Young Scientists Union Symposium 2007

The Union symposium at the 24th IUGG General Assembly (Perugia, Italy, 10 July 2007) 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.