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Leibniz ScienceCampus Primate Cognition officially inaugurated

120 guests celebrated the start of the interdisciplinary research platform
Auftaktveranstaltung: Rege Diskussionen im Foyer des DPZ. Foto: Karin Tilch

On Nov. 4th, 2015, nearly 120 guests had convened in the lecture hall of the German Primate Center to formally open the Leibniz ScienceCampus Primate Cognition. As speaker of the ScienceCampus, Julia Fischer, who also leads a department at the German Primate Center and is professor at the University of Göttingen, welcomed the guests from politics, business and science. It is the aim of the platform to seek an understanding of the cognitive origins of human intelligence. An ambitious but achievable goal, rooted in the “Göttingen Spirit”, representing curiosity, openness and cooperation across institutional and disciplinary boarders.

In his welcome address, Matthias Kleiner, president of the Leibniz Association emphasized that the future of the German research community lies in the close cooperation between institutions. The German Primate Center represents a best-practice example for these close ties between a university and non-university partners. “This is great” said Kleiner.

The “Göttingen Spirit” was also praised by Ulrike Beisiegel, president of the University of Göttingen. This “spirit” is based on social interactions and illustrates the close collaboration between university and German Primate Center. It allows students, for instance, to easily visit and switch between institutions without much notice.

The investigation of the cognitive abilities of primates is the goal of the Leibniz ScienceCampus. “We thereby consider all primates, including humans”, said Stefan Treue, Director of the German Primate Center and member of the Leibniz ScienceCampus. To reach this goal, behavioral and cognitive biologists, neuroscientists, psychologists and physicians have joined forces. Julia Fischer specifies that the ScienceCampus had been launched in January 2015; in addition to funding joined research projects, it also fosters the exchange with scientists from other institutions and supports junior researchers.

Fischer continues: “We are particularly happy that we can build bridges to the humanities”. Together with the university’s Lichtenberg-Kolleg, three junior fellows could be recruited. In the next two years, they will now tackle questions of primate cognition from a philosophical and historical perspective.

All speakers emphasized that the ScienceCampi are a very promising concept; this becomes also evident when considering the additional support the ScienceCampus Göttingen could already raise. Julia Fischer not only remembered the audience of a newly established DFG research training group, but also of the recently acquired funding from the Ministry of Science and Culture in Lower Saxony. Ulrike Beisiegel expanded on this as a crucial step in the preparations for the next Initiative of Excellence.

As keynote speaker, Michael Platt spoke about the biology of strategic social behavior. Platt is one of the most prominent representatives of the field of neuroeconomics. Acknowledging is skills in bringing together scientists from very different disciplines, he was recently appointed to a professorship at the departments of neuroscience, psychology, and marketing of the University of Pennsylvania.