Wittgenstein Award 2010 goes to demographer Wolfgang Lutz
Six top-notch junior researchers accepted into prestigious START Program
At a press conference today, Austrian Federal Minister of Science and Research Beatrix Karl announced this year's winner of the Wittgenstein Award as well as the six recipients of the coveted START grant. For the first time ever, the latter was awarded to an equal number of women and men. In the next five to six years, these researchers will have a total of EUR 8.5 million at their disposal for their research efforts.
This year marks the 15th time the Wittgenstein Award and START grants have been conferred, with seven new researchers joining the distinguished group of scientists who have received one of these awards.
In another interesting first, the Wittgenstein Award was given to a social
scientist for the first time ever in 2010: Wolfgang Lutz, who has established
a strong presence at no less than three institutions in Austria. Since
2002, he has been the director of the Vienna Institute of Demography (VID)
at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and since 1994 he has headed the
World Population Program at the International Institute for Applied Systems
Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria. Finally, Lutz has also held a
full professorship in social statistics at the Vienna University of Economics
and Business since 2009.
Born in Rome in 1956, Lutz grew up in Germany and Austria. He first studied
philosophy, mathematics and theology at the University of Munich, and
later he completed his degree in social and economic statistics at the
University of Vienna in 1980. He then spent two years studying demography
at the University of Pennsylvania. Upon completing his master's degree,
he finished his doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania with distinction
and in record time (one year). After receiving his Ph.D., he left the
United States in 1983, returning to Austria and the IIASA, where began
working as a research associate in 1984. He later went on to become the
Institute's Deputy Program Leader and then Program Leader (1994). In 1988,
he completed his Habilitation (postdoctoral qualification for a university
chair) in demography and social statistics at his alma mater in Vienna.
In his research, Lutz has contributed to groundbreaking achievements in the analysis of population developments. These achievements have included empirical analyses of birth rates, models for predictions of population development, and studies on the relationship between developments in population and the environment. Most recently, he has focused more heavily on the analysis of human capital and economic development. In an empirical comparison of 120 countries, Lutz was able to demonstrate that the central driver of wealth in societies is not necessarily elite education, but education for broad parts of the population.
With the Wittgenstein endowment, Lutz plans to establish the "Research Center for International Human Capital," which will also be supported by the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Vienna University of Economics and Business in close cooperation with IIASA. In these efforts, Lutz's objective is to provide first-rate research conditions for interdisciplinary studies of population and economics, and to establish one of the world's leading research centers in the field. This research will make it possible to articulate new visions and political approaches for some of the greatest challenges faced by societies today.
The Wittgenstein Award is Austria's largest and most prestigious research prize, and it has been awarded by the FWF on behalf of the Austrian Ministry of Science and Research since 1996. The recipient is provided with a budget of up to EUR 1.5 million for (further) research activities over a period of five years. The Wittgenstein is what is known as a "dry prize," meaning that the funds are only available for the scholar's intended research, in particular for the purpose of hiring young scientists and researchers.
Recommendations for grant awards are compiled by the International START and Wittgenstein Jury on the basis of peer reviews from expert scholars abroad. The jury comprises a number of renowned scientists from outside of Austria in order to ensure a maximum of objectivity in decision-making. Chaired by Sheila Jasanoff, Professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, the jury convened last week.
In addition to the Wittgenstein winner, six top-notch young researchers were chosen among 45 applicants for the START Program. The START grant is Austria's largest and most renowned award for young researchers. On the basis of their scientific track records, recipients are given the opportunity to plan their research work on a long-term basis (six years) with sufficient financial security and to establish and build their own research group. All grant recipients are subjected to an interim evaluation after three years. START grants are endowed with up to EUR 1.2 million.
The researchers chosen for the START Program in 2010 are listed below (in alphabetical order):
Both the START Program and the Wittgenstein Award are open to all scientific disciplines. These two programs have been carried out each year since 1996.
Vienna, June 14, 2010