A Word (of farewell) from the ISSI Executive Director

Dear friends of ISSI! Dear visitors of our website!

First of all, let me wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and a successful and Happy New Year!

For us at ISSI an eventful year comes to an end. The first months of 2022 were still impacted by the pandemic and a quasi-lock down with uncertainties about the threat imposed by the Omicron variant of the Corona virus. Visitor numbers were low, in continuation of the low numbers of the previous fall. But in March and April, the ISSI community came back and there was a lot of catching up to do. A record number of 1031 scientists have attended 100 activities (International Teams, Working Groups, Workshops and Fora) in Bern since then, with more than 700 in addition attending from remote. As noted in my September letter, ISSI was running at 150% of its usual capacity and continued to do so for the rest of the year; a workload happily accepted. It felt so good to be back to (almost) normal!

For me, it is time to say good-bye as executive director at the end of a four-year period. A somewhat “schmalzy” pop song from Cologne in Germany catches my feelings: „Niemals geht man so ganz, ein Stück von mir bleibt hier“. The past four years were “speziell” (as the Bernese would say) in various respects, not just because of Corona. There remains my deep appreciation of the ISSI staff and of what we could achieve together!

What we could achieve – beyond our science program – will hopefully take ISSI forward in the future. ISSI’s popular online seminar series was launched with more than 10,000 attendees to date, a more spacious auditorium built named after ISSI’s founding father Johannes Geiss, and the ISSI tools (the workshops, working groups, teams, fora and the visiting scientist’s program) were made more accessible and flexible. Open access publishing was made the norm. ISSI invested into digitalization and web-based communication services with software apps to ease collaboration and the Johannes Geiss auditorium and the three meeting rooms were equipped with state-of-the-art hardware for hybrid meetings which have become the new norm at ISSI. Finally, we were able to put ISSI’s funding on a more stable foundation and improve the social security plans of the staff.

I am sure that ISSI will continue to flourish over the coming years under its new leadership, with Antonella Nota taking over the executive director’s position on January 1st. I am confident that ISSI will keep serving the entire space science community with all the aspects and subfields it served over the past more than 25 years, keeping a good balance and producing excellent research!


All the best

Tilman Spohn 

Outgoing ISSI executive director