Professor Mathias Hornef


Director of the Institute of Medical Microbiology at Uniklinik RWTH Aachen

Prof. Mathias Hornef Copyright: © Peter Winandy

Sticking to the Facts in Social Discourse

In three ways, science helps society cope with a previously unknown event – such as a pandemic with a new infectious agent.

First, it generates models that allow us to take deliberate action, and later it provides the evidence, based on which we can come to rational decisions.

Second, thanks to its own particular culture that facilitates open debate and evidence-based recommendations, science helps steer social discourse to be fact-based. A constructive political and social discussion could not take place otherwise.

Third, it allows us to adapt or develop surveillance, prevention, and therapy methods and thus concrete strategies for solving challenges. From my point of view, recognizable problems, in this case, were the classification of scientists’ recommendations in political decision-making (on both sides), the required collaboration of otherwise competitively acting academic institutions, the necessary acceleration of the application and peer review process in the allocation of funds, infrastructural bottlenecks, and administrative/bureaucratic obstacles. Even though there is probably no need to do so at RWTH, I would like to emphasize the importance of fundamental science (in addition to translational science) in overcoming such a crisis.