Science and Art in Europe

Unique chances and responsibilities for scientists in the European Union during a period of historical dimension - Article written by Klaus Hahlbrock in 2005 for the 2th german-polish colloquium "Science and Art in Europe" held in Berlin, Dresden and Jena

July 01, 2005

Science and art are the two forms of human cultural activity that have no inherent borders and hence are truly international by their very nature. If not impaired by political, ideological or religious constraints, scientists and artists are not subject to any mental or physical limitations. Their leading figures in particular have always greatly influenced the respective fields by practicing and promoting an open, world-wide exchange of ideas, stimulating competition and collaborating on joint projects. This highly valued privilege puts scientists and artists in the unique position to act as pacemakers in international cooperation and mutual understanding.

To explore a new type of contribution to this pacemaker role, the Max Planck Society, together with some of its Polish and German partner institutions, organized in November 2002 a first series of ’Science and Art in Europe’ events in Warsaw, Krakow and Poznan. In each of the three cities, a combination of bilateral scientific symposia, a publicly announced art exhibition, a concert and a general reception proved overwhelmingly successful in attracting many culturally, socially and politically interested participants from both sides – far beyond the usual exclusiveness of specialized scientific meetings.

Stimulated by this success, and convinced of the timeliness to broaden the scope, the Max Planck Society now invites colleagues and guests from all of its eastern EU neighbour countries to join us in extending and tightening the network of scientific collaborations throughout the whole of Europe. Our conviction of the timeliness of such an expanded, second series of ’Science and Art in Europe’ events, this time to be held in Berlin, Dresden and Jena, is based on two lines of experience. One is the complementary strength of scientific expertise in various fields of research pursued in both our own laboratories and those of our eastern neighbours – an already tapped source of many fruitful bi- or multilateral collaborations with great potential for further extension.

The second, increasingly strong-felt experience of all European countries is the harsh global competition for the best young scientists, where Europe cannot afford to be a loser. It is in our common interest that our young talents not only receive the best possible education, including international, pre- or postdoctoral experience in an outstanding scientific environment. They must also be offered attractive conditions for subsequently starting an independent career in their home country to be in a sufficiently strong position to contribute to the establishment of an internationally competitive, Pan-European scientific network.

Thus, there is much reason to take the opportunity and celebrate the first anniversary of the historical expansion of the EU beyond the once impeding, post-war borderline between ‘East’ and ‘West’ in a new spirit of mutually beneficial and long-lasting, reliable partnership. The combination of science and art in this endeavour is meant to simultaneously broaden the scope of personal and overall social and cultural interactions. In the long term, Europe will grow together only if scientific cooperation, free mobility and trade, etc., are based on mutual respect for the diversity of cultural values. This in turn requires solid, unbiased knowledge of each other. There is no better way to this common goal than personal interactions.

The Max Planck Society, as one of the major basic research organizations, is strongly determined to make every possible contribution to the intensification of scientific collaborations throughout Europe, presently with a particular focus on our eastern neighbours. We are delighted to perceive numerous signals indicating the same determination on their side. Together in fruitful and stable partnership, we will no doubt be able to contribute greatly to the prospering of both our individual countries and Europe as a whole.


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