The corona crisis is a great challenge for people all over the world. It is hitting countries hard and the global economy is heading towards recession. Austria is no exception, and its population is faced with the worst year since the beginning of the Second Republic. Great hopes rest on science: researchers are providing knowledge and tools to get this crisis under control and to mitigate future crises.
The really important things become more apparent in a crisis. Science and research are among these. Ultimately, vaccines, drugs and therapies will determine when the corona crisis will be overcome. The fundamental knowledge needed to understand the virus and to come to grips with the social consequences of the pandemic will be generated by publicly funded science and research.
Trust, responsibility and foresight
Researchers from all scientific disciplines contribute to the understanding of the crisis; their well-founded insights help to find ways out of the emergency. This is how science assumes its share of social responsibility in the current situation. The high level of trust among the population, the immense need for knowledge and expertise and the awareness that we will never know what crisis will occur next time illustrate the need for broad-based top-level research. Those who invest more in science and research right now increase their chances of weathering present and future crises better.
Insurance against the unforeseeable
Multi-faceted and interconnected top-level research makes provision for the future of the population. If Austria’s researchers are offered internationally competitive framework conditions, they can continue to be at the vanguard when it comes to providing us with new knowledge and insights, helping us to overcome vast challenges such as global warming and resource scarcity.
Calling on politicians for fully-fledged investments in science
The Austrian Alliance of Science Organisations calls upon the Austrian Federal Government to strengthen independent and open science and research in a sustainable manner, especially during and after these difficult times, in line with the government programme. No-one can predict in detail what the next crisis will be – but the more excellent active researchers there are in Austria, the better we will be able to cope with it and possibly avert it.
Klement Tockner: Without basic research we would be flying blind
Thanks to state-of-the-art methods, researchers quickly identified the trigger of COVID-19, thereby providing the prerequisites for embarking on the development of tests, drugs and vaccines. “This speed would have been inconceivable 20 years ago. With the fundamental knowledge gained from basic research, the economic and social consequences of the pandemic can be better managed,” FWF President Klement Tockner notes with conviction. “The current challenge goes far beyond medicine, which is why it is so important to rely on a broad-based and diverse research landscape,” he adds and continues: “Even in a crisis, scientific quality and ethical standards are top priorities.”
Thomas Henzinger: New knowledge is the safest investment in the future
“Based on our knowledge of the molecular causes and mechanisms of infectious diseases, we deal with epidemics in a very different way than in the Middle Ages or even 100 years ago. Insights from decades of basic research give us the certainty that we will overcome COVID-19, however long it takes. New knowledge was, is and will remain the safest and most promising investment in the future,” says Thomas Henzinger, President of IST Austria.
Antonio Loprieno: Underlying conditions are crucial
“It's the framework conditions that count − no more and no less,” says Antonio Loprieno, Chair of the Austrian Science Board. Even in economically difficult times we must not abandon secure funding, modern infrastructure and an adept coordination of competitive and cooperative measures. Science and research are a central element in making our society more resilient and paving the way for economic reconstruction. Loprieno concludes: “That is why now is the perfect time to invest in the quality of Austria as a research location and to support the best minds and the next generation of scientists!”
Helga Nowotny: Great trust in research
“In the vein of an old advertising slogan, we might ask: what is Austria looking forward to when the corona crisis is hopefully over soon? That the virus will not return. This requires science. It is an essential source of knowledge, and in order to ensure that the knowledge is available in sufficient quantity and of the highest quality when we need it, we must now make substantial investments. The public will be grateful to policy-makers for this, because they trust in science,” says Helga Nowotny, researcher in science studies and former president of the European Research Council.
Sabine Seidler: Contributions from all disciplines are vital
“We note that scientific expertise is enjoying unprecedented significance now in the far-reaching decisions of policy-makers and in informing the public. We also realize that overcoming the crisis requires the cooperation of various scientific disciplines,” emphasizes Sabine Seidler, President of uniko (Universities Austria). This entails a high level of responsibility. Science is not infallible, but rather a permanent process, which makes it all the more important to make this scientific discourse transparent. At the moment, everything revolves around the virus; the impact on society in all its facets seems to have receded into the background. Assuming scientific responsibility in the context of Corona means not only “collaboration without academic vanities, but also taking account of the contributions of all disciplines in the scientific discourse. We may have a vaccine in a year's time, but the social and economic effects of the pandemic will occupy researchers for much longer,” notes Seidler.