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History and milestones

From nationwide communication to a thinktank for science communication

Wissenschaft im Dialog was founded in 1999, the year that Germany’s leading scientific organisations signed a memorandum committing themselves to increasing their dialogue with the public. Acting on the initiative of Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, they set up Wissenschaft im Dialog gGmbH for this purpose. WiD thus took on the job of increasing the public’s understanding of sciences and humanities (PUSH). 

While WiD initially focussed on national communication, later on interest began to shift to formats that would encourage participation. Today, Wissenschaft im Dialog is Germany’s leading organisation in the field of science communication. Its main activities are running dialogue and participation events, developing new formats, engaging in national communication, and creating a network of those involved in science communication.

A timeline charting the development of Wissenschaft im Dialog

2014

Science goes school: Junior Science Cafes

Together with the Deutsche Telekom Stiftung WiD started the project "Junior Science Café". These Cafés are cool events, attractive for students, characterized by self-initiative, and created by young people according to their own wishes and ideas. Thus, students get in touch with scientific topics and develop an understanding of using presentation tools and technologies in a digital age. 

Citizen science online platform: Bürger schaffen Wissen 

The online platform Bürger schaffen Wissen – Citizens Create Knowledge informs about citizen science, different projects and the opportunities to participate. The platform also connects current projects to each other and seeks to increase public awareness of Citizen science. Bürger schaffen Wissen is a joint project of Wissenschaft im Dialog and the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin. The platform is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research; additional funding is provided by the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft.

On-site and online: Wissenschaft kontrovers

Wissenschaft kontrovers encourages dialogue between citizens and scientists, discussing controversial issues under the overall topic of the Science Year’s theme. It aims to inform the public and reflects the public’s hopes and fears regarding science. Wissenschaft kontrovers is organized by Wissenschaft im Dialog in cooperation with regional partners and is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Still growing: Leopoldina and WiD agree on a new partnership

The German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and Wissenschaft im Dialog plan to work more closely together in future. The new partnership will focus heavily on engaging the public in conversations on scientific topics.

2013

WiD hits YouTube: Fast Forward Science

WiD and the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft launch the Fast Forward Science competition. They call for submissions of high-quality online videos on a scientific topic. The idea behind the competition is to raise the profile and increase the use of online videos as well-founded, entertaining modes of mass communication for scientific content. 

Fast Forward Science 2013: winners and jurors
Fast Forward Science 2013: winners and jurors. Credits: Christof Rieken/WiD

Expanding across Europe: student parliaments held in 16 countries

The student parliaments reach the European level in 2013. Some 1,500 teenagers from 16 countries in Europe take up the WiD invitation to come together and discuss the future of cities. Delegates from every country travel to the closing parliament at the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) in Copenhagen in June 2014. During the event, the European student parliaments receive the Lundbeck Foundation ESOF2014 Communication Prize.

Food for thought on the future of science communication

For the further development of science communication, WiD works with the Bundesverband Hochschulkommunikation to initiate the Siggener Kreis. The group of selected science communicators, scientists and journalists come together at Gut Siggen to discuss the future of science communication. The Siggener Denkanstoß, a document published after the conference, reviews the state of science communication in Germany and sets out a series of demands for its future development. 

New arrival: The Klaus Tschira Stiftung becomes a WiD associate

WiD welcomes the Klaus Tschira Stiftung as a new associate on 1 January 2013. The not-for-profit organisation founded by physicist Klaus Tschira has already lent its support to many WiD projects – most recently to the Jugend präsentiert ("Students present science") scheme. 

2012

From information to participation: WiD shifts its focus

Encouraging dialogue on controversial scientific topics and developing new formats for science communication are to become the future focus of Wissenschaft im Dialog’s work. This decision, reached by the WiD associates, is a response to societal changes in recent years and signals a shift in focus for the company. 

Fishbowl discussions: Citizens get into conversations with scientists at eyelevel. Photo: Johanna Kuhnert/WiD
Fishbowl discussions: Citizens get into conversations with scientists at eyelevel. Credits: Johanna Kuhnert/WiD

Crowdfunding for science: Sciencestarter goes live

Researchers with great ideas but no money get a helping hand from Wissenschaft im Dialog when it launches sciencestarter.de, the first German-language crowdfunding platform for science. The move signals new possibilities for WiD and science communication. Scientists use the site to present their projects and attract support from interested members of the public. The audience is free to decide which projects are the most convincing and can choose to become science funders themselves.  

WiD head office welcomes new MD

Markus Weißkopf is appointed the new managing director of Wissenschaft im Dialog. Weißkopf comes to WiD from the Haus der Wissenschaft (“House of Science”) in Braunschweig, where he spent four years from 2007 to 2011 building up the facility, eventually became its managing director. Under his leadership, the Haus der Wissenschaft made a name for itself through, among other things, dialogue events that created a platform for lively debate on topics from science and research.  

2011

Sharing the joy of maths: Jugend präsentiert supports students and their teachers

WiD and the Klaus Tschira Stiftung launch the Jugend präsentiert ("Students present science"), which focuses on fun with maths and science. The competition helps young people learn how to give engaging presentations of complex scientific topics, while their teachers receive teaching materials and further training on the topic. The idea is to equip students with the skills they need to understand complex issues and present them in an entertaining way, as well as to boost their self-confidence and show them that science can be fun.

Have fun with natural science? Jugend präsentiert’s competitors show how that works. Photo: Jugend präsentiert
Have fun with natural science? Jugend präsentiert’s competitors show how that works. Credits: Jugend präsentiert

New arrival: Germany’s National Academy of Science and Engineering becomes a WiD associate

acatech – the National Academy of Science and Engineering becomes an associate of Wissenschaft im Dialog on 1 January 2011. 

2009

WiD does science: The Debating Science project researches formats for public participation

WiD and the University of Stuttgart conduct a research project that looks at ways of intensifying the dialogue between science and the general public. The project is a response to the changing goals of science communication: alongside information, the field is now paying increasing attention to discussion and participation. Researchers observe the student parliaments, student forums, junior science cafés, citizens’ conferences, consensus conferences and citizens’ exhibitions that WiD organises throughout Germany, as well as online forums and blogs. 

Citizens make their recommendation to science and politics: This is the conference for future use of energy.
Citizens make their recommendation to science and politics: This is the conference for future use of energy. Credits: Christof Rieken/WiD

Outlook study: interim results and prospects for the next decade

To mark its ten-year anniversary, Wissenschaft im Dialog looks back over the decade and, in collaboration with the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, publishes an outlook study entitled Science in the Public Sphere: Interim Results and Prospects for the Next Decade.  The Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany approves the study. The paper’s main message is that the dialogue between science and society should be expanded further. 

2008

WiD forms networks: first Forum Wissenschaftskommunikation attracts 200 participants

From science centres to science festivals and student labs: science communication has well and truly arrived in Germany. Wissenschaft im Dialog launches the Forum Wissenschaftskommunikation (Science Communication Forum) as a way of bringing together everyone working in the field. Communicators, journalists, lecturers and school teachers all meet in Bremerhaven in September to share experiences and discuss the latest strategies and trends. Since then, the Forum Wissenschaftskommunikation has grown to become a key gathering for the scientific community and welcomes more participants every year.

Networking, discussing, exchanging experience: The Forum Wissenschaftskommunikation brings together people who work in science communication and science marketing.
Networking, discussing, exchanging experience: The Forum Wissenschaftskommunikation brings together people who work in science communication and science marketing. Credits: Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum Bremerhaven

Competing for the best ideas: Interactive Science

WiD organises its first science communication competition and calls it Interactive Science. It invites teams of young scientists and PR experts to come up with creative ideas for an interactive exhibit explaining scientific backgrounds and relationships to the public in an engaging way. The winner is picked by the participants of the 2008 Summer of Science. 

2006

WiD hosts the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF)

WiD organises the EuroScience Open Forum in Munich in 2006. The conference brings together researchers from every field, as well as science policymakers and media representatives. Its aim is to increase the international visibility of science in Europe. The WiD also holds the 2006 Wissenschaftssommer ("Science of Summer") in Munich to coincide with ESOF. 

ESOF 2006 and the Wissenschaftssommer in Munich are hosted by WiD at the same time.
ESOF 2006 and the Wissenschaftssommer in Munich are hosted by WiD at the same time. Credits: U. Dahl/WiD

New chair for WiD steering committee

Prof. Dr Gerold Wefer, a marine geologist, becomes the new chair of the steering committee at WiD. Dr Wefer, who received the 2001 Communicator Prize in recognition of his services to science communication, was a local partner for the Wissenschaftssommer (Summer of Science) in Bremen in 2002 and was instrumental to the success of the event. As the initiator of Bremen’s Geoschiff, he was also one of the founding fathers of the MS Wissenschaft. 

2002

Herbert Münder is appointed managing director of WiD

Physicist Dr Herbert Münder, is appointed managing director of Wissenschaft im Dialog. He comes to WiD from the Helmholtz Association. Dr Münder works at the national and international level to promote the idea that science and research should be made accessible to the general public. He spends nearly a decade as the head of WiD and is heavily involved in expanding the initiative to make it a centre of excellence for science communication in Germany.

Science takes a dip: the MS Wissenschaft

What is the best way to present an exhibition on marine research? Put it on a ship and send it travelling around the country. The idea that came out of the University of Bremen, proved to be a big hit: over 110,000 people visited the exhibition aboard the Geoschiff. WiD adopted the idea of a floating science centre and has been presenting an exhibition ship every year since 2002. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research has been commissioning the projects since 2012. 

2001

Learn and discuss: student parliament launched in Berlin

WiD has taken an event format usually reserved for politics and adapted it to science. Its student parliaments bring school pupils together in state parliament buildings and town halls to discuss socially relevant issues related to science. The pupils work in groups, question experts and hold a parliamentary discussion, after which they finalise their proposals and demands and hand them over to representatives of science or government. 

2000

Communication for the nation: the first Wissenschaftssommer

Wissenschaft im Dialog organises the first Wissenschaftssommer ("Summer of Science") in Bonn. The scientific community sets up in public spaces to talk about its work. This is the biggest science festival Germany has ever seen and it signals the start of WiD’s nationwide communication activities. The event also inspires others to do the same and soon science festivals become a regular occurrence in cities and regions throughout Germany. 

Experiencing research while the city sleeps: the Long Night of the Sciences

During its Wissenschaftssommer ("Summer of Science") in Bonn, WiD also helps to organise the first Long Night of the Sciences. It proves to be an extremely successful format and Long Nights of the Sciences are now held in numerous cities throughout the country. With a combination of information, discussions and entertainment until long after sunset, these unusual events are a big hit with the public.

Out of the ivory tower and onto the streets: Germany’s first Year of Science 

Wissenschaft im Dialog and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research have been holding Year of Science events since 2000. They are designed to promote social dialogue on research and foster enthusiasm about science. 

1999

PUSHing dialogue with the public

Germany’s leading scientific organisations sign the PUSH memorandum, which commits them to promoting dialogue between science and civil society. Wissenschaft im Dialog is founded on the basis of this memorandum. The first chair of WiD’s steering committee is Prof. Dr Joachim Treusch, a physicist who at the time is chairing the board of directors at Forschungszentrum Jülich (Jülich Research Centre). He was instrumental in drawing up the PUSH memorandum and in founding Wissenschaft im Dialog.

Representatives of the leading German science organizations add their names to the PUSH-Memorandum. Photo: David Ausserhofer
Representatives of the leading German science organisations add their names to the PUSH-Memorandum. Credits: David Ausserhofer