During the course of our lives, each of us changes roles many times. Perhaps we switch careers or get promoted to a new position where we are responsible for leading a team. Or we change roles in our personal lives, such as when someone who enjoys their freedom and independence becomes a parent and is suddenly responsible for another person. Of course, role changes do not always have to turn life upside down. Even small decisions – like opting to sit back and relax while your partner plans the summer holiday or trying something you did not think you were capable of, such as making a toast at a wedding – can involve sliding into a new role.
What all role changes have in common is their ability to open up new perspectives. Whereas we once saw life through a particular lens (party-loving student, meticulous planner, member of a team), suddenly everything looks different (as a mother, as a lazy holidaymaker, as the head of a team). Small role changes may also lead to larger shifts, for example by prompting us to try out new perspectives, even in situations that do not immediately affect us.
In this way, taking on new roles in our personal and professional lives can promote diversity and help us to see the world from new vantage points. It compels us to confront new challenges and encourages us to grow, make new discoveries and critically examine things we previously took for granted.
Roles are constantly changing in the scientific community as well. Before the corona pandemic, Christian Drosten was simply a scientist, but lately, his biography has taken a new turn. He now additionally serves as a science communicator and the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung has named him the »poster boy of the hour«. Role changes can also be the subject of scientific study: How do certain animals change their behaviour when facing new conditions? How does society adapt to new challenges such as digitalisation? Even methodology can undergo a role change, for example when a theory or paradigm that long dominated a particular discipline is replaced by another.
Here, too, role changes lead to new knowledge and prompt us to question long-held beliefs. Thus, slipping into new roles is not just an amusing game, but fundamentally necessary for our private and professional development as well as for the advancement of science and society. It helps us to learn and to see the world differently. Role changes open up enormous opportunities. This poster magazine presents role changes in many forms across various disciplines.
The first poster page of the magazine presents eight vignettes about the various role changes one might encounter as an academic: the theoretical assumptions vs. the observed reality of black holes, the throne of St. Peter, which was later revealed to be a Muslim tombstone, or using an elephant trunk as a model for a robot that works microscopically.
The six articles on the second page of the magazine reflect on the topic of role changes across various disciplines. With a focus on music, Miriam Akkermann takes up the question of what separates art and art scholarship and considers what it means to live and work in both worlds. Astrid Eichhorn contributes a polemic on the traditional understanding of leadership in science. Lena Hipp examines how the corona crisis has affected the division of labour in daily family and work life and asks what lessons this offers to society as a whole. Lukas Haffert also takes the corona virus pandemic as his starting point in exploring the role of scientists in public debate.
Anna Cord asks how we can rethink the role of scientists in participative research processes. And Philipp Kanske provides insight into how shifting roles in psychotherapeutic contexts can be made productive.
We hope you enjoy the issue.
Astrid Eichhorn Michael Saliba Erik Schilling