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Press Release No. 11 | 20 April 2020
DFG to Present 2020 Communicator Award to Robert Arlinghaus – Special One-Time Prize to Christian Drosten

Berlin-based fisheries scientist honoured for wide-ranging public engagement activities / Special recognition for outstanding communication amid the coronavirus pandemic for Charité virologist

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.

The DFG and Stifterverband are also awarding a one-time prize for outstanding science communication during the Covid-19 pandemic. This award, also carrying prize money of €50,000, will be bestowed separately from the Communicator Award procedure by the executive committees of the DFG and Stifterverband. The special prize recognises virologist Professor Dr. Christian Drosten from the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

Communicator Award 2020

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).

The Communicator Award – Science Award of the Stifterverband has been awarded every year since 2000 and is Germany’s most important prize for science communication. This year, in the 20th anniversary year of the award, the DFG and Stifterverband refined the emphasis in recognising outstanding science communication. Researchers who are particularly creative in their science communication, taking new, courageous paths and addressing their target groups in suitable and effective ways, now take centre stage. They must also recognise the societal dimension of their research and contribute their knowledge to public debate, opinion-forming and decision-making processes. The prize money supports the recipient's public engagement activities and enables them to implement new projects.

This year, the jury of science journalists as well as communication and PR experts chaired by DFG Vice President Professor Dr. Julika Griem selected the prizewinner from 62 applications and nominations in a multi-stage selection process.

Special one-time prize

In a process separate from the Communicator Award, this year the DFG and Stifterverband are honouring Professor Dr. Christian Drosten from Charité Berlin for "exceptional contributions to science and society in the face of a dramatic developing pandemic". The organisations noted that more than any other scientist, he represents the special role of research during the Covid-19 pandemic. Drosten has succeeded in a very short space of time in making research in the public’s perception the most reliable source of orientation for managing the crisis. Through a clear, transparent, fact-based approach, he explains what scientists know, how they work and what uncertainties exist.

But he also corrects scientifically unproven ideas, makes clear the limits of his own knowledge, and continually points out that science involves continuously exploring these limits and revising what we thought we knew. Through this approach, Drosten has achieved acceptance and trust among a large number of people and among politicians, for whom he is currently one of the most important advisers. The DFG and Stifterverband described his communication as demonstrating in an exemplary way the contribution science can make to politics and society through good communication even in an acute crisis scenario.

Beginning in 2000, Christian Drosten held a variety of roles at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg. In 2007 he was appointed professor and head of the Institute of Virology in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Bonn, before becoming director of the Institute of Virology at Charité Berlin in 2017. Since 2013, Drosten has been the spokesperson for the soon-to-be-concluded DFG Priority Programme "Ecology and Species Barriers in Emerging Viral Diseases" (PP 1596) as well as an applicant in a variety of other DFG-funded research projects. In 2005 he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit.

It is currently intended that the 2020 Communicator Award and the special prize will be presented at the DFG's annual meeting on 30 June 2020 in Berlin, by DFG President Professor Dr. Katja Becker and Stifterverband President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Barner, if the coronavirus situation permits.

Further Information

Information on the Communicator Award:

Information on the special award:

Media Contacts:

Media contact for the Communicator Award winner:

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