The AWI is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres and pursues the Association’s overarching goals through the Initiative for Research and Innovation. Operating on our own recognisance, we share in the Helmholtz Association’s mission to conduct outstanding, strategic and targeted research in order to find solutions to the greatest and most pressing questions now facing society. Founded in Bremerhaven in 1980, we are one of the leading international centres for polar and marine research and make significant contributions to Earth system, climate and biodiversity research in the polar regions, ocean and coastal waters. Our overarching research objective is to discover and grasp past, present and future changes in the environment from a marine and polar perspective, and to share our findings with society at large.

In particular, our research focus areas contribute to several of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals: Goals 13 (Climate Action), 14 (Life Below Water), 15 (Life on Land) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). We investigate the natural bases of life on Earth, e.g. the air, water, soils, cryosphere, and biodiversity. By drawing on our extensive infrastructure resources – laboratories; research vessels, aircraft and stations; and software infrastructures – we make an essential contribution to integrated Earth system research in the joint programme of the Earth and Environment Research Field. At the same time, we are actively involved in exploring the potential of digital information technologies for research and society.

One crucial aspect of the work done at our facilities in Bremerhaven, Potsdam, Sylt, Helgoland and Oldenburg, and everywhere else our staff are involved, is our multidisciplinary and collaboration-oriented research programme, including its funding programme and the operation of a vital research infrastructure, the specific objectives and quality of which are dynamically developed at the national and international level alike. We work in keeping with the Rules of Good Scientific Practice and promote the freedom of research.

Using collaboration to achieve shared goals and promote networking

We investigate Earth system processes from the deep sea to the cryosphere and atmosphere, helping to arrive at a better understanding of our planet’s polar, marine and coastal regions. By integrating various scientific disciplines and their methods at our Institute and in collaboration with national and international partners, we promote a better understanding of the causes and effects of natural and anthropogenic changes, like climate change.

Together with the Helmholtz Association’s Earth and Environment Research Field, in pursuit of the requisite integrated approach we have developed cross-area objectives in our research programme: (i) innovative research methods, (ii) establishing an innovative and accessible infrastructure for research, data and observation, (iii) a deep and systematic understanding of key processes, (iv) transferable knowledge and technologies, (v) knowledge that serves to expand internal and external capacities, and (vi) expertise and instruments for analyses, prognoses and syntheses.

In addition, we work closely with various national and international institutes and organisations. Sharing data, expertise, infrastructures, resources and staff leads to lasting collaborations that enrich and support not only our own work, but research worldwide. We consider our close collaboration with universities in connection with polar and marine research to be a core element in the advancement of outstanding research centres in Germany.

By providing and maintaining major research infrastructures, including their digital components, we support the German, European and international research systems and the transfer of knowledge and technologies into society. In this regard, participating in social dialogues through various forms of science communication is a high priority.

As a member of the German Alliance for Marine Research (DAM) and other national and international associations, we work to promote sustainable use of the coasts, seas and ocean through research, data management and digitalisation, not to mention infrastructures and transfer.

Promoting talent and diversity is a crucial investment in the future

Diversity characterises not only our research topics, but also the working environment at the Institute. We support young investigators and those pursuing careers in research-supporting roles, as well as lifelong learning. We continually refine our resources for exchanging knowledge and support a research-related continuing education programme. Recruiting and supporting the best talents for diversity of skills in the research community, including infrastructure and administration, and fostering an open, diverse and team-oriented research culture are important elements of our work. Accordingly, we offer programmes for schoolchildren, on-the-job training and programmes for university students. We have a range of partnerships with universities and offer Ph.D. candidates and postdocs alike not only good working conditions but also structured qualification programmes. Our staff can choose from a wide variety of continuing education options. Promoting digital literacy and data science qualifications constitutes an essential component of staff development. We view equal opportunities for, and the diversity of, our staff as fundamental values, help our staff balance their family and career, and work to improve the integration of international members of staff and persons with disabilities.

Infrastructures for polar and marine research – we offer workplaces in the most extreme regions on Earth

With regard to polar and marine research, we ensure sustainable access to and maintain facilities in our planet’s climatically and logistically extreme regions. We develop comprehensive, dynamic and sound strategies for our infrastructures, covering their planning, construction, operation, availability and financing, not to mention their analogue and digital use. Our communities of users are involved in our essential strategic processes and contribute to excellence and sustainability in terms of how these resources are utilised. Good practice regarding the infrastructures’ shared, international use, as well as health, safety, occupational safety and environmental protection, are essential framework conditions for our expeditions and corresponding logistical support.

Sustainability and innovation are the hallmarks of working at the AWI – a voice for polar and marine research in the transformation process

We draw on our diverse expertise to convey the importance of the polar and marine regions for the planet as a whole, including human and non-human life alike; to illustrate paths to increased sustainability; and to warn of the risks entailed by certain types of societal behaviour.

We maintain an active public presence and pursue a scientifically sound and accessible dialogue on our research with society. We place great importance on providing science-based consulting for political, economic and societal decision-makers.

In all areas of the Institute, we promote new inventions and environmentally friendly innovations. We have an internal innovation fund to support the development of innovative technologies, services and business ideas. The development of sustainable technologies including transfer- and start-up-oriented training and continuing education options, as well as collaborations with corporate partners, is intended to maximise the impact of sustainable solutions arising from our research findings.

In keeping with the definition put forward by the Brundtland Commission in 1987 and the “Guidelines on sustainability management at non-academic research organisations” (LeNa project) from 2016, we view sustainability as an integrative concept that combines environmental, economic and social dimensions. In the context of making our facilities and infrastructures more sustainable, we pursue solutions for climate-friendly and environmentally friendly construction, renovation, operation and use. In addition, we place great importance on sustainable organisational management and staff development, as well as knowledge and technology transfer. At the AWI, upholding high standards for occupational safety, occupational health and environmental protection is a matter of course.

Strong community, strong team

Offering employees an attractive workplace characterised by diversity and equal opportunities is one of our top priorities. Day-to-day interactions at the Institute are shaped by people from various disciplines, with diverse views and personalities. Here, mutual respect is the foundation for successful collaboration. This also includes properly acknowledging achievements by sharing thanks and praise. In open communications, everyone contributes their own views and assumptions. These differing attitudes, observations and views are recognised and continually reflected (on) in a dynamic process so as to arrive at a consensus. Mistakes, hurt feelings and conflicts are unavoidable in day-to-day collaboration. Addressing these conflicts openly and early on, and working to find mutually acceptable solutions, is part of our Institute’s culture.

We also promote collaboration between science, technology and administration at all of our facilities. Collegial conduct and fostering teamwork and independent project management are essential aspects of our Institute’s culture. One of our guiding principles is to combine lifelong learning with sound, independent and responsible behaviour at every workplace. We reject discrimination and racism in all forms and cultivate an open, freedom-based research culture, which also extends to international collaborations. We support the Ten Theses issued by the Alliance of Science Organisations in Germany, which call for safeguarding academic freedom, resisting all efforts to curtail it, and strengthening it for future challenges.