Three Questions for...

Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Schröder, Chair of the RWTH Senate

Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Schröder is a professor at the Institute of Structural Mechanics and Lightweight Design and Chair of the Senate of RWTH Aachen University. Professor Schröder kindly answered a few questions on research and sustainability at RWTH.

What do you associate with sustainability in research (at RWTH)?

Prof. Schröder: I associate sustainability with opportunities and responsibility, forethought and reflection. Sustainability is always defined within a system, which means that we have to broaden our focus when developing technological solutions and include the economic, ecological, and social environment of the object of research in our approaches. This creates new perspectives and shifts the solution spaces. We arrive at truly new solutions. On the other hand, however, we have the responsibility to assess the consequences of our research.

Sustainability thus increases the complexity of research and forces us to leave our traditional areas of expertise, work in an interdisciplinary manner and enter into an exchange with the people who are affected by the impacts of our developments. Sustainability requires an integrated, interdisciplinary university.

Professor Kai-Uwe Schröder, Chairman of the Senate of RWTH Aachen University, looks into the camera and laughs. He is wearing a blue suit and a white shirt.
Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Schröder
Martin Braun

In your opinion, what has changed at RWTH in terms of sustainability since 2021?

Prof. Schröder: Since the adoption of RWTH’s sustainability mission statement in 2021, sustainability has become a key benchmark in all three dimensions, both internally and externally. And this standard is applied to our research and all our actions. I would like to illustrate this using the example of research data management, which ensures the sustainability of our research data. While this was often just a declaration of intent in earlier years, research data management has recently become a quality aspect of our academic work that is taken seriously.

But it was also an eye-opener: the journey ahead of us to a comprehensively sustainable RWTH is long. And that’s why it is so good that we embarked on this journey three years ago.

If you had to name one, which project should the University initiate and/or drive forward?

Prof. Schröder: Most of the knowledge generated in the University’s research projects is poured into software. Developing, integrating, maintaining, and servicing this research software sustainably is the outstanding task that the University must tackle next. After all, it is not only the data, but also the knowledge generated by the data that needs to be retained in the long term. We also need to agree on common standards for research software across institutes and faculties and drive forward the interdisciplinary integration this requires. The reward is a unique knowledge ecosystem that enables us to work together to find sustainable solutions for the future.

Thank you for answering our questions!