Overview of all Communicator Award winners
- Interner Link mit Anker2023: Steffen Mau
- Interner Link mit Anker2022: Public Philosophy Project denXte
- Interner Link mit Anker2021: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Richter-Gebert
- Interner Link mit Anker2020: Prof. Dr. Robert Arlinghaus
- Interner Link mit Anker2019: Prof. Dr. Katharina Anna Zweig
- Interner Link mit Anker2018: Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius
- Interner Link mit Anker2017: Dr. Stefan Kröpelin
- Interner Link mit Anker2016: Prof. Dr. Andreas Zick
- Interner Link mit Anker2015: Prof. Dr. Boris Zernikow
- Interner Link mit Anker2014: Prof. Dr. Onur Güntürkün
- Interner Link mit Anker2013: Prof. Dr. Metin Tolan
- Interner Link mit Anker2012: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Tautz
- Interner Link mit Anker2011: Prof. Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer
- Interner Link mit Anker2010: Prof. Dr. Hanns Hatt (in German only)
- Interner Link mit Anker2009: Prof. Dr. Jutta Allmendinger (in German only)
- Interner Link mit Anker2008: Prof. Dr. Günter M. Ziegler (in German only)
- Interner Link mit Anker2007: Arbeitsgruppe Glaziologie (in German only)
- Interner Link mit Anker2006: Prof. Dr. Friedemann Schrenk (in German only)
- Interner Link mit Anker2005: Prof. Dr. Harald Lesch (in German only)
- Interner Link mit Anker2004: Prof. Dr. Hubert Wolf (in German only)
- Interner Link mit Anker2003: Prof. Dr. Wolf Singer (in German only)
- Interner Link mit Anker2002: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang M. Heckl (in German only)
- Interner Link mit Anker2001: Prof. Dr. Gerold Wefer (in German only)
- Interner Link mit Anker2000: Prof. Dr. Albrecht Beutelspacher (in German only)
2023: Steffen Mau
This year, the Communicator Award presented by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and Stifterverband goes to the Berlin-based sociologist Steffen Mau, whose research explores key areas of social science in a new way. His themes include social inequality and injustice, structural change among the middle classes and new border regimes. His insights on these topics are also the focus of his communication: Mau receives the prize of €50,000 for his bold and multifaceted approach to communication, by which he succeeds in introducing expertise and orientational knowledge about transformation processes into public debate, enabling his audience to be able to identify with what he is saying based on their own experience and perspectives.
In its decision, the Communicator Award jury praised Mau for attempting to bring objectivity to heated public discourse through an impressive variety of formats – ranging from numerous small-scale events and social media posts to science slams and non-fiction books which make it onto the bestseller lists. In doing so, said the jury, he avoids putting forward reckless hypotheses or attempting to grab the limelight, but instead is particularly successful in engaging in direct dialogue with people in ways that cannot always be planned or predicted.
Made up of science journalists, communication professionals and PR experts and chaired by DFG Vice President Professor Dr. Julika Griem, the jury highlighted the fact that Mau’s communication approach seeks out blind spots on the map of science communication and initiates dialogue on a low-threshold basis in places where it has not tended to happen very frequently in the past. He also talks to the people who are the subject of his research: his successful non-fiction book Lütten Klein was not the end product of research into origins but rather the prelude to new interactions. At more than 40 individual events in eastern Germany alone, he fielded questions from a largely non-academic audience, where – as Mau himself described it – people had an enormous “desire to get things off their chest”.
Mau is also committed to political education and the promotion of democracy. He speaks at non-university educational events, at foundations, at the Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb), at schools, and in connection with civil society initiatives. His sociological non-fiction books and essays are made available to a wide audience as part of the bpb’s publication series. Cultural institutions such as museums are also important venues for his communication activities: here, as Mau himself says, “it is possible to draw on different types of contextualisation and points of reference”. To some extent, his sociological studies have themselves served as inspiration for certain exhibition concepts, and he has also been directly involved in the development of such concepts.
In addition, Mau makes use of theatrical performances, appearances at literary festivals and direct interviews with literary figures to open up new communicative spaces and do more to strengthen the links between research and culture. For example, he discussed his book Sortiermaschinen. Die Neuerfindung der Grenze im 21. Jahrhundet (“Sorting machines. The reinvention of the border in the 21st century”) with the writer Nora Bossong at the Berlin International Literature Festival. Meanwhile the play Abbau Ost (ACUD Theatre Berlin) used a text fragment by Mau, among other things, to critically question clichéd images of reunification as a narrative of success or sacrifice.
Steffen Mau has been Professor of Macrosociology at Humboldt-Universität Berlin since 2015. Born in Rostock, he initially trained as an electronics technician at the state-owned marine electronics company VEB Schiffselektronik Rostock before going on to study sociology and political science at the Freie Universität Berlin after reunification. He obtained his doctorate at the European University Institute in Florence in 2001 and was Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bremen from 2005 to 2015. He has held visiting professorships and fellowships in such places as Sciences Po in Paris and Harvard. From 2012 to 2018 he was a member of the Scientific Commission of the German Science and Humanities Council (Wissenschaftsrat, WR), and from 2019 to 2021 he was also co-spokesperson of the Cluster of Excellence “Contestations of the Liberal Script”. His research has already received numerous awards, most notably the DFG’s Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize in 2021.
2022: Public philosophy project denXte
This year, the Communicator Award conferred by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and Stifterverband goes to the public philosophy project denXte and its team of researchers. In addition to Markus Schrenk, Professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the University of Düsseldorf since 2014, the group also includes the two postdocs Dr. Amrei Bahr and Dr. David Löwenstein as well as four philosophy students: Julia Frese, David Niemann, Christoph Sapp and Berit Weiß. They jointly receive the award worth €50,000 for their innovative and future-oriented approach to creating captivating yet challenging communication in a subject area that is otherwise rather difficult to access.
In its decision, the Communicator Award jury praised the denXte project for its participatory approach to arousing interest in philosophy among citizens of different ages and educational backgrounds. The six-member team set itself the task of inviting people with no previous knowledge of philosophy to engage in dialogue about socially relevant topics through the format of the philosophical thought experiment. In the process, participants not only contribute their own questions and arguments, they also get to learn about the basic intellectual tools of philosophy along the way.
As the jury of science journalists, communication specialists and PR experts chaired by DFG Vice President Professor Dr. Julika Griem emphasised, the project goes beyond the mere communication of academic facts and focuses on a facet of science communication that has been little illuminated: it trains the capacity to think and to negotiate problems in a rational and systematic way. This is particularly important in times of debate and conflict, in which it is becoming increasingly difficult to form one’s own opinion. Based on participatory thought experiments organised for different target groups, the Düsseldorf team is able to take classic dilemmas, key problems and also the specific challenges of current crisis situations and transfer them to discussion situations.
In view of changes in working styles and increased collaboration in science communication, the DFG and Stifterverband expressly encouraged teams to apply for this year’s award. The jury was particularly impressed by the balanced collaboration and distribution of tasks within the denXte project team. In addition to working closely with each other, the project members are each firmly integrated in their university as well as being well networked beyond their own institution. In this way, denXte also makes an important contribution to the profile of the University of Düsseldorf as a citizens’ university.
The team behind denXte uses a whole range of activities to engage philosophically with different target groups, including live chats, social media, videos, surveys and events. The core of each format is the philosophical thought experiment, i.e. scenarios that serve to verify or refute philosophical claims, arguments and theories. In 2019, for example, there was an event on organ donation, while another dealt with the question “What is Fake News?”. An event planned for this year will address the question: “What would it be like to know your own future?”. Short video clips are also presented that address current ethical issues such as the lockdown policy. In addition, five live streams including a chat function have been organised to date, while a separate podcast is currently being planned, as is the denXte Lab – an experimental laboratory designed to allow students to engage in philosophical thought experiments.
The jury was particularly impressed by the orchestration of the various formats, which were not conceived as standalone elements but contributed to individual topics on a clustered basis, thereby reflecting a multimedia approach in the best sense of the word.
2021: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Richter-Gebert
This year’s Communicator Award goes to the mathematician Professor Jürgen Richter-Gebert. An expert in geometry and visualisation from the Technical University of Munich, Professor Richter-Gebert receives the award worth €50,000 for his versatility in communicating abstract mathematical content to make it visible, audible and comprehensible, enabling his audiences to engage in experimentation and research themselves.
The Communicator Award jury praised Richter-Gebert for more than 20 years of dedication and commitment to vividly conveying the power and beauty of mathematics to a range of different target groups in an innovative and diverse style. In their statement, the jury said he had developed a variety of formats that he constantly adapted to new requirements, including interactive apps, exhibitions, television programmes, performance workshops, games, digital learning content and visualisation software. Made up of science journalists, communication and PR experts and chaired by DFG Vice President Professor Dr. Julika Griem, the jury commended the untiring energy and imagination with which Richter-Gebert had repeatedly created new approaches to mathematics in varying social and aesthetic contexts.
Jürgen Richter-Gebert’s communication is outstanding in that he involves his target groups in differentiated ways, motivating them to experiment, design and explore on their own. He is a fascinating showman when presenting to large audiences, yet time and again he also seeks out opportunities to enable people to grasp mathematical concepts in their day-to-day lives in ways that are unspectacular yet highly effective. Richter-Gebert demonstrated this impressively last year when he made the most of the opportunities afforded by the pandemic: early on, he developed digital activities for families in lockdown to give children playful, low-threshold access to mathematics and physics. What is more, he made the most of the switch to digital teaching to put his experience as a science communicator to good use in developing high-quality teaching formats that are now publicly accessible and have the potential to make a lasting, broad-based impact. With this approach, so the jury statement goes on, this year’s award winner exemplifies the contribution science communication is capable of making in the current digital transformation which society is undergoing. The jury also highlighted Richter-Gebert’s cooperation with younger colleagues as exemplary, as well as his commitment to involving and promoting the communication skills of early career researchers.
Jürgen Richter-Gebert obtained his doctorate at the Technical University of Darmstadt and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. His work then included appointments as a research assistant at the Zuse Institute Berlin and as a private lecturer at TU Berlin before he became an assistant professor at ETH Zurich after completing his postdoctoral lecturing qualification. Richter-Gebert has been a professor and chair at the Faculty of Mathematics at the Technical University of Munich since 2001. He has already received several awards, including the Ars Legendi Prize of the Stifterverband for excellent university teaching in 2011 and the MINT Ambassador of the Year award from the “MINT Zukunft schaffen” initiative in 2016.
Richter-Gebert is the founder and director of the mathematics exhibition “ix-quadrat” at TU Munich and co-author of the mathematics visualisation programme Cinderella (together with Ulrich Kortenkamp). He also runs the internet portal “Mathe-Vital”. Furthermore, he is significantly involved in the travelling exhibition “Imaginary”. The digital formats he has developed such as the free app “TUM Interaktiv” and “Maths to Touch” have been downloaded thousands of times, as has the digital edition of his book on fractions. The app “iOrnament”, available on the Apple Store, is one of the best of its kind available internationally in the field of mathematics.
2020: Prof. Dr. Robert Arlinghaus
The Communicator Award, conferred by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Stifterverband, will be presented this year to Professor Dr. Robert Arlinghaus, an expert in integrative fisheries management. The researcher, who works at the Humboldt University of Berlin and the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), will receive the €50,000 award for his wide-ranging activities in and commitment to science communication.
From comics, films, podcasts and science slams to participatory formats, talks and books: the jury for the Communicator Award was impressed not only by the sheer variety of the communication formats that Robert Arlinghaus uses, but also their strategic and conceptual planning and implementation. He was able to link the seemingly specialised topic of angling with societally relevant issues of sustainability, conservation and the responsible management of natural resources. For Arlinghaus, it's important not only to communicate his research findings but also to encourage participation and informed decision-making on the part of his diverse audiences, which range from anglers and fisheries managers to conservationists, water users, policymakers and the general public.
The jury noted that this year's Communicator Award winner had enabled people to experience research for themselves, an approach with which he has achieved high acceptance and trust in scientific research and its findings. He has continually embedded his research topic of angling in wider socioecological contexts. By engaging with political decision-makers at regional, national and international level, he has also contributed to the development of guidelines for sustainable fishing on a science-driven basis. In this way, the jury concluded, Robert Arlinghaus embodies the prototype of what science communication can represent today.
Arlinghaus has been Professor of Integrative Fisheries Management at the Humboldt University of Berlin and leader of a working group at the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries since 2013. Prior to this, he was a junior professor at both institutions between 2006 and 2012. He has also worked as a visiting researcher in Illinois (USA), at Carleton University in Canada and at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria. Arlinghaus has already won an array of awards, including the Cultura Prize of the Alfred Toepfer Trust (2016) and the Prize of the German Commission for UNESCO (2014).
2019: Prof. Dr. Katharina Anna Zweig
Computer scientist Prof. Dr. Katharina Anna Zweig is the winner of this year’s Communicator Award, conferred by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Stifterverband. The researcher from the University of Kaiserslautern will be presented with the €50,000 prize for her dedicated and wide-ranging communication on the ethical, political and social implications of algorithms and their application. With this prize, the DFG and the Stifterverband seek to strengthen the dialogue between science and the humanities and the general public.
In announcing their decision, the jury for the Communicator Award praised the critical and network-based approach of Katharina Anna Zweig’s science communication. Through a well-designed communication strategy and a diverse range of formats and channels, Zweig has engaged very different audiences with this complex and socially relevant topic. As well as giving people insight into the way algorithms are developed and used, she has also stimulated a nuanced debate on their application. The jury noted how Zweig pursued her various activities with tremendous dedication, to promote a dialogue in the media and among the general public on the digital transformation and its implications for society.
After studying biochemistry and bioinformatics in Tübingen and completing postdoctoral studies on the analysis of complex networks in Budapest and Heidelberg, in 2012 she was appointed head of the Algorithm Accountability Lab in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Kaiserslautern. Here she established Germany’s first course of study on socioinformatics, which examines the impacts of digitisation, specifically algorithms, on individuals, organisations and society as a whole. She also believes in the importance of integrating science communication into teaching and encourages her students to consider ways of engaging in dialogue with different social groups. In 2017, the innovative course won the Ars Legendi faculty prize in the engineering and computer science category.
As a computer scientist, Zweig has made a name for herself through interdisciplinary and publicly funded research projects. Since 2014 she has also been a project leader in the DFG Priority Programme “Algorithms for Big Data”. Through both her research and public communication of science, she has become a pioneer of knowledge-based and critical dialogue on algorithms, software and social change.
Many of Zweig’s research topics are highly relevant both socially and politically, for example in relation to debates surrounding fake news and the current dispute regarding copyright reform in Europe. In her communication work, Zweig uses a combination of traditional and new media formats including interviews and articles in print media and on TV and radio; social media activity, especially on Twitter; teaching materials; and involvement in exhibitions, such as Ohne Schlüssel und Schloss? Chancen und Risiken von Big Data (Without Lock and Key? Opportunities and Risks of Big Data), Kaiserslautern 2018). Together with journalists, she launched Algorithm Watch (Externer Linkhttps://algorithmwatch.org), a citizens’ initiative and platform designed to increase public awareness on how algorithms work, encourage people to keep a watchful eye on them, and get the public involved in the appropriate regulation of algorithmic decision-making systems. The project and its initiators won the Theodor Heuss Medal in 2018.
In addition to her media work and numerous talks and presentations, Zweig contributes her expertise to panels, committees and organisations, including the German Bundestag’s Study Commission on Artificial Intelligence, the ITA (Innovation and Technology Analysis) Advisory Group of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and, as an expert adviser, the Intermediaries working group of the German Federal-State Commission on Media Convergence. She herself regards her research and communication work as a form of civic engagement, one of her aims being to actively integrate the public, be they journalists, citizens or schoolchildren.
2018: Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius
Marine researcher and geomicrobiologist Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius is the winner of this year's Communicator Award, conferred by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Stifterverband. She is the director of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, head of the HGF MPG Joint Research Group for Deep-Sea Ecology and Technology at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen and professor of geomicrobiology at the University of Bremen. Boetius will receive the €50,000 award for her multifaceted and long-standing work on communicating her own research on the deep sea and polar regions as well as general questions regarding the research system and science communication. With this prize, the DFG and the Stifterverband seek to strengthen the dialogue between science and the humanities and the general public.
Announcing its decision, the Communicator Award jury emphasised in particular the way Boetius sees herself as a researcher for whom the communication of research work and findings to different target groups goes hand in hand with her political work to improve the dialogue between science and the humanities, politics and society. She stands out with a very personal and authentic way of communicating. Moreover, Boetius underlines the provisional and in-progress nature of scientific work, not denying the uncertainties connected with it.
With her participation in more than 45 seagoing expeditions and the leadership of numerous international research programmes, Antje Boetius is a proven expert in biological oceanography, microbial ecology and biogeochemistry. In 2009, she was awarded the DFG’s Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, Germany’s most important research funding award, for her research into deep-sea methane-eating microbes. She is a member of the DFG Senate.
Boetius is both a top-level researcher and a bridge-builder between science and the humanities and the general public. Her communication work in print and online media, radio and television comprises three main focus areas: The “Deep-Sea Adventure”, including a comprehensive and accessible non-fiction work that she published in collaboration with her father, author Henning Boetius, in 2011. On the topic of “People and the Ocean – Opportunities and Risks of the Global Transformation”, Boetius holds numerous presentations in which she addresses questions from a wide range of social groups on the classification of the consequences of climate change, the future of the ocean in the face of increasing use, and on the natural spaces and diversity of the world. In 2014 and 2016, she also led two exciting Arctic expeditions, which were shared directly with the public through documentaries and media reports.
The third topic that is important to Boetius is women’s careers in research. In this respect, she actively shares her experience as a woman pursuing her academic career, in leadership roles and on expeditions. She has often accepted invitations to children’s universities, schools and events for young people and students. Since 2015, Boetius has also been the head of the steering committee of “Science in Dialogue”, an initiative of the major German research organisations aiming to bring science and the humanities to the general public. In this capacity she was particularly involved in “Science Year 2016/17 – Seas and Oceans”.
2017: Dr. Stefan Kröpelin
Geologist and climate researcher Dr. Stefan Kröpelin is the winner of this year's Communicator Award, conferred by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Stifterverband (Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany). The researcher from the University of Cologne will be presented with the €50,000 prize for his long-standing commitment to sharing his research on the Sahara.
Stefan Kröpelin started his scientific career in Berlin, where he obtained his doctorate in geosciences. Since his transfer to the Institute for Prehistory and Protohistory at the University of Cologne in 1995, he has concentrated on the study of the eastern Sahara and its climatic history. With over 60 expeditions to the Sahara, he is considered a recognised expert on this region. As part of the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Centre "Our Way to Europe", Kröpelin is currently researching the route that Homo sapiens took from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe over 100,000 years ago, and the climatic conditions that had to be faced.
Since the beginning of his scientific work, Stefan Kröpelin has made his research findings accessible to a wide audience. He has contributed research findings, exhibits and films to numerous exhibitions on climate protection and nature conservation topics, both in Germany and abroad. Readers of popular magazines such as GEO know him for his reports on expeditions to the desert. He is especially known to the public for a number of television documentaries, in which he not only collaborated, but also frequently provided the idea and concept, often also presenting the programme himself. For example, he developed and led the expedition for the first television documentary in regions of the Sahara where film crews had never set foot before. He can also be found on the radio, online and on children's television, or discussing his work at numerous events in the public sphere.
With this decision, the Communicator Award jury honours Kröpelin's tireless and ongoing commitment to science communication, highlighting in particular the international appeal and impact of his work and dedication. As a kind of "science diplomat", Kröpelin has long been a strong advocate for the regions where he has conducted research, and through his tenacity has garnered much success in the area of nature conservation. The recognition of various regions as UNESCO world heritage sites was largely creditable to his initiative and contributed not only to the strengthening of the cultural and historical self-esteem of the regions, but also to the preservation of unique regions which are key to scientific research.
2016: Prof. Dr. Andreas Zick
Social psychologist and conflict researcher Professor Dr. Andreas Zick is the winner of this year's Communicator Award, conferred by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany. The 54-year-old researcher from the University of Bielefeld will receive the award, valued at 50,000 euros, for his achievements in communicating his research findings on the causes, forms and consequences of conflicts, discrimination and violence within a society to the media and wider public.
The Communicator Award – Science Award of the Donors' Association has been awarded every year since 2000 and is the most important prize for science communication awarded in Germany. It is presented to scientists and scholars who communicate their research and that of their field in a particularly diverse, original and lasting way to the media and the general public. Through this award, the DFG and the Donors' Association aim to promote the increasingly important dialogue between the scientific community and the public while promoting science communication within the research community itself. The jury, composed of science journalists and communication and PR experts and chaired by DFG Vice President Professor Dr. Frank Allgöwer, chose Zick from 36 applications and nominations in a multi-stage selection process.
Zick obtained his doctorate in Marburg and spent research periods in Wuppertal, Bielefeld, Dresden and Jena before completing his habilitation in Halle-Wittenberg. He has been a professor for socialisation and conflict research at the University of Bielefeld since 2008. Here he co-led the DFG Research Training Group entitled Group-Focused Enmity. He currently contributes to the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology, which is funded through the Excellence Initiative. Zick has been the Director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence at the University of Bielefeld since 2013.
Many of Zick’s research topics are highly relevant and have been the focus of social and political debate over the last few months, e.g. the discrimination of and violence towards ethnic or religious minorities or radical beliefs and violence committed by young people and football fans. Because of this extensive knowledge, Zick himself is often featured in the media, for example in the context of the refugee debate, the Pegida demonstrations or the violent attacks on New Year’s Eve in Cologne. He is also a respected contact person among politicians and authorities. The Communicator Award jury recognises this as an excellent example of the communication of scientific expertise.
From the jury’s perspective, the fact that Zick started addressing these issues prior to recent events, and had been doing so over an extended period of time, and that he considered the communication of his research an important part of his work from the outset is even more important and pivotal to the award. As early as the 1990s, he was writing about the increasing xenophobia in Germany and the emergence and manifestations of prejudices, racism and right-wing extremism in book publications, newspaper reports and journal articles. At approximately the same time, he was also conveying his research to the wider public and to affected target groups, e.g. by developing cross-cultural and anti-racist training programmes.
Andreas Zick is also known to a wider audience through the “ARD-Themenwoche Toleranz”, specials on tolerance aired by a public-service broadcaster in Germany. He collaborated on over 30 programmes for the channel in 2014. Beyond media relations and his busy public speaking and events schedule, he also lends his expertise to a number of committees, commissions and organisations, including the Federal Chancellor’s Experts Dialogue on Germany’s Future, the Council for Migration and the Advisory Committee for the German Forum on Crime Prevention. At the University of Bielefeld, Zick has set up an advisory office for conflicts and violence in football and is involved in the “University without Prejudice” project. He is currently developing a “Science to Action” workshop concept for the Amadeu Antonio Foundation with which early career researchers and practitioners will jointly formulate ideas for better prevention of and intervention in discrimination, violence and criminality.
Zick considers the communication of his research work, and the work itself, to be a campaign for democracy, which cannot be taken for granted. In making this selection, the Communicator Award jury shows its great appreciation for his drive to maintain a civil society, for which Zick has been subjected to personal hostility and threats.
2015: Prof. Dr. Boris Zernikow
Paediatric and palliative medicine researcher Boris Zernikow is the winner of this year's Communicator Award, conferred by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany. The researcher from Witten/Herdecke University will receive the prize of 50,000 euros for his dedicated and varied public outreach work on pain, pain therapy and palliative care in children and adolescents. The award will be presented on 30 June at the DFG's Annual Meeting in Bochum.
The “Communicator Award – Science Award of the Donors' Association” has been awarded every year since 2000 and is the most important prize for science communication in Germany. It is presented to scientists and scholars who communicate their research and that of their field in a particularly varied, original and lasting way to the media and the general public. Through this award, the DFG and the Donors' Association aim to promote the increasingly important dialogue between the scientific community and the public while promoting science communication within the research community itself. The prizewinners are selected by a jury comprised of science journalists and experts from the fields of public relations and communications. The jury is chaired by DFG Vice President Professor Dr. Frank Allgöwer. A total of 46 researchers working in a broad range of scientific disciplines applied or were nominated for this year's Communicator Award, with Zernikow winning after a multi-stage selection process.
In the view of the jury, Boris Zernikow closely and effectively links science and communication in a sensitive area that is of enormous importance both to medicine and to society as a whole. Through his research and clinical work and also his outreach efforts to present this work to a wider audience, the medical scientist is a pioneer of appropriate pain therapy and palliative care for children and adolescents in Germany.
Born in 1964, Zernikow studied medicine in Münster and at Harvard Medical School. He became a consultant in paediatrics, specialising in paediatric oncology. After a period spent in clinical practice he established the Vodafone Foundation Institute for Paediatric Pain Therapy and Palliative Medicine, of which he is the medical director, at Vestische Kinder- und Jugendklinik Datteln, a paediatric clinic of the private Witten/Herdecke University from which the German Paediatric Pain Centre and Kinderpalliativzentrum Datteln (Paediatric Palliative Centre Datteln) have developed. In 2008 Zernikow was appointed by Witten/Herdecke University to the first chair for paediatric pain therapy and palliative care in Europe. The core research areas of this chair range from multidimensional diagnosis and the neurological basis of chronic pain in children to therapy studies on multimodal treatment and the provision of end-of-life care for children with cancer.
For Zernikow, helping people to understand this clinical research and its results – and not least the need for special treatment and care for children with chronic and life-limiting illnesses – has always been a core aspect of his work. As well as reaching out to the general public and the media, he communicates with specific groups such as healthy and sick children and their families and representatives of healthcare policy and the healthcare system. With all these groups he aims to be an “ambassador” for the needs of seriously and terminally ill children and adolescents, of whom there are approximately 400,000 in Germany.
In addition to this dedicated outreach work, the prize jury was impressed by the variety and creativity of Zernikow's communication activities, which include an animated film called "Understanding Pain – And Coping With It", easy-to-understand guides ("Giving Pain the Red Card") and the websites of the German Paediatric Pain Centre and Kinderpalliativzentrum Datteln. Through communication like this, as well as articles and interviews in the media, in the jury's view Zernikow has brought the issues of pain, pain therapy and palliative care for children and adolescents in Germany into the public eye for the first time.
2014: Prof. Dr. Onur Güntürkün
Biopsychologist Onur Güntürkün is the winner of this year's Communicator Award, conferred by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany. Professor Güntürkün, from the University of Bochum, was chosen for his exemplary approaches to communicating his research on the biological foundations for animal and human behaviour to the general public and the media.
The “Communicator Award – Science Award of the Donors' Association” is endowed with 50,000 euros and is the most important prize for science communication awarded in Germany. Established in 2000, the award is bestowed on researchers who have communicated their own scientific findings and those of their peers to a wide general audience. Through this award, the DFG and the Donors' Association aim to promote the increasingly important dialogue between the scientific community and the public while promoting science communication within the research community itself.
The prizewinners are selected by a jury comprised of science journalists and experts from the fields of public relations and communications. The jury is chaired by a Vice President of the DFG. A total of 52 researchers working in a broad range of scientific disciplines applied or were nominated for this year's Communicator Award. After a multi-stage selection process, four of these candidates were shortlisted, with Onur Güntürkün chosen as the winner.
The jury was impressed by the way in which Güntürkün combined high academic quality with a dedication to communication with the public and the media. Born in Izmir in 1958, Güntürkün obtained his degree and doctorate in psychology in Bochum. He has held research posts in Paris and San Diego. He habilitated in Konstanz and was appointed Professor of Biopsychology at Bochum in 1997. His research combines questions, concepts and findings in psychology, biology and neuroanatomy and has made him one of the pioneers of biologically based psychology. One of his main areas of interest is the evolution of thought. Güntürkün has radically modified the established view that the evolution of thought followed a gradual evolutionary path, primarily linked to the development of the neocortex. For example, he has demonstrated that birds with much smaller brains and no neocortex can perform the same cognitive tasks as mammals.
Through his work on the brain and gender, he has counterbalanced traditional views of gender differences. According to Güntürkün, although there are cognitive and neuroanatomical differences between the sexes, they are much less significant than generally believed – in other words, the ways in which men and women think are more alike than is often assumed. However, the biological differences can have a psychological effect resulting in lifelong cognitive differences, as he demonstrated with the example of driving and parking a car. For this and other research Güntürkün has won several national and international awards, most notably the 2013 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize presented by the DFG.
He has been communicating his work to the media and the general public for over 15 years. In addition to writing newspaper and magazine articles and broadcasting on radio and television, the jury for the Communicator Award was particularly impressed by the lively and engaging talks he gives to the general public. He takes innovative approaches to science communication through his efforts to optimise the organisation of teaching in schools by contributing important insights from biopsychology. The jury was of the opinion that the school laboratory set up at his own university, largely through his efforts, was especially successful as a science communication initiative, having been visited by over 80,000 school pupils since 2004.
Güntürkün was motivated by a belief that the freedom of research brings with it an obligation to make new knowledge available to the general public in a readily understandable form, which, in the jury's view, corresponds with the aims of the Communicator Award. The jury members were impressed by the way that his personality and engaging style stimulates enthusiasm about science.
2013: Prof. Dr. Metin Tolan
Experimental physicist Metin Tolan is the winner of this year's Communicator Award, conferred by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany. The TU Dortmund University scientist was selected in recognition of his diverse and innovative approaches to communicating physics and research findings to the public and the media.
The “Communicator Award – Science Award of the Donors' Association” is endowed with 50,000 euros and is the most important prize for science communication awarded in Germany. Established in 2000, the award is bestowed on researchers who have communicated their own scientific findings and their research field to a wide general audience. By recognising outstanding science communicators, the DFG and the Donors' Association aim to promote the increasingly important dialogue between the scientific community and the public while promoting science communication within the research community itself.
The prizewinners are selected by a jury composed of science journalists and experts from the fields of public relations and communications. The jury is chaired by a Vice President of the DFG. A total of 49 researchers working in a broad range of scientific disciplines applied or were nominated for this year's Communicator Award, more than twice the figure for last year. Eleven of these candidates were shortlisted, four of whom were selected for final consideration, with Metin Tolan chosen as the ultimate winner.
The 48-year-old experimental physicist impressed the jury with his original and varied approaches to science communication, such as his series of Saturday morning lectures entitled “Zwischen Brötchen und Borussia – Modern Physik für alle”, which has regularly attracted several hundred visitors since 2003, his blog on the physics of football, and his successful books Geschüttelt, nicht gerührt – James Bond und die Physik (Shaken, Not Stirred – James Bond and Physics) (with Joachim Stolze) and Die Titanic – Mit Physik in den Untergang (The Titanic – The Physics of Sinking). Tolan makes regular appearances on radio and television as a guest and presenter, and has given over 500 public talks explaining familiar phenomena and puzzles from history, everyday life and film from the viewpoint of a physicist. The jury was particularly impressed by his work with schools; Tolan regularly teaches physics classes at a local school in Dortmund where most of the pupils have a family background outside Germany.
In his various communication endeavours, Tolan frequently draws on his own research work. For example, to explain the sinking of the Titanic he refers to his own research on the properties of steel, or for a scene from a James Bond film where the hero apparently sees through walls, he uses his work on the use of X-rays in materials research.
Metin Tolan was appointed Professor and Chair of Experimental Physics at TU Dortmund University in 2001. Prior to this he held teaching and research posts at the University of Kiel, where he obtained his degree, doctorate and habilitation. His main areas of interest are the use of X-rays to study the interface behaviour of polymers, biomaterials, liquids and other “soft materials” and the use of synchrotron radiation in materials research, for instance at the Dortmund Synchrotron Radiation Centre, which is home to the Delta electron storage ring and of which he is the director. In 2008 he won the TU Dortmund University research prize and in 2010 he was named Professor of the Year for natural sciences and medicine by Unicum Beruf magazine. In 2008 Tolan was appointed a prorector for his university, first for research and then in 2011 for teaching.
He has received DFG funding for several individual projects and as a member of a Research Unit. In 2012 Tolan joined the DFG review board for Experimental Physics of Condensed Matter, becoming one of the researchers chosen by his peers to play an important role in the review and decision-making process of Germany's central self-governing research funding organisation.
2012: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Tautz
Leading bee scientist Jürgen Tautz is the winner of this year's Communicator Award, conferred by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany. Tautz, a behavioural biologist and head of the research group for apiology at the Biocenter of the University of Würzburg, was selected in recognition of his outstanding, sustained, and innovative efforts to raise the public profile of his work and the scientific study of bees.
The "Communicator Award – Science Award of the Donors' Association" is endowed with 50,000 euros and is the most important prize for science communication awarded in Germany. Established in 2000 by the DFG and the Donors' Association, the award is bestowed on researchers who have communicated their scientific findings to the public with exceptional success and rendered outstanding services to the increasingly important dialogue between the scientific community and the public sphere.
The prizewinners are selected by a jury comprised of science journalists and experts from the fields of public relations and communications. The jury is chaired by a Vice President of the DFG. This year the jury was again asked to choose from a host of exceptionally talented and communicative candidates. A total of 20 researchers working in a broad range of scientific disciplines applied or were nominated for this year's Communicator Award. Five of these candidates were short-listed, with Jürgen Tautz chosen as the ultimate winner.
According to the jury, the 62-year-old scientist has a remarkable talent for communicating both his own work and his research field to the public. After completing his doctorate in zoology at the University of Constance, Jürgen Tautz held postdoctoral positions at the University of Canberra in Australia and then later at Stanford University in the USA. He took up a position as Senior Research Fellow at the University of Constance in 1983, where he completed his habilitation thesis before he was appointed to the Chair of Behavioural Biology in 1988. Jürgen Tautz has taught and researched at the University of Würzburg Biocenter since 1990.
Tautz has successfully reached out to a wide range of audiences through a plethora of lectures, books, and articles in newspapers and journals, as well as an audiobook on bees and in public tours of the bee centre which he directs. His book "The Buzz About Bees" has been translated into 17 languages. The jury showcased one particularly original project, an online educational platform for teachers, pupils and students – "HOney Bee Online Studies" (HOBOS) – which Tautz developed in 2009. Featuring live real-time images from deep within beehives and interactive teaching materials for all school levels, HOBOS makes interdisciplinary research findings on honey bees accessible to diverse audiences around the globe and helps to nurture inquiring minds.
According to the jury, the researcher's wide-ranging and highly original communication activities have generated significant interest both in his own specific area of studies and in scientific practice and research as a whole. Tautz raised public awareness of more general issues such as biodiversity and sustainability through the discussion of his particular research object.
2011: Prof. Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer
This year's Communicator Award of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany goes to the director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Professor Gerd Gigerenzer. The psychologist and risk researcher who is also the director of the Harding Center for Risk Literacy in Berlin, which was newly established in 2008, has been honoured for his skills in communicating key issues such as the art of decision making and dealing with risks and uncertainties to the public.
With the 63-year-old risk researcher, the Communicator Award goes to a researcher who, according to the jury, knows how to combine high scientific quality with effective public presentation. After his doctorate and habilitation, Gerd Gigerenzer worked in the psychology department at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, between 1984 and 1990 as a professor of psychology at the University of Constance. After years working at the universities of Salzburg and Chicago, Gigerenzer joined the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research in Munich as the director in 1995 before becoming the director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in 1997. In 2008 he also became director of the newly established Harding Center for Risk Literacy in Berlin.
The issues Gerd Gigerenzer deals with are of great social importance. Through the use of different formats such as lectures, panels, articles in newspapers and journals and book publications, the new winner of the Communicator Award reaches all relevant target groups. His multiple award-winning non-fiction books such as "Reckoning with Risk: Learning to Live with Uncertainty" and "Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious" have been translated into 18 languages.
The jury particularly praised that Gigerenzer does not confine himself to mere information transfer, but pro-actively trains practitioners such as judges, doctors and managers in Germany and abroad in risk communication and decision making.
2011: Prof. Dr. Hanns Hatt
This year’s Communicator Award, which is presented by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and the Donors’ Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany (Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft) goes to cell physiologist and smell researcher Hanns Hatt. The award recognises the professor at Bochum’s Ruhr University for his many years of outstanding communication of his research into both the human and animal senses of smell.
The Communicator Award (“Wissenschaftspreis des Stifterverbandes”) includes prize money of 50,000 euros and is considered Germany’s most prestigious award for the communication of scientific findings to the media and public. Since 2000, the DFG and the Stifterverband have been honouring researchers with this prize, which recognises those who make their research accessible to a wide audience in diverse, original and creative ways and who have earned recognition for their work in improving the increasingly essential dialogue between science and the public.
The prizewinners are selected by a jury which is composed of scientific journalists, communications and PR specialists and headed by a DFG Vice President. Once again, this year’s jury had to choose from a variety of high-quality, professional applications. In total, 47 researchers from all scientific fields applied or were nominated for the prize. Fourteen candidates were short-listed, with Hanns Hatt eventually prevailing.
In the opinion of the jury, the 62-year-old professor for cell physiology is a worthy recipient of the Communicator Award, as he combines high-calibre scientific research with effective public presentation. Hanns Hatt holds doctorates in zoology and medicine and obtained his physiology qualifications at the Medical Faculty of the Technische Universität München. Hatt has held the chair for Cell Physiology at the Ruhr University Bochum since 1992 and became President of the North-Rhine-Westphalia Academy of Sciences and Humanities in 2010.
Hanns Hatt considers himself the “Ambassador of Smell”. Over the past few decades, he has used a variety of different methods to bring the meaning and effects of scent to a wide audience, including, for example, the multi-part ZDF programme entitled “Vom Reiz der Sinne“ ["On the Stimulation/Charm of the Senses"], a range of books and audio books, and hundreds of radio and television presentations and appearances. In 2003, the Bochum researcher achieved his greatest scientific and public success when he discovered that human sperm also possess smell receptors for lily of the valley. His book on the subject, “Das Maiglöckchen-Phänomen" [“The Lily of the Valley Phenomenon“], became an international bestseller. The latest recipient of the Communicator Award has also received numerous accolades from his students for his teaching practices.
In its rationale, the jury emphasised the scope and sustainability of Hanns Hatt’s achievements in the field of communications, as well as his powers of innovation.