To the point

The causes and effects of the financial crisis, the situation of school children with immigrant backgrounds in the German education system or the efforts to consolidate the rule of law in a country like Afghanistan – here you’ll find essays by scientists from the Max Planck Society on current socio-political issues.

CRISPR/Cas9 is a new method for targeted genetic changes. Together with other methods, it is part of the so-called genome editing toolbox. At the moment, genome-editing is mostly discussed in the context of medical applications, but its use is perhaps even more promising for plant breeding. Scientists from China, the United States and Germany, among them Detlef Weigel of the Max-Planck-Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, have now proposed a regulatory framework for genome editing in plants that has been published in the journal Nature Genetics. [more]
For weeks the influx of refugees has continued to surge. Via what has become known as the Western Balkans route, thousands of people from different regions, including the war zones in the Middle East, have set out on foot in hopes of reaching Europe. The mass immigration of refugees will fundamentally change Germany. But the question is: how? Steven Vertovec, director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen [more]
Brussels determines the direction in many policy fields, but in European foreign, security and defense policy, it’s the member states that set the tone – not the EU. When it comes to international peace talks or emergency meetings, such as the one held recently over the crisis in Ukraine, it’s the national foreign ministers and not the EU foreign policy chief taking the lead. However, given the challenges for peace and security in Europe, our author holds that this is an outdated model: it’s time for the member states to act in concert. Carolin Moser, Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg [more]
Global warming is changing the world – environmentally, economically and politically. Climate service providers seek to help decision makers respond appropriately to this multifaceted change. Our authors were significantly involved in setting up the Climate Service Center in Hamburg. Here they describe the work these kinds of institutions do and the challenges they face when it comes to communicating their information. Guy Brasseur and Irene Fischer-Bruns, Max Planck Institute for Meterology, Hamburg [more]
The violent conflict in Afghanistan has been escalating since 2005, making the process of reconstruction that much harder. To bring stability to the country, the focus must be on strengthening the state and facilitating the rule of law. Tilmann J. Röder, Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg [more]
For many people, the explanation of the financial crisis is simple: Blind with greed, bankers gambled on low-quality, subprime mortgages in the United States. A look at the numbers, however, indicates that there still is a puzzle. As of October 2008, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated the total losses on these mortgages at some 500 billion dollars. This figure seems both too low and too high. Martin Hellwig, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn [more]
As a country that prides itself on its education system, Germany was left reeling by the PISA study. To think that, in an international comparison of scholastic performance at the dawn of the 21st century, the nation of poets and philosophers failed to secure even an average grade! How has Germany responded to this challenge? Jürgen Baumert and Kai Maaz consider the problems facing educational policy and detect first glimmers of hope. Jürgen Baumert and Kai Maaz, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin [more]
The Excellence Initiative pursued by Germany’s federal government has acted as a catalyst in stimulating and accelerating the process of differentiation in the German university landscape. Critics fear increasing polarization between "elite" and "mass-market" institutions. Marius R. Busemeyer, however, sees opportunities arising from this development - and explains why and under what conditions the process of differentiation may, in the long term, improve the efficiency, as well as the fairness of the German education and employment system. Marius R. Busemeyer, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne [more]
Early in the present decade, political actors at the national and regional levels finally seemed to agree: if government at both levels was to remain effective, Germany‘s system of federalism needed to be reformed. Their objective was to reduce the number of federal laws requiring approval by the upper house of the federal parliament, and to increase the range of issues to be decided autonomously by state parliaments. But by the end of the first reform stage, not much had been achieved. And according to the viewpoint of Fritz W. Scharpf, Emeritus Director at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, nor will the second stage, which involves restructuring the financial affairs of the Bund (the federation) and the Länder (the states), deliver the desired "disentanglement". Here, he analyzes the faulty approach that defeated the objectives of the first stage of reforms. Fritz W. Scharpf, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne [more]
What do political leaders need to know about the world in order to be able to govern it properly? And who can and should tell them? This is where the social sciences come into play. But while explanations of past events seem to be somewhat uninteresting for politics, predictions are difficult to make. Nevertheless, we can’t deny the impact and the usefulness of the social sciences. Wolfgang Streeck, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne [more]
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