Before the meeting close to Berlin I once more underestimated the size of the planet (and how far Berlin is away from any other place in Germany). I volunteered to co-organize the computer science workshop on Friday afternoon and then realized when booking the flights that it is easily possible to get for lunch time on Friday to Berlin when leaving Santa Clara on Thursday morning. Was not an issue as there were others to run the workshop and I arrived on Friday late afternoon - thanks :-).
The political discussion on Friday night was on the utility of basic research. Frankly I did not really get the question. Increasing our understanding is a clear value. For me also the economic value of research is pretty obvious - even if the research outcome (basically what is in the papers and patents) is not of direct monetary value the people we educate (BSc, MSc, PhD) while the research is done are clearly of great value for the economy (an I would guess significantly more the staff cost that was invested in them).
The Emmy Noether meeting (this year with over 160 participants, all young researchers - I am already one of the old ones ;-) is the only meeting I go to where I really meet many other disciplines close up - it was really interesting to discuss about sociology and theology - and how it relates to computer science. I wonder what would happen if we would get together such a diverse set of people for 2 weeks to initiate new projects. Would this create entirely new ideas for research? Perhaps we should try…
Here you can find more information on the DFG Emmy Noether program - a very unique program for young researchers.