An Interview with Johannes Hahn: Austrian Federal Minister for Science & Research

bridges vol. 17, April 2008 / People in the Spotlight

by Caroline Adenberger



Credit: Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research (BMWF) Johannes "Gio" Hahn

Albert Einstein once stated: "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited." Surfing on the Web site of Austria's Ministry for Science and Research (BMWF), one comes across a very similar statement: "Creativity is the fertile ground on which our society thrives and prospers." This statement, however, was not issued by a freethinking scientist but by a politician, namely Austria's number one in science and research policy, Johannes Hahn, the Austrian Federal Minister for Science and Research.

This statement certainly elicits curiosity and the desire to learn more about Dr. Hahn. A philosopher by academic training, Johannes "Gio" Hahn (the nickname by which he is commonly known in Austria) has been on duty since January 2007, and bridges recently had an opportunity to speak with him. In the following interview, he answers questions about Austria's higher education and university system in a European and international context and his visions and ideas for Austria's future knowledge society.

bridges: High-quality (secondary and tertiary) education is seen by many as the key to long-term success in R&D.  What measures do you propose for supplying the demand for a highly qualified scientific work force?

Gio Hahn: There are of course a number of factors contributing to a highly qualified work force in R&D. My role as minister is to listen very closely to the proposals or demands of the scientific community and the research funding organizations that are directly involved. Among the points that I consider vital are the mobility of students and researchers (incoming and outgoing), early stage researchers' career prospects, and tapping the still underutilized great potential of female researchers. A number of measures already exist, but we now reinforce our efforts.

We also support a number of programs reaching out to the young at the school level - directing their interests into science and research at an early stage in summer universities, internships in laboratories, or through the program "Sparkling Science" involving schools and pupils in state-of-the-art research to name only a few.

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