Susanne Diederich

Head of Communication and Public Relations Office at the German Primate Center in Göttingen

The first question concerning my future career was: Will I become a biologist or a psychologist? Somehow, I ticked biology on the application form and ended up at the university of Göttingen. That this was a good decision became very clear to me after attending a few lectures in psychology. After a one-year Erasmus scholarship at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, and an internship at an NGO at the Wadden Sea coast of Germany, I was very enthusiastic about marine science. Therefore, I conducted my Diploma and PhD thesis at the Wadden Sea Station Sylt and became a marine biologist. My subject was very "sexy", I investigated the spread of the introduced Pacific oyster in the Wadden Sea. This was scientifically thrilling, as it was completely unknown, how the native ecosystem would react to the invading and rapidly spreading species. And it was also very interesting for the general public, since the oyster is a delicious addition to the Wadden Sea. That meant, that I had plenty of opportunities to talk to scientists and students as well as to visitors and the media about my research. How the enthusiastic marine biologist turned into a no less excited science communicator will be part of my talk. After working in the department of communications and media relations of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven and as a spokesperson for the Max Planck Campus Tübingen, I became head of communications at the German Primate Center in Göttingen. During this time, I gained a good overview about the mechanisms and peculiarities of the three major research associations Helmholtz, Max Planck and Leibniz and learned also a lot about science management. I am married with two children (one and three years old), who momentarily have complete control over my leisure time.

Why does it matter? Talking about science

Science is fascinating, exciting and a benefit for mankind. Without science we would be helpless against illnesses, would not be able to feed the ever growing human population and our cultural heritage would be lost. At least this is more or less the quintessence of what you hear and read about the importance of science. Therefore, as a scientist, you are a fortunate person, being able to do these wonderful things for mankind (during your unpaid overtime on a temporary employment, but this is beside the point). Science is certainly not an ideal world, however, in the public it is eminently respectable. I would like to draw your attention to those people, who are unremittingly talking about science: They are either scientists themselves and enthusiastic about their work, or they are science communicators, talking with enthusiasm about the work of scientist. In my presentation, I will talk about what it is like to change sides from scientist to science communicator, what qualifications are helpful and what to expect when working in a public relations department of a research institute. Especially in terms of funding or recruiting highly qualified staff, research organizations are competing against each other and a sophisticated communication strategy becomes important. I will also address questions such as: Is it a step back in my career and reputation if I am not involved in science anymore and am merely talking about what others are doing? What are the career perspectives? As a mother of two, I will also discuss what I learned in terms of combining job and family.

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