Schütte: In my mind, this is one of the pivotal questions: How do we set up our science system in such a way that it will help us cope with crises in the future? The next virus is bound to come, but at the same time we mustn’t lose sight of other societal risks such as cyber security or terrorist threats. We need to take into account the multitude of different challenges and make science better able to respond in the short term and with agility via structures that are sustainable in the long term.
Schöning: There will certainly be further global crises, triggered by climate change, environmental pollution or social inequality. I also see the growing danger of AI-based surveillance systems. And we can't cope with all these problems – together with others that we can't even imagine yet – with short-term bazookas, where politicians suddenly shoot millions and millions of euros at us, expecting science to spit out immediate results. I come from a gardening family, so I know that ecosystems are at their strongest when they are diverse, and they achieve this diversity only through long-term, dedicated care.
Schütte: The German Science Council (Wissenschaftsrat) recently argued quite correctly that we need to make our science system more resilient (Link to the paper (in German): "Impulse aus der COVID-19-Krise für die Weiterentwicklung des Wissenschaftssystems in Deutschland"). Resilient in the sense that it has a high degree of internal plurality and ensures failsafe performance and rapid scalability through partial redundancies. I see universities as an essential element in achieving this goal of resilience. In this respect, you are absolutely right, Professor Schöning: It needs the thematic bazooka. But it also needs redundancies.