Laura Roberts-Artal

Laura Roberts Artal is the Communications Officer at the European Geosciences Union. She is responsible for the management of the Union's social media presence and the EGU blogs, where she writes regularly for the EGU's official blog, GeoLog. She is also the point of contact for early career scientists (ECS) at the EGU Office. Laura has a PhD in palaeomagnetism from the University of Liverpool. Laura tweets at @LauRob85.

EGU2015: Applying for financial support to attend the General Assembly

The EGU is committed to promoting the participation of both young scientists and established researchers from low and middle income countries who wish to present their work at the EGU General Assembly. In order to encourage participation of scientists from both these groups, a limited amount of the overall budget of the EGU General Assembly is reserved to provide financial support to those who wish to attend the meeting.

From 2005 to 2013, the total amount awarded grew from about €50k to €90k, with a record 279 awards being allocated to support attendance to the 2014 General Assembly. For the 2015 General Assembly, the EGU has allocated €110k to financially support scientists who wish to attend the meeting. About 80-90% of the funds are reserved to assist young scientists in attending the conference, whilst the remaining funds will be allocated to established scientists.

Financial support includes a waiver of the registration fee and a refund of the Abstract Processing Charge (relating to the abstract for which support was requested). Additionally, the grant may include support for travel expenditures, at the discretion of the Support Selection Committee, to a maximum of €300. The EGU currently runs two different financial support schemes; you will be able to find more details about each of these awards on the Support & Distinction section on the EGU 2015 website. You will also find details on who is eligible for the awards on the website.

Scientists who wish to apply for financial support should submit an abstract, on which they are first authors, by 28 November 2014. Late applications, or applications where the scientist is not the main author, will not be considered. The EGU Support Selection Committee will make its decision to support individual contributions by 31 December 2014. All applicants will be informed after the decision via email early in the new year. Only the granted amount mentioned in the financial support email will be paid out to the supported contact author, in person, during the EGU General Assembly 2015.

To submit the abstract of your oral or poster presentation, please enter the Call-For-Papers page on the EGU2015 website, select the part of the programme you would like to submit an abstract to, and study the respective session list. Each session shows the link to Abstract Submission that you should use. More information on how to submit an abstract is available from the EGU 2015 website.

Applying for financial support is easier than ever! As soon as you make your choice of session you will be prompted to select whether you wish to apply for financial support. If you do, be sure you tick the appropriate box when submitting your abstract. Bear in mind that, even if you are applying for support, you will still need to pay the Abstract Processing Charge. A screenshot of the first screen of the abstract submission process is shown below.

The abstract submission page (click for larger). If you wish to apply for financial support, please select the relevant support box.

The abstract submission page (click for larger). If you wish to apply for financial support, please select the relevant support box.

There is a new and improved selection process for the allocation of the awards. Abstracts are evaluated on the basis of the criteria outlined below:

Evaluation Criteria Weight
How well does this contribution fit into the session it is submitted to? 10%
Is this contribution essential for the session being successful? 30%
Is the abstract clearly structured and scientifically sound? 25%
Are there conclusions and are they supported by data or analysis? 25%
How well is the abstract written (grammar, orthography)? 10%

Evaluation Process

  1. Based on the provided information eligible abstracts will be forwarded for evaluation.
  2. The first and most important step, after the submission deadline, corresponds to the evaluation of the abstract made by the respective session convener or by the programme group chair when the convener states a conflict of interest, based on the criteria outlined above. (A conflict of interest arises when the convener is, for example, a co-author on the abstract or a supervisor, close collaborator or direct colleague of the applicant.)
  3. The second step corresponds to the ranking made by the EGU programme groups which is based, on a first instance, on the convener’s evaluation of the abstracts.
  4. In the third and final step, the Support Selection Committee  (‘Treasurer team’) grants travel support within the overall annual budget allocation, taking into account the evaluations of conveners and ranking of programme group chairs, the number of abstracts submitted to each session, and the number of registered participants by country (estimated based on previous-year numbers). Between 30-35% of the travel grants will go to young scientists of low income countries in Europe, while 10-20% will be awarded to established scientists from low, lower middle, and upper middle income countries (see Support & Distinction page for more details on the countries).

Next year’s financial-support awardees will be notified in early January 2015. If you have any questions about applying for financial support, please contact EGU communications Officer, Laura Roberts.

Schematic summary of the evaluation criteria.

Schematic summary of the evaluation criteria.

Imaggeo on Mondays: Polygon ponds at sunset.

Thinking of the Arctic conjures up images of vast expanses of white icy landscapes punctuated by towering icebergs and a few dark rocky masses; certainly not a green landscape with a series of water pools amongst rolling hills. The image below is perhaps more reminiscent of the temperate Scottish or Welsh countryside; but don’t be fooled, out Imaggeo on Monday’s image was captured by Reinhard Pienitz  (Laval University, Canada) in western Bylot Island, part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.

Polygon ponds at sunset. (Credit: Reinhard Pienitz, via

Polygon ponds at sunset. (Credit: Reinhard Pienitz, via

The uniqueness of Bylot Island is due to the convergence of a number of ecosystems. It lies to the north of Baffin Island and is dominated by high mountain peaks and glaciers. The southern plain of the island is at relatively low-elevations and covered by tundra vegetation. Wetlands are common in the low lying terrain where grasses, brown moss and sedges carpet the landscape. Think of them as ‘polar oasis’ which support hundreds of plant species and tens of animal and bird species. In contrast, the slopes of the hills are much drier and support shrubs, grasses and forbs.

The ground in the low-lying areas is perpetually frozen which means the drainage of water from the melted snow is hampered; it is the presence of this permafrost which allows the formation of the widespread wetlands. Year on year, organic matter accumulates, rising upwards, as the permanently wet and cold conditions mean it is very difficult for organic material to break down. As time passes, cyclic layers of peat and permafrost build up. The importance of the wetland ecosystem in the Arctic cannot be underestimated. The peat-rich soils constitute a net sink for carbon during the Holocene and are thought to store 97% of the tundra carbon reserve (Ellis et al., 2008).

Freezing over the winter months and thawing over the (slightly) warmer spring months drives the formation of the polygonal pattern seen across the wetlands of Bylot Island (and many other Arctic regions). As the ground freezes it contracts resulting in the formation of vertical cracks which penetrate the layers of peat and permafrost. The moist soils and meltwaters mean that there is plenty of water available to infiltrate the cracks, especially during spring. As the cold winter months approach the water freezes and the cracks expand, forming what are known as ice wedges, commonly connected at the surface, which give rise to the well-ordered polygonal pattern.



Ellis, C.J., et al. (2008), Paleoecological Evidence for Transitions between Contrasting Landforms in a Polygon-Patterned High Arctic Wetland, Arctic. Antarctic, und Alpine Research., 40, 4,624-637

Imaggeo is the EGU’s open access geosciences image repository. Photos uploaded to Imaggeo can be used by scientists, the press and the public provided the original author is credited. Photographers also retain full rights of use, as Imaggeo images are licensed and distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons licence. You can submit your photos here.

Open Access: Access to knowledge

“Access to knowledge is a basic human right.” Yet sadly as scientists we are often forced to operate in a framework in which this is not always the case. This week sees the celebration of the eighth Open Access Week, and whilst there have undoubtedly been many achievements by the Open Access (OA) movement since 2009, there is still a long way to go before mankind’s basic human right to knowledge is restored.

Open for business: The Open Access logo (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

Open for business: The Open Access logo (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

So why all the big fuss about OA in the first instance? If you are reading this as a layperson or as a scientist at the outset of their scientific career, then you may be surprised to find out that it costs (often large sums of) money to read online research articles. Even if these fees are not being charged to you personally, the chances are that it is costing your research institution or library thousands of pounds/euros/dollars that could otherwise be spent on research, resources, jobs, or infrastructure (as an example, in 2009, Clemson University in the US, an institute with less than 17,000 students, spent an astonishing $1.3 million on journal subscriptions to the publishing magnate Elsevier alone).

Over the past 30 years, journal prices have out priced inflation by over 250%; but it wasn’t always like this. In the past journals existed for two reasons: as an affordable option for scientists to publish their work in (as opposed to the more expensive option of personally-published books), and as a place where members of the general public and the wider scientific community could find out about the advances in science that their taxes were helping to fund. Sadly, in recent times many journals seem to have lost their way on both counts, hence the need to open it up again.

Climbing Higher: The cost of journal articles continues to rise completely out of proportion to inflation (Photo credit: Association of Research libraries)

Climbing Higher: The cost of journal articles continues to rise completely out of proportion to inflation (Photo credit: Jorge Cham/PHD Comics)

The beginning of the modern OA movement can be traced back to the 4th July 1971, when Michael Hart launched Project Gutenberg, a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works for free. However, it wasn’t until 1989 (and with the advent of the Internet) that the first digital-only, free journals were launched, amongst them Psycoloquy by Stevan Harnad and The Public-Access Computer Systems Review by Charles W. Bailey Jr.

Since then, the OA movement has grown considerably, although it is important to note that publishing articles so that they are free for all is itself not without expense. Despite the lack of print and mailing costs, there are still large infrastructure and staffing overheads that need to be taken into consideration, and so rather than make the reader pay, alternatives have to be found.

One alternative, known as the Gold route to OA, is to make the author(s) of the article pay for the right to have their research accessible by all. Many journals already require an Article Processing Charge (APC) to be paid before publication, and so some journals have simply elected to add an additional charge if the author wants to make their journal open to the general public.

The other main alternative is the Green route to OA, which involves the author placing their journal in a central repository, which is then made available to all. The journal in which the article was originally published will usually enforce an embargo period of a number of months or years that must pass before the published articles can be placed in these repositories, although this can often be circumnavigated by uploading final, ‘accepted for publication’, drafts of the article. You can read more about OA subject repositories in this article.

A sea of golden green: the availability of gold and green OA journal articles by scientific discipline in 2009 (Source: Björk, et al.).

A sea of golden green: the availability of gold and green OA journal articles by scientific discipline in 2009 (Source: Björk, et al.).

Both of these approaches to OA have their respective advantages and disadvantages, and normally research intuitions and/or funding bodies guide the route that researchers choose. The Research Councils UK (RCUK), for example, has a policy (which can be found here) that supports both the Gold and the Green routes to OA, though it has a preference for immediate access with the maximum opportunity for reuse. It is worth noting at this point that another key aim of the OA movement is that published research is free to reuse in future studies. This might seem like a fairly trivial point, but currently for any articles published in closed access journals, express permission is needed from the publishers if the results are to be used in any future studies.


Top of the food chain: the top 10 UK universities in terms of APC funding distribution (Source: RCUK).

The major barrier that still needs to be overcome with regards to OA is determining who pays for the right to free access. At the moment many governments have a centralised pot, which they allocate to their different research institutes. However, issues arise when one considers the limitations that this imposes on poorer countries, institutes, research disciplines, and independent researchers. There is also the minefield of determining who gets how much and why; my own institute, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) has only been allocated enough funds to pay for 7 academic papers a year via the Gold route to OA. When you consider that some researchers would hope to publish that many papers themselves on a yearly basis, there is clearly a disconnect. It is for these reasons that many are pushing for ‘OA 2.0’, an initiative in which articles are, in the words of EGU’s former executive secretary Arne Richter, “Free to Read, Free to Download and Free to Publish.” However, such an approach will require a major change in the modus operandi of almost all publishing companies. It is worth noting that Copernicus, who are responsible for publishing the majority of EGU’s affiliated journals are very strong proponents of the Open Access movement, and have been one of the leading lights in an otherwise murky world.

The sad truth of the matter is that many of the more traditional journals are now run as big-business, moneymaking machines, safe in the knowledge that they can get away with charging large fees, because scientists are still desperate to publish in places with a ‘high-impact’. However, if enough scientists rise up and move away from these restrictive journals, and migrate towards those with an OA policy, then the impact factors will soon follow suit (in fact, there is already strong evidence that publishing in an OA journal will result in more citations for your research). Only then can we begin to reinstate knowledge as a basic human right available to all, rather than as an expensive luxury dolled out to the privileged few who can afford it.


By Sam Illingworth, Lecturer, Manchester Metropolitan University


EGU 2015: Call-for-papers is now open!

From now, up until 7 January 2015, you can submit your abstract for the upcoming EGU General Assembly (EGU 2015). In addition to established scientists, PhD students and other early career researchers are welcome to submit abstracts to present their research at the conference.

Further, the EGU encourages undergraduate and master students to submit abstracts on their dissertations or final-year projects. The EGU recognises that there are many outstanding students who would benefit from attending and presenting at the General Assembly and, therefore, provides a discounted registration rate to this group. Interested undergraduates can apply to present a poster (or talk) on research undertaken in a laboratory setting, on a mapping or field project they’ve been involved in during their degrees, or any other research project of relevance.

You can browse through the EGU 2015 sessions here. Clicking on ‘please select’ will allow you to search for sessions by Programme Group and submit your abstract to the relevant session either as plain text, LaTeX, or a MS Word document. Further guidelines on how to submit an abstract are available on the EGU 2015 website.

An innovative presentation format – Presenting Interactive Content, better known as PICO – has been implemented at the General Assembly since 2013. PICO sessions bring together the advantages of both oral and poster sessions, allowing authors to present the essence of their work and follow it up with interactive discussion. Please note that some sessions are ‘PICO only’ sessions, meaning you cannot select oral/poster preference.

The deadline for the receipt of abstracts is 07 January 2015, 13:00 CET. If you would like to apply for financial support to attend the 2015 General Assembly, please submit an application no later than 28 November 2014. We’ll be providing further information about how to apply for travel grants and how they are awarded in a forthcoming post.

EGU 2015 will take place from 12 to 17 April 2015 in Vienna, Austria. For more information on the General Assembly, see the EGU 2015 website and follow us on Twitter (#EGU15 is the conference hashtag) and Facebook.

See you next year!  (Credit: Stephanie McClellan/EGU)

See you next year!
(Credit: Stephanie McClellan)


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