Young Scientists

Geosciences and the Future of Planet Earth

IUGG continued its tradition to run a Union symposium dedicated specifically to the vision of early career scientists of the future of our planet. The Union symposium "Geosciences and the Future of Planet Earth" was held at the XXV IUGG General Assembly in Melbourne on 28 June 2011. Organized and convened by Harsh Gupta (Vice-President IUGG; currently IUGG President), the aim of this symposium was to invite early to mid-career scientists to make suggestions as to how IUGG and its Associations could enhance the role of earth and space sciences in the service of mankind. The very international array of speakers addressed the remit in a variety of ways. Kate Heal (UK, IAHS) and Adelina Geyer Traver (Spain, IAVCEI) focussed on communication between scientists, policymakers and the public.


In their talks, Kusumita Arora (India, IAGA), Abdul Azeez K. K. (India, IAGA), Endawoke Yisengaw (Ethiopia/USA, IAGA), Alexandra Yahn (USA, IAPSO), Rima Chatterjee (India, IASPEI), Gulam Babayev (Azerbaijan, IAG) and Claudia Emde (Germany, IAMAS) demonstrated the relevance of different areas of the geosciences to mankind, ranging from identifying alternative energy sources, mineral prospecting and hazard risk assessment to satellite-based communications and aviation. Claudia’s talk was extremely topical given the disruption to aviation caused by the ongoing eruption of the Chilean volcano, Puyuhue, and illustrated how basic science - in this case the development of new methods using polarised radiance fields for assessing mass concentration of ash – is of relevance to society. The presentations by James Wookey (UK, IASPEI) and Craig Rodger (New Zealand, IAGA) focussed more on the benefits of collaboration within the scientific community. James stressed the need to share and publish datasets requiring standards, which IUGG could play a role in endorsing and promoting. Craig emphasised that large international experimental collaborative networks are incredibly important to scientists in small countries and developing countries. He presented an example of such a network, the World Wide Lightning Location Network (, which operates on the principles of no exchange of funds and free exchange of data. The network is yielding many, and some unexpected applications, including early warning of volcanic eruptions and predicting tropical storm intensity. Scientific collaboration and networks were also the subject of the talk by Inga May (Germany, IACS). She introduced the highly successful APECS (Association of Polar Early Career Scientists, which facilitates research, career development and outreach activities for 2500 members in more than 45 countries and is run by enthusiastic, dedicated volunteers with only one full-time paid staff member. The symposium was very well attended and there was plenty of time between the talks for lively discussion. Many suggestions were made as to how to improve communication between scientists, the public and policy makers. They included an IUGG blogspace and using IUGG Assemblies to offer lectures to schools and colleges and engage with the media. Examples were given of how scientists in Australia have improved communications with policy makers through scientists meeting parliamentarians on a regular basis and also the production of a National Strategy for Geosciences. Some participants emphasised the need to use professional communicators, but also the role of scientists in defining the messages to be communicated. A further point stressed during the talks and discussion was that a strategic approach by scientific organisations and also incentives for early and mid-career scientists are both required to fully address the immense challenge of more effectively communicating our science. Overall the Symposium formed a stimulating and multi-disciplinary start to the Assembly and it is hoped that the discussion engendered will be of benefit to IUGG activities.

Geosciences: The Future

The past few decades have seen an explosion in quantitative geoscience. Our observational systems now produce data streams at temporal and spatial resolution unprecedented in human history. The computational tools available for interpretation and prediction dwarf the state-of-the-art of merely 10 years ago. Where can we go from here? The IUGG Working Group of young scientists nominated by the IUGG Associations addressed this question. The group presented its view on the issues, challenges and opportunities of the geosciences in the years to come. A written report from the group is available here.

Young Scientists Event, IUGG XIV General Assembly, Perugia, Italy, 10 July 2007

This event aimed to discuss what IUGG can do to ensure that the future geoscience research community is strong, robust, and well prepared to tackle important questions. It comprised a panel discussion chaired by Kate Heal. Three panelists (see the figure) gave their outlook on several topics relevant to the geoscience research community, which were then discussed in an open forum.

Topic 1: How can the best minds be attracted to geosciences?
The panelists and audience identified several factors that may hinder engagement of the best minds in the geoscience research, including: limited exposure to geosciences in primary and secondary education, lack of suitable role models, lack of awareness of the societal relevance of geosciences, and higher salaries in industry. Whilst there was general agreement that geoscientists should take every opportunity to raise awareness of the value and interest of geosciences, a teacher representing IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology) suggested that existing conferences should include sessions to support educators and the dissemination of geoscience teaching tools.

Topic 2: What is the best preparation for interdisciplinary research?
Strong arguments were made for first becoming an expert in one area, but developing flexibility and awareness for interdisciplinary group work as auxiliary skills. A good grounding in mathematics was considered important to assist communication between different scientific disciplines, but it is probably also important that mathematics is taught within an applied context so that its relevance is clear. The benefits of studying abroad were noted. Symposia focusing on big topics, such as climate change, that can only be addressed by multiple disciplines, could also foster interdisciplinary research.

Topic 3: What can IUGG and young scientists do for each other?
Initially this question appeared to be a call to involve younger researchers to ensure the ongoing operation of IUGG, however, passionate comments from IUGG President Uri Shamir made it clear that the needs are of a much broader nature. Many of the senior scientists present clearly cared very strongly for the geoscience community and in fostering the careers of individual members for the good of the individual and collective. This is perhaps not self-evident to younger members of the research community. An important first step for interactions between IUGG (and other geo-organizations) and young scientists is to have more engagement from younger researchers themselves, but from the low turnout of this group at this meeting (only 20% of the audience of about thirty people), this is a challenge itself.

A number of actions were suggested to increase the engagement of younger researchers within IUGG. Rebranding "young" scientists as "early career" scientists and encouraging them to be conveners in collaboration with more experienced colleagues might increase interaction. Particular attention should be paid to engaging with early career researchers from less-economically developed countries, e.g., through travel grants and campaigning for free access to information and Internet resources. Finally, events that are perceived as of direct utility by early career researchers, e.g. relating to career development, peer-networking, and mentoring from senior scientists, could be included at existing conferences. The Report on the Young Scientists Event at XXIV IUGG General Assembly in Perugia in 2007 was published in EOS

Panelists at the photo: Masaki Hayashi (Associate Professor, Department of Geoscience, University of Calgary, Canada), Kalachand Sain (Group Leader, National Geophysical Research Institute, Hyderabad, India) and Simona Stefanescu (Senior Scientist and PhD student, National Meteorological Administration, Bucharest, Romania). Kate Heal (Panel's Chair, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, UK) on the right.

Association Activities

IUGG Associations promote international cooperation of early career scientists.

Particularly, in 2011 IACS signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists APECS:

IAVCEI support the activities of Early Career Volcanologists ( This public group is a forum for people in early stages of their careers in volcanology and related fields (including students). Topics include networking, sharing experiences that are common to early career researchers, and developing ideas for how IAVCEI can both support and engage with early career workers. Mechanisms for sharing information at this site include: discussion board, blog, wiki, and posting resources (e.g., documents, datasets).

Moreover, several Associations develop an award program related to early career scientists. See section Awards