Skip to main content
SearchLoginLogin or Signup

Making science more sustainable in the lab and also across institutes and universities

A conversation with Jan Heidelberger about sustainable lab best practice, grass-root science organisations and everything in between

Published onJan 30, 2023
Making science more sustainable in the lab and also across institutes and universities
key-enterThis Pub is a Reply to

Jan Heidelberger works as Scientific Coordinator for the Max Planck School Matter to Life in Heidelberg. During his time as a PhD student, he co-founded the grassroots initiative IMB Green at the Institute of Molecular Biology in Mainz together with colleagues and has since been passionate about implementing sustainable measures in the laboratory and science sector. After joining MPS Matter to Life, he joined the Max Planck Sustainability Network (MPSN) and has been part of the steering committee since June 2021. 

Jan joins Jo to talk about the ways of making science more sustainable in the lab and also across institutes and universities.

To see all our podcast episodes go to

The Max Planck Sustainability Network (MPSN) now comprises 45 individual sustainability groups at various Max Planck Institutes (MPI). In 2021, the network published the Catalog of Recommendations for Sustainability in the Max Planck Society (, which contains measures that can be implemented universally at institutes. The network is in exchange with national and international partners to jointly develop ideas and find solutions to make their own work more sustainable and to encourage and support others to do so.

Which researcher – dead or alive – do you find inspiring? Charles Darwin

What is your favorite animal and why? Hawk - free and wild. Fly wherever you want when you want with little emission ;-) 

Name your (current) favorite song and interpret/group. Running up that hill - Kate Bush (damn you Stranger things!)

Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill - Official Music Video

What is your favorite dish/meal? Vegan Lasagne by Gaz Oakley


The Max Planck Sustainability Network; (en & de)

CaRe 2021: Catalogue of Recommendations for Sustainability in the Max Planck Society,

Alves J, Sargison FA, Stawarz H, Fox WB, Huete SG, Hassan A, McTeir B, Pickering AC. A case report: insights into reducing plastic waste in a microbiology laboratory. Access Microbiol. 2020 Oct 14;3(3):000173. doi: 10.1099/acmi.0.000173. PMID: 34151149; PMCID: PMC8209715.

Borgermann N, Schmidt A, Dobbelaere J. Preaching water while drinking wine: Why universities must boost climate action now. One Earth, Volume 5, Issue 1, 2022, Pages 18-21, ISSN 2590-3322,

Dobbelaere J, Heidelberger JB, Borgermann N; Achieving sustainable transformation in science – green grassroots groups need nurturing from the top. J Cell Sci 1 September 2022; 135 (17): jcs259645. doi:

Jahnke, K., Fendt, C., Fouesneau, M. et al. An astronomical institute’s perspective on meeting the challenges of the climate crisis. Nat Astron 4, 812–815 (2020).

Masuzzo, Paola. (2021, April 23). Slow Science, Open Science. Zenodo.

Meirzon S (2022). Max Planck Sustainability Network helps scientists share ideas. Pyxis Communications,…

Parncutt R, Lindborg P, Meyer-Kahlen N and Timmers R (2021) The Multi-hub Academic Conference: Global, Inclusive, Culturally Diverse, Creative, Sustainable. Front. Res. Metr. Anal. 6:699782. doi: 10.3389/frma.2021.699782

German articles

1 of 2
A Reply to this Pub
The Multi-hub Academic Conference: Global, Inclusive, Culturally Diverse, Creative, Sustainable

New conference formats are emerging in response to COVID-19 and climate change. Virtual conferences are sustainable and inclusive regardless of participant mobility (financial means, caring commitments, disability), but lack face-to-face contact. Hybrid conferences (physical meetings with additional virtual presentations) tend to discriminate against non-fliers and encourage unsustainable flying. Multi-hub conferences mix real and virtual interactions during talks and social breaks and are distributed across nominally equal hubs. We propose a global multi-hub solution in which all hubs interact daily in real time with all other hubs in parallel sessions by internet videoconferencing. Conference sessions are confined to three equally-spaced 4-h UTC timeslots. Local programs comprise morning and afternoon/evening sessions (recordings from night sessions can be watched later). Three reference hubs are located exactly 8 h apart; additional hubs are within 2 h and their programs are aligned with the closest reference hub. The conference experience at each hub depends on the number of local participants and the time difference to the nearest reference. Participants are motivated to travel to the nearest hub. Mobility-based discrimination is minimized. Lower costs facilitate diversity, equity, and inclusion. Academic quality, creativity, enjoyment, and low-carbon sustainability are simultaneously promoted.

No comments here
Why not start the discussion?