Leading scientists from all over the world demonstrate at the Falling Walls Conference for the freedom of science in front of the Brandenburg Gate
8 November 2017. Over 200 leading international researchers gathered at the Brandenburg Gate to demonstrate for the freedom of science and against the use of manipulation and lies. On the first day of Falling Walls, the high calibre international science conference, world renown academics presented next to the American embassy a banner with the statement: “Alternative facts stop here”.
For the first time since the Falling Walls Conference was launched in 2009, the participants have chosen to make a joint political statement. Rising pressure on scientists in Hungary and Turkey, the hostile atmosphere at British universities in the wake of Brexit, and the US president elected last year who suppresses scientific research are some of the reasons why these high-profile representatives of the research world have come together to say “Stop” at a historic location which symbolises both freedom and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The demonstration refers to two sayings popularized by the White House – one famous and one infamous. Former US president Harry S. Truman was known for keeping a sign on his desk in the Oval Office that read “The buck stops here” – in other words, “The responsibility is mine”. This stands in contrast to a phrase coined by the administration of President Donald Trump, defending a false assertion by referring to “alternative facts”, a term which has now become an international buzzword for political lies.
Prominent supporters explained the need for such a demonstration:
„Scientists must speak up whenever the scientific basis in public discussion and political decision-making is deliberately ignored, dismissed, distorted and/or abused. Scientists must take a stand when the freedom of scientific inquiry and of scientific mobility is under threat. Science is best protected by a functioning liberal democracy and must not allow alternative facts to undermine it.“
Helga Nowotny, Founding President, European Research Council (ERC); Board of Trustees, Falling Walls Foundation
“I would like to quote the US astronomer Carl Sagan, ‘Science is not perfect. It can be misused. It is only a tool. But it is by far the best tool we have’. I believe scientific facts will always prevail. We should not spend too much time refuting alternative facts, but improve the communication of the scientific observations and findings.”
Guus Velders, Professor of ‘Air Quality and Climate Interactions’, Utrecht University, Falling Walls Speaker 2017
„As a US and German citizen and scientist, I am deeply troubled by the lack of long-term vision and neglect of international relations by the current US government. At this point, I simply hope that the scientific community is able to limit the damage. Political decisions have to be based on scientific information and analysis, not on beliefs or on alternative facts.“
Wolfgang Ketterle, Nobel Laureate in Physics 2001, Professor of Physics, MIT, Cambridge USA
“On April 22 about 1 million people around the world took to the streets to support science and evidence based policies. The organizational efforts have been carried by people from all walks of life with a substantial contribution from young academics and students. To foster the standing of science in society we have to tap into that potential, by honouring such contributions and by improving the work conditions and career environment of young academics.”
Claudio Paganini, Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, Co-organiser March for Science in Berlin
“Science requires trust in order to fulfil its role in society. A credible commitment to integrity in science, practiced as a part of everyday life in the scientific community, is the basis upon which science should enter into a serious dialogue with society about processes and procedures as well as knowledge production in science.”
Martina Brockmeier, Chair, German Council of Science and Humanities
Images of the demonstration are available at www.falling-walls.com/press/gallery
Each year on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Falling Walls Foundation invites the world’s top scientists and researchers across all disciplines to present their research to the general public and to engage in dialogue with stakeholders across science, politics and society to find solutions to the great challenges of our times.
Today the 2017 Falling Walls programme kicked off with three events at the Brandenburg Gate at Pariser Platz: the Falling Walls Lab, where 100 arising scientists and researchers from 68 international Falling Walls qualifying events will present their ideas in 3 minutes each; Falling Walls Venture, an international competition for science based start-ups; and Falling Walls Circle, in which decision-makers from science and industry engage in dialogue. Tomorrow, at the Falling Walls Conference ‒ the heart of the programme ‒ 16 top researchers will present their scientific breakthroughs to an international audience of 700 guests at Radialsystem.
Further information is available at www.falling-walls.com.
The conference will be streamed live on 8 and 9 November here: www.falling-walls.com/livestream.
The 2017 Falling Walls programme is part of the Berlin Science Week: www.berlinscienceweek.com
Falling Walls Foundation gGmbH
Tel: +49 30 60 988 39 74
Fax: +49 30 60 988 39 79