Talks & Discussions

© FWF/Andrei Pungovschi

Freies Wissen für freie Menschen



On Saturday, September 8, 2018 the Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen, minister Heinz Faßmann, the cultural studies scholar Aleida Assmann and FWF President Klement Tockner opened the festival.

Afterwards, renowned panel guests took the microphone in several discussion rounds: under the title “What is life?” together with the moral theologian Sabine Müller, the Wittgenstein Prize winner Jan-Michael Peters explored the relationship between science and society using examples from modern achievements in life sciences.

What is life?
(Co-hosted by Boehringer Ingelheim)


Hosted by ORF Radio Wien editor-in-chief Jasmin Dolati, pioneers such as the START Award winner Miriam Unterlass, the entrepreneur Helmut List and the physicist and innovator Markus Aspelmeyer showed how curiosity, creativity and the pioneering spirit can be cultivated.

Pioniergeist & Grenzgänge: Dem Neuen auf der Spur
(Co-hosted by AVL List; in cooperation with aws, FFG and ORF Radio Wien)


Chaired by the Radio Ö1 science editor Martin Haidinger, a panel discussion with the science researcher Ulrike Felt, the lawyer Stephan Rixen, the citizen-science expert Florian Heigl and the opinion pollster Eva Zeglovits went into the acceptance and integrity of science.

Wem vertrauen? Forschung zwischen Glaubwürdigkeit und Instrumentalisierung
(In cooperation with the Austrian Agency for Research Integrity ÖAWI and ORF Radio Ö1)


In the evening, at the “Science and Entrepreneurship Slam” researchers such as the archaeologist Julia Budka, instrument designer Martin Kaltenbrunner, biologist Eva Ringler and zoologist Michael Traugott demonstrated their show talent and competed for the affections of the festival-goers.

Sunday morning was dedicated to the young audience: in the morning, Rolf-Rüdiger, ORF Wien TV’s riddling rat, broadcasted live from Maria-Theresien-Platz, followed by environmental historian Verena Winiwarter’s children’s lecture “Taming Rivers and Building Castles”.

In the afternoon, the systems scientist Keywan Riahi and environmental economist Sigrid Stagl discussed ways of coping with the climate crisis.

Klimakrise: Letzte Chance, vorbei?
(In cooperation with the European Forum Alpbach)


Under the title “50 Years of Top Research in Austria”, hosted by journalist Eva Stanzl, Chair of the Austrian Club of Education and Science Journalists, Wiener Zeitung, former Federal President Heinz Fischer, computer scientist Monika Henzinger, former President of the European Science Council Helga Nowotny and former FWF President Christoph Kratky took an anecdotal retrospective look at the development of basic research in Austria.

50 Jahre Spitzenforschung. Meilensteine, Höhepunkte, Zukunft
(In cooperation with 100 Jahre Republik)


Chaired by career director of Die Presse Michael Köttritsch, the gender-equality officer Sylwia Bukowska, literary scholar Julia Grillmayr, Die Zeit journalist Anna-Lena Scholz, Wittgenstein Prize winner Renée Schroeder and HR expert Gundi Wentner asked why there are still too few women in senior positions in science.

Mut, Macht und Quoten
(In cooperation with DIE PRESSE)


Immediately afterwards, the FWF awarded prizes to successful women employees in its programmes to promote women in basic research.

On Monday ORF, the state broadcaster, invited you to a DialogForum special. Chaired by Klaus Unterberger, Elisabeth Hoffmann, German research spokeswoman of the year, Tom Matzek, science editor of ORF, open-science expert Kaja Mayer and the author and radio- and TV-show host discussed the relationship between science, the media and the public.

ORF-DialogForum: „Wissenschaft auf dem Weg aus dem Elfenbeinturm“
(A ORF-DialogForum special edition; in cooperation with the Uni.PR-Netzwerk)

Partner programme

The Cern Research Centre hosted a travelling exhibition at the festival site and together with experts from science, industry and politics discussed the question “Research? What’s it to me?” A symposium organised by the Institute for Social Ecology of Vienna’s University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences discussed future issues of interdisciplinary research. The Austrian Agency for Scientific Integrity invited to the symposium “Promoting a Culture of Integrity”, and under the title “Inclusive Science: The Pros and Cons of Open Science and Citizen Science”, Uniko Universities Austria was for the first time organising the “University Discourse Austria”.

START and Wittgenstein Awards as the closing ceremony

The festival concluded with a very special award ceremony. Peter Strohschneider, President of the German Research Foundation, opened with a ceremonial address, EU Commissioner Carlos Moedas, science minister Heinz Faßmann and FWF President Klement Tockner presented Austria’s most highly endowed science awards.