Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Angela Merkel’s career shows why we need more scientists in politics

For 16 years, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has guided her country through wave after wave of uncertainty, from the 2008 global financial crisis to Brexit, the imperative to give up fossil fuels, and of course the COVID pandemic. His leadership of the EU’s largest economy has been described as an anchor between reassurance and perseverance and stormy times, and has been called “Europe’s de facto leader”.

Merkel has overtaken seven Australian prime ministers, and there can be no single explanation for the long duration of her success. However, his career and training as a scientist offer useful insights.

As Merkel declined a fifth term and stepped down this month, world politics lost another scientist. In Australia we find ourselves wondering once again: “In all our politics – where are the scientists?”

scientists and leaders

Globally, there are shining examples of scientists who have entered the world of politics with great success. What are the qualities of scientists that can make them powerful and effective leaders?

During her long political career, Merkel retained many traits that are common among scientists. He is patient and understanding. He has vision and strategy, and understands the value of planning for the long term. He is rational and empirical. And that creates collaboration and collaboration.

Finally, Merkel is known to draw a clear boundary around what is known. It does not exaggerate facts, but rather, encourages a temporary embrace of uncertainty until data can be gathered to inform a decision.

READ MORE: From ‘Mudchen’ to ‘Mutti’: After Angela Merkel leaves, she leaves a great legacy of leadership

Merkel earned her doctorate in quantum chemistry and specialized in the broad field of quantum mechanics. Widely known for the macabre “Schrodinger’s Cat” thought experiment, quantum mechanics is guiding scientists to discover and manipulate the characteristics of atoms and subatomic particles.

To many, Schrödinger’s cat is more revelatory than it enlightens, but the counter-intuitive nature of quantum mechanics is what really reveals the power of science. Scientists develop and test models of the world, by collecting data and developing theories, following the trail of invariant observations.

And like most major scientific models, quantum mechanics predicts much more than we can immediately explain. It is a tool that removes our human shortcomings of emotion-driven prejudice and impulsivity, and allows us to discover greater truths.

Between epidemics of viruses and misinformation, mistrust of authority and erosion of meaning, Australia has never needed the tools of science and the qualities of its scientists more.

Where are Australia’s science-trained political leaders?

Of the 227 members of Australia’s federal parliament, only 17 have training in scientific, technical, medical or engineering (STEM) fields. It’s just 7%.

Australia faces serious threats from some of the world’s most pressing challenges: climate change, the biodiversity crisis, pandemic forms, cyber security and AI challenges, and antibiotic resistance.

To meet these challenges, our national decision makers need to objectively evaluate complex information, understand fact from fiction, and create collaborations and perspectives that will take years or decades to fully come to fruition.

We also need just and bold leadership with the confidence to adopt and rapidly deploy new technologies to reduce carbon emissions, create new economic zones and secure Australia’s digital assets.

What will a science-led Australia look like?

Can you imagine how things would have been different if Australia’s federal parliament had more scientists? We Can.

Australia will respond to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “code red” report by launching more ambitious carbon emissions targets, and an infrastructure investment plan to achieve them.

Read more: How attitudes to science help define the political center

This would have secured Australia’s place as a world-class digital economy, growing jobs and wealth and improving equity in access to work, schools and health care for all citizens.

The government will take a strong, bold and evidence-informed approach to building our economy, by strengthening investment in research and development. It would provide incentives for others to do the same, generate strong GDP returns and elevate Australia from the bottom of the OECD rankings for government investment in research and development.

Australia will rapidly build out construction, energy and data infrastructure to fast-track the transition to an economy that generates no waste.

Australian scientists, we need you

That science and politics go “hands-in-lab-gloves” is no coincidence. Both seek order in a world of frightening complexity. The challenges of the 21st century – from COVID-19 to global warming – are eating us from the inside out, our national unity tarnished by misinformation. How can a scientist bring about a change in politics?

Angela Merkel has said her strategy was to take “many small steps” and avoid excessive reforms.

Progress can be made at the rhythm of science (where decades-old projects are common), by deciding on the best available evidence, establishing cause and consequence, and developing and testing our models over a period of time. In this way we can benefit from the continual accumulation of increasingly detailed and reliable knowledge.

In just 16 years, Angela Merkel transformed Germany from a 10% renewable energy mix to the world’s first major renewable energy economy. He set a net zero emissions target by 2045, making the German economy the fourth largest economy in the world by GDP. It is one of several evidence-based changes implemented by his patriarch and one of the many features of his legacy.

Science emerged as a “candle in the darkness” from the Dark Ages, through necessity. We have enjoyed the enlightenment in which science played a major role.

And as new shadows cast upon the world, science can help keep the flames igniting. Scientists from Australia: We need you.

Read more: Doctors, doctors: Why so few scientists in top government jobs?

This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

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