Science for Progress

because science is fundamental in the 21st century

SfProcur Curator April 30 – May 5: Susanne Tönsmann – @pwa_zurich

Dr. Susanne Tönsmann is managing director of the Participatory Science Academy in Zurich, Switzerland.

There, Susanne provides scientists and non-scientist citizens with the knowledge and training they need to efficiently work together. The core idea behind their work is to have citizens play an active role in science, rather than just paying for it via their taxes. Susanne and their colleagues are trying different methods and formats to make that happen. This job provides a wonderful opportunity to engage the public (“whoever that is”) and to make science more relevant to the many problems that the world faces today.

Susanne thinks that science, scientists and universities have a responsibility to solve real world problems; this should not be a side effect of research, but at the core. However, researchers in academia are mostly rewarded for publications and acquired grant money.

During their week at @SfPRocur, Susanne will discuss how the academic merit system can get in the way of that responsibility, and what could be done to improve things.


Susanne studied political science, sociology and English and went on to complete a PhD in political science at the University of Bremen in Germany. After this, instead of pursuing a ‘typical’ academic career, they joined the research support office at the University of Konstanz. Susanne told us that this was a wonderful job, where they advised postdocs and professors about funding opportunities.  They moved to Switzerland in 2017 to work at the University of Zurich, which turned out to be “equally wonderful but very different”.

about Susan Leemburg

Susan received her PhD in neuroscience in 2011 in Zurich, Switzerland. She worked as a postdoctoral researcher until 2017 and is currently looking for the next adventure.