Early Career Scientists Union Symposium 2011

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 25th 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 (wwlln.net), 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, www.apecs.org) 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.