the Nobel laureates and around 600 junior researchers from around the world was incredibly inspiring and informative on many levels. For example, we had the opportunity to present our own research and discuss it in plenary sessions. We were also able get in-depth insights into research practices and helpful tips for planning our own research careers. Together we also discussed general questions such as the role of academia in society.
Can you explain to us how the exchange of knowledge and research works at these meetings?
The academic part of the meeting has several formats: You have the Nobel laureates and junior researchers presenting their work. Then you have the plenary discussions on particular topics such as GMOs (genetically modified organisms). The program is set up in such a way that there is enough free time for researchers to be able to get together and discuss their own concerns outside of the official events as well.
What did you learn in Lindau that you can apply to your own career planning?
The talks with other junior researchers, some of whom came from outside of Europe, were very helpful in giving me the opportunity to reflect on what hopes, opportunities and challenges are involved in an academic career. The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting didn’t only involve a week in Lindau, however. Some of us also got to visit the Max Planck Institutes in Munich and Berlin and talk to the heads of the institutes. These experiences are of course also helpful for planning a pathway through academia.
In what ways is scientific scholarship undergoing change in general?
Many of the agenda items in Lindau were dedicated to the changing conditions and reference points of academic research. For example, the role of open access publishing was intensively debated. We are currently in the midst of a revolution in academic publishing. For junior researchers it is not always easy to strike a balance between the wish to publish in journals with the highest reputations with the desire to make the results accessible to as many people as possible.
And what about the role of academia in society?
How we as researchers communicate with the public and what functions academia should fulfill in society were central themes of the meeting. On the one hand, we discussed at great length the different formats and channels that are available for science communication. We also talked about how researchers can be supported by communications specialists and journalists to communicate about their work, for example. We found that there are many researchers out there who are passionate about having a dialogue with society.