The role of Early Career Scientists in community research

This blog post is a repost from the HEPEX blog.

 Contributed by Florian Pappenberger and Maria-Helena Ramos (both considerably beyond the early career stages, they admit)

(this is post is in collaboration with the Young Hydrologic Society)

Science and forecasting practice are the foundations of the HEPEX community. These are certainly the routine of many of us during our office hours and while spending time in front of your computers.

But this community is also based on individuals, and this is often what really makes it fun to go to meetings, workshops and conferences. Face-to-face interactions often bring new ideas into form (see also this previous post from CSIRO team), while also helping us to further develop interpersonal skills.

It is thus not really a surprise when members of the community get together after meetings and write (sometimes successful) research proposals together. One example is the IMPREX project, funded under the EU H2020 programme, where many partners already knew each other from HEPEX before participating in IMPREX.

The ‘EX’ that HEPEX and IMPREX have in common does not express the same idea at all, but several challenges of HEPEX are part of the research tasks of IMPREX:  for instance, improving hydrological models and data assimilation for forecasting extremes, or estimating the economic value of forecasts in the water sector.

IMPREX stands for IMproving PRedictions and management of hydrological EXtremes. The project targets improving the quality of short-to-medium hydro-meteorological predictions, enhancing the reliability of future climate projections, applying this information to strategic sectoral and pan-European surveys at different scales, and evaluating and adapting current risk management strategies.

But this post is not about IMPREX. What in fact has (gladly) attracted our attention in this project and we would like to talk about here is the active participation of early career scientists (ECS).

Intergenerational engagement in research projects

Many research programmes call for the multiple benefits of stakeholder and public engagement, but what about “intergenerational engagement” between the early career scientists and the well-established ones?

If we look closely, the age group distribution in IMPREX, and in HEPEX as well, is extremely diverse. It ranges from early career scientists (usually MSc or PhD candidates) to well-established researchers, both sides with particular skills (from analytical to computer programming skills) and viewpoints (for carrying out science experiments but also succeed in multi-cultural team leadership, for instance). This diversity is not always fully explored in research projects, but the case seems to be different in IMPREX.

ECSs in IMPREX have tasks and are in charge of presentations in all project meetings. They have their place in the agenda and are encouraged to get involved in the consortium. They also have their place in the project’s online blog to communicate anything they want: their science achievements, activities, new discoveries, participation in meetings or just general reflections.

They produce posts about topics which are interesting for them and describe them from their perspective. New perspectives are always exciting to read. And new perspectives which are untainted by ‘old’ ideas (sometimes disguised under what is called ‘experience’) are even more interesting.

So far, there have been a number of IMPREX ECS blog posts that are closely related to HEPEX topics and certainly worth reading:

  1. An ecologist’s viewpoint of hydrological forecasting (as far as we can remember, we never had a blog post in HEPEX from that angle – read the discussion!)
  2. An interesting post presenting an insider’s point of view of four forecasting services active in Germany, The Netherlands, Spain and at the pan-European scale.
  3. flood decision-making experiment, where we can step in the boots of a flood manager with the help of IMPREX ECSs.
  4. And a friendly report of their participation in the 2017 EGU General Assembly (notably, check the very nice way they present their photos at the end of the post!)

We are eagerly awaiting the next ones!

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