Melanie Peters, our inspiring and passionate director, passed away on 11 August. The news of her passing comes as a shock to us all. Melanie had been director of the Rathenau Instituut since 2015. Her leadership enabled the institute to make a tremendous leap forward. Melanie had an unrivalled ability to make the impact of science, technology and innovation on society tangible and understandable. We will miss her passionate and warm personality.
Melanie supported the idea of the Rathenau Instituut as a whole. 'We are in this together', was a phrase we often heard Melanie say. 'Good teamwork', she often wrote. Internal collaboration among colleagues from different teams and departments was also very important to her. That made our organisation stronger.
Collaboration also became a recurring theme in the Rathenau Instituut's research and working methods. Under her inspiring leadership, the Rathenau Instituut entered into partnerships with many organisations at home and abroad. We investigated partnerships in science, technology and innovation and emphasised the importance of dialogue between parties with conflicting interests. Whether it was the nitrogen issue or the modification of DNA in human embryos. For Melanie, cooperation meant being aware of everyone's task and responsibility. To find solutions to major societal issues, we need all disciplines and perspectives.
Good collaboration also means butting heads sometimes. Melanie was full of fire when it came to the quality of the discussion about science, technology and innovation in society, so a fiery discussion from time to time was nothing new. For Melanie, the societal perspective was anything but a vague concept. It stands for the protection of public values in our society, such as inclusivity, justice and civil rights. 'We have to talk to each other' might sound friendly, but Melanie didn't mean it in a noncommittal way. It was a firm encouragement to say what needed to be said. This applied both to colleagues and to the public and political debate, in which she participated intensively as director.
Melanie had an exceptionally large network - a sign of her broad interest and involvement - on which the Rathenau Instituut could build. She had an amazing memory, a rich associative mind, was lightning quick in her thinking and actions, and made connections that others had not yet seen. Not only figuratively, but also literally she was sometimes inimitable. She was never to be found behind her desk; like a will-o'-the-wisp, she ran from appointment to appointment. Strangely enough, we noticed that she always knew exactly what every meeting was about.
Above all, we will remember the warm and caring person that Melanie was. For Melanie, the human being was central. Anyone who fell on hard times would see her soft and compassionate side. And when it came to our research, she asked questions like: 'Can everyone participate in the digital society?' 'Is everyone reaping the benefits of the knowledge economy?' With Melanie as director, these were leading questions for the Rathenau Instituut. When the coronavirus forced us to work from home, she underlined the importance of human contact. 'Keep your distance, but remain close!', she urged us.
Our thoughts are with her husband Albert, her daughters Eva and Swati and the closest family and friends, to whom our heartfelt sympathy goes. We wish them strength in this difficult time.
Melanie, we are going to miss you terribly.
Board and staff of the Rathenau Instituut