DrLeopoldina’s president, Gerald Hogg, responded to my article in this newspaper with an overly controversial distraction from the problem at hand. Therefore, there is no point in answering his accusations against me. On the other hand, it is helpful to take a closer look at the problem that the article explains using the Leopoldina example. It’s not about Lothar Wheeler, it’s about his role as director of the Robert Koch Institute. This should clarify that during the pandemic, the National Academy of Sciences, as an institution of policy advice, maneuvered into a situation that could neither be legitimized either scientifically nor democratically. Criticism of this perversion is in no way intended to damage Leopoldina’s reputation, but rather to enable her to correct her course so that she can do her job better in the future.
Leopoldina’s statement on December 8th last year was at the center of the criticism. Haug claims in his response that the statement presented the tight lockdown as “a standard required option”. Aside from the fact that something that is standardly required is no longer an option, the statement does not speak of standards, requirements, or options. Instead, at the outset there is a bold sentence: “Although the vaccination campaign is likely to start soon, it is necessary from a scientific point of view to limit the number of new infections, which are still very high, through rapid and radical insurance.”
Debate should be banned
This is a formulation of scientific limitations that can only be understood in such a way that any further discussion of criteria or options is unnecessary. If Hogg mentioned at the beginning of his response that pandemic researchers would “with few exceptions” contribute to “materializing the debate about appropriate measures against the pandemic by providing information on the current state of knowledge and providing scientific recommendations for action for discussion”, he should have done his own foundation is one of The few exceptions. Their opinion is not recommended, but the orders, and information regarding the current state of knowledge are one-sided with the only comparative example of Ireland so much more ambiguous than objective. Even if there were many good reasons for severe lockdown at the time, the fatal argument for scientific necessity was not one of them.
But now to the crucial point, Wheeler signed the statement. Its full scope is only partially clear from my article, which is why it is explained in more detail here. As president of the Robert Koch Institute, Wheeler does not have the scientific freedom that other scholars enjoy. Accordingly, he cannot participate as an independent “veterinarian and microbiologist” in an expert group providing policy advice. As head of the federal authority, Wheeler is subject to the instructions of the Minister of Health.
Lothar Wheeler cannot express himself independently
If he expresses himself publicly, he does so as a representative of the state. He has no voice in facing the public that can be separated from that of the federal government, especially in the midst of a pandemic in which the Robert Koch Institute is Germany’s most visible federal authority. What he says to the outside world must “agree” with his business owner Spahn in the literal sense. So when Wheeler signs a statement from Leopoldina under the single headline “President of the Robert Koch Institute,” the federal government is actually expecting it as well. In the end, one will have to conclude that by signing Leopoldina, she has given up her independence from politics.
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