The Austrian Academy of Sciences (OeAW) has a new Presiding Committee: at the General Assembly on April 22, 2022, the members of the Academy elected the physicist Ulrike Diebold as Vice President of the OeAW, the legal scholar Christiane Wendehorst as President of the Division of Humanities and the Social Sciences, and the space researcher Wolfgang Baumjohann as President of the Division of Mathematics and the Natural Sciences of the OeAW.
This completes the management team of Austria's largest non-university institution for basic research led by the geographer Heinz Faßmann. The newly elected Presiding Committee has been elected for a total of five years and will take over the office on July 1, 2022, from the current Presiding Committee, which consists of Anton Zeilinger, Arnold Suppan, Oliver Jens Schmitt, and Georg Brasseur.
Top management becomes more female
"I look forward to working in this strong team, which will shape the future of the OeAW with strength and commitment in the best possible way. Together we want to promote excellent research, further expand the Academy, and use the European research area more for Austria," says the designated OeAW President, Heinz Faßmann. For him, the fact that the Presiding Committee is 50% female for the first time is an important step towards making the Academy more female. And Faßmann emphasizes: "The new Presiding Committee benefits from the wealth of experience and the wide range of subjects of its newly elected members. This combination of expertise and diversity also characterizes the OeAW as a whole and is a guarantee for inventiveness and innovation."
The designated Vice President Ulrike Diebold is also convinced of this. "The Academy is a beacon in the research landscape. It delivers outstanding scientific achievements, which also contribute internationally to visibly advancing research." And with a view to the public role of the OeAW, she adds: "Especially in times of rampant skepticism towards science, it is particularly important to me to convey what science achieves for society." Diebold has been a full member of the OeAW since 2014 and is, amongst others, a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. After a research career at universities in the USA, she was appointed Professor of Surface Science at the Institute of Applied Physics at the Vienna University of Technology in 2010. In 2013 she was awarded the highest science prize in Austria, the Wittgenstein Prize of the Austrian Science Fund FWF
Learned society as think tank
Christiane Wendehorst, newly elected President of the Division of Humanities and the Social Sciences, and Wolfgang Baumjohann, designated President of the Division of Mathematics and the Natural Sciences, want to strengthen the links between the two divisions of the Academy, both in terms of the objects of research and the methodological approaches.
"We want to promote interdisciplinary exchange both within and outside of each division. This advances science as a whole," Wendehorst says, emphasizing: "Through their diversity and excellence, the members make an important contribution to giving science an audible voice in Austria." Wolfgang Baumjohann adds: "The members of both divisions come from the most diverse scientific institutions in Austria and beyond; that makes the learned society a unique think tank."
Christiane Wendehorst has been a Professor of Civil Law at the University of Vienna since 2008 and is Scientific Director of the European Law Institute, a pan-European institution. She is Deputy Head of the Department of Innovation and Digitization in Law and a member of the Bioethics Commission at the Austrian Federal Chancellery. Wendehorst has been a full member of the OeAW since 2011 and is, amongst others, a member of the Academia Europaea. From 2017 to 2022 she also chaired the Academy Council, the highest supervisory body of the OeAW.
The astrophysicist Wolfgang Baumjohann headed the Space Research Institute of the OeAW in Graz from 2004 to 2021. He has been a full member of the Academy since 2009 and is, amongst others, a member of the Leopoldina. He teaches at the Graz University of Technology and the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. In 2015, the Austrian Club of Education and Science Journalists voted Wolfgang Baumjohann "Scientist of the Year".