Prof. Peter Gruss honored with China's national prize for Int'l cooperation Friday, June 13, 2008

The award ceremony for China's National Award for International S&T Cooperation in 2007 was held in Beijing on June 5. On behalf of the Chinese government, State Councilor Liu Yandong presented the prize to its four laureates: British geophysicist Li Xiangyang, U.S. materials scientist Liu Jinchuan, Russian geographer N. L. Dobretsov and German biologist Peter Gruss.

Prof. Peter Gruss, president of the Max Plank Society (MPS), has long been committed to promoting the scientific cooperation between China and Germany. As early as in the 1980s, he went to Shanghai to teach advanced experimental techniques at the Guest Laboratory cosponsored by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and MPS.

Since 2002 when he assumed the MPS presidency, Prof. Gruss has further strengthened the partnership between the two institutions. Under his leadership, more CAS-MPS Partner Groups and Junior Research Groups were established.

In 2005, the CAS-MPS Partner Institute for Computational Biology, a joint venture run in accordance with the MPS model of academic management, made her debut in Shanghai, marking a new phase of the strategic partnership. In May 2006, a bilateral agreement was signed for joint training of doctoral students, further opening a new field of collaboration.

The following is the speech made by Prof. Gruss at the award presentation ceremony.

Dear Chairwoman Liu,

Minister Wan Gang,

ministers and excellencies

ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour and pleasure for me to receive the National Award for International Science and Technology Cooperation of China!

Allow me to extend my most sincere thanks to you for this prestigious prize.

There is a proverb that says you cannot tie a knot with one hand alone.

And indeed, many hands have been involved in forging the close links between the Max Planck Society and Chinese science.

So this award recognises not only my own achievements, but also those of the Max Planck Society and its scientists.

Our flourishing and successful German-Chinese collaboration would have been impossible without the commitment of many individuals working together.

My warmest thanks go to our Chinese Partner, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in particular to its current President, Prof. Lu Yongxiang.

In less than a decade, he has transformed the Academy into a modern, internationally competitive research organisation.

For more than 30 years, the Academy and the Max Planck Society have enjoyed a close partnership.

The collaboration of the two institutes far exceeds simple scientific exchange.

Researchers from both nations have established many personal ties across the boundaries of their different cultures

My first visit to China was in the early 1980s.

Since then, I have been following the country's development with great interest.

It's really impressive how the Chinese Government has paved the way for the country's progress.

Especially the advancement of education and scientific research contributed to this success.

I take great pleasure in the fact that the collaboration of the Max Planck Society with the Chinese Academy of Sciences has been able to contribute to this positive development, and continues to do so.

Since the mid-1990s, we can observe worldwide changes which can be characterised by the key terms "knowledge economy" and "globalisation".

These developments issue new challenges for every nation.

Some people already compare the impact of globalisation to that of a natural force or a law of nature, for example, gravity.

As the French economist Alain Minc said: "You can't be for or against gravity, you have to live with it," a statement that also applies to globalisation.

For science, the question of "for or against globalisation" does not arise anyway.

On the one hand, scientific researchers are extremely well-versed in dealing with laws of nature.

They know how to analyse and make use of nature.

On the other hand, even beyond this metaphor, globalisation is a natural development in all sciences.

The exchange of brilliant minds among each other ¨C even and especially across borders ¨C has always been one of the most important principles of research work.

The long-term collaboration between the Max Planck Society and the Chinese Academy of Sciences is an excellent example for that.

The increasing globalisation has resulted in new opportunities as well as in challenges for German-Chinese collaboration.

Together with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, we have seized such opportunities.

For example, we have set up a Partner Institute with an international focus in the forward-looking field of Computational Biology.

In addition, we have initiated new joint programmes for talented junior scientists.

A training programme for Chinese doctoral students in Germany started two years ago.

I'm pleased that already more than 80 students have been taking the chance to work at a Max Planck Institute.

In the light of their ever increasing complexity, many research projects require enormous intellectual and financial resources, such as projects in climate, energy, or health research.

Often, it is only in international collaboration that it is possible to create the "critical mass" in financial resources and know-how.

German and Chinese scientists collaborate also closer and closer in such major international projects.

The earthquake in the Province Sichuan has shown us how vulnerable human civilisation is to natural disasters and reminded us of the dangers that humanity is facing.

We are deeply shocked and saddened by this tragedy.

The Chinese people deserve the highest recognition for the way they are dealing with this devastating catastrophe.

On this occasion, I should like to extend my deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences to you, also on behalf of the Max Planck Society.

No scientist in the world could predict this tragedy or prevent the destruction caused by it.

No one can bring back the victims from the dead.

Nevertheless, it will be the task of scientists to continue searching for avenues which enable ever earlier warnings of such catastrophes.

They also aim to limit and overcome their consequences.

Ladies and gentlemen, I feel greatly honoured and privileged to receive a Chinese State Award.

In particular, however, this prize serves as an encouragement and incentive to further advance collaboration between our countries.

As mentioned in the beginning, one hand alone cannot tie a knot.

That especially applies to scientific research.

It is only in a joint effort that we can face the challenges of our time and generate new insights for the benefit of mankind.

Thank you very much! 

Editor: Nie Peng