Prof. Dr. Christian Drosten, BIH Professor and Director of Charité’s Institute of Virology, has been awarded the ‘Special Award for Outstanding Achievements in Scientific Communication during the COVID-19 Pandemic’. Presented by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and ‘Stifterverband’ (Donor’s Association), the award carries a prize of €50,000.
The prize, which recognizes Prof. Drosten's outstanding achievements in the field of science and in the promotion of the public understanding of science, was awarded by the DFG and Stifterverband. Commenting on their decision, the awarding committee emphasized the significance of Prof. Drosten’s unique position as an advocate for science and the role it must play during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than any other scientist, Prof. Drosten has succeeded in convincing the public of the need to accept science as the most reliable means of navigating the current crisis. His highly accessible, transparent and fact-based approach has enabled Prof. Drosten to explain the state of current scientific knowledge, elucidate how various scientific processes work and outline areas where uncertainty remains. Prof. Drosten has also actively countered the emergence of hypotheses not based in evidence, confronted the limits of his own knowledge, and repeatedly emphasized that science requires us to constantly question what we do and do not know, and to revise what we previously held to be certain. This approach has enabled the winner of this Special Award to gain widespread acceptance and trust, including in the field of politics, where he is currently one of the most important advisers. According to the DFG and Stifterverband, Prof. Drosten’s communications provide an outstanding example of the potential role of science in shaping politics and society, including during a crisis.
In addition to his role as Director of the Institute of Virology on Campus Charité Mitte, Prof. Drosten also conducts research at the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF). Expressing his delight at the award, he says: “This pandemic represents a set of highly exceptional circumstances for our country. Our ability to meet the challenges involved will, in my view, depend on how well the public is informed about the state of the outbreak and the biological mechanisms underpinning it. It is therefore of particular importance to me that the current state of knowledge regarding the SARS-2 virus – including areas where uncertainty remains – should be communicated to the public as promptly and as comprehensively as possible. Only by doing so will people feel enabled to make up their own minds, to overcome their fears, and to make decisions in their daily lives which will have an impact on the spread of the infection.”
Prof. Dr. Heyo K. Kroemer, Charité’s Chief Executive Officer, says: “Charité is delighted that Prof. Drosten’s achievements in scientific communication should be formally recognized. His characteristically proactive approach to the communication of knowledge involves an enormous amount of additional effort on the part of the scientist and should not be underestimated. The Award also reaffirms that, in addition to its role in treating patients with COVID-19 and conducting research into the novel coronavirus, Charité also plays a major role in public information.”
Created as a one-time award by the DFG and Stifterverband, the Special Award will not replace but complement the 2020 Communicator Prize.
Prof. Dr. Christian Drosten
After passing his State medical licensing examinations in May 2000, Christian Drosten moved to the German Red Cross (DRK) Institute for Transfusion Medicine and Immunohaematology in Hesse, where he completed a doctorate on the development of a high-throughput virus screening system for blood donors. Shortly after completing his doctorate, he moved to the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, where he specialized in Microbiology, Virology and Infectious Disease Epidemiology. During his time in Hamburg, he developed a research program dedicated to the diagnosis of tropical viral diseases. His discoveries include the infectious agent responsible for SARS. As its Founding Director, Prof. Drosten led the University of Bonn's Institute of Virology from 2007 to early 2017. Since the DZIF’s foundation in 2012, Prof. Drosten has been involved in coordinating its ‘Emerging Infections’ unit. In 2017, he was appointed Director of Charité's Institute of Virology, Head of the Department of Virology at Labor Berlin – Charité Vivantes GmbH, and Spokesperson for the National Research Network for Zoonotic Infectious Diseases. Prof. Drosten is also the Scientific Director of Charité Global Health, an interdisciplinary research center established in 2018.