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EGU

Meet the EGU’s new Science Policy Officer

Meet the EGU’s new Science Policy Officer

Hi there, my name is Chloe and I’m embarking on a new challenge. After participating in the EGU’s 2017 General Assembly 3 weeks ago as a warmup, I am starting in Munich as the EGU’s Policy Officer. While the title might sound a little ambiguous, it is an incredibly exciting position that allows me to facilitate the dissemination of the EGU members’ scientific knowledge to EU policy-makers while simultaneously sharing upcoming political issues with EGU members.

Originally from Tasmania, I am a long way from home! However, I have lived, worked and studied in Europe for the last 6 years. After gaining an undergraduate degree in Environmental Sciences I moved onto bigger things – first to Copenhagen and then onto Germany where I undertook a Masters in Environmental Governance at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität of Freiburg. Although working as Policy Officer with the EGU will be a new experience for me, I have gained an understanding of the science policy interface through my work with the African EU Energy Partnership, the Indo-German Centre for Sustainability and the Institute of Climate and Sustainable Cities.

I am really motivated to start working with the entire EGU team and for the challenge of facilitating science for policy activities. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions regarding science for policy, please feel free to email me at policy@egu.eu. You can also sign up to the EGU Database of Expertise if you would like to know more about the science policy process or about upcoming opportunities to share your scientific knowledge.

Heat waves in cities getting worse under climate change

Heat waves in cities getting worse under climate change

The effects of climate change are being felt all over the world but towns and cities are feeling most hot-under-the collar, a new study finds.

Cities are usually warmer than their surroundings due to the urban heat island effect where artificial surfaces absorb more heat than their natural counterparts. Coupled with the loss of the shady effects of trees, urban areas regularly record the hottest temperatures around.

However a study by Dr Hendrik Wouters and colleagues from KU Leuven in Belgium has found that cities are getting even hotter from the effects of climate change with an increase in heat-waves.

Heat-waves are periods of time where temperatures exceed the ‘normal’ high levels. These events are already problematic in urban areas causing power surges, excessive hospitalisations and even deaths.

Wouters and colleagues have investigated how much worse this problem is likely to get as extreme weather events become more common.

Speaking at a press conference at the EGU 2017 General Assembly on 25th April, Wouters said ‘we look at how much temperature levels are exceeding during heat waves‘. Using the expected average temperatures, the climatologists can calculate a threshold of ‘normal’ temperatures and then quantify how often these values are exceeded.

This information was gathered for the whole of Belgium over the 34 years prior to 2015. In rural areas this ‘alarm’ threshold was exceeded at least twice. In urban areas the heat-stress was considerably higher- up to 16 exceedances. Overall, heat-stress was twice as large in cities for the mid 21st century.

Cities (red) show much higher annual degree exceedances than rural areas (green). These exceedances are set increase into the future. (Wouters et al., EGU 2017).

In order to anticipate how much worse this problem might get, the group have modelled heat-stress events for the next 58 years. Wouters was keen to highlight that the severity and frequency of the events is dependent on many factors: ‘There is not only one scenario for the future, it depends on how many greenhouse gases we emit and how much land change will evolve in the future.’

In an extreme scenario, where greenhouse gas emissions and urban growth increase, as many as 25 days in a year could exceed alarm levels by up to 10 degrees celsius. However, if we start to reduce our emissions, the heat-stress problem is likely to stay at current levels.

By Keri McNamara, EGU 2017 General Assembly Press Assistant

The publication issue: the opinions of EGU early career scientists!

The publication issue: the opinions of EGU early career scientists!

The EGU’s General Assemblies have a long tradition of Great Debates – sessions of Union-wide interest which aim to discuss some of the greatest challenges faced by our discipline. Past topics have included exploitation of mineral resources at the sea bed, water security given an ever growing population and climate geoengineering, to name but a few.  This year’s meeting saw the first Great Debate aimed, specifically, at an Early Career Scientist (ECS) audience which boasted an innovative format too: Should early career scientists be judged by their publication record? A set of group debates. Today’s post, written by Mathew Stiller-Reeve, a convener of the session, summarises some of the main outcomes of the discussion.

We, early career scientists, are told that we need to become expert writers, presenters, and teachers if we are going to make it in the world of research. Many of us agree such transferrable skills are extremely important. But if we invest time in developing these skills, it sometimes feels like time wasted. All said and done, we only seem to be judged on our publication record and our h-index. How many papers have we published in high impact journals, and how often have they been cited?

Early career scientists seem very clued up on transferrable skills. They want to invest in these skills. Therefore, we wanted to hear from them about whether ‘early career scientists [should] be judged mainly on their publication record?’ And so we put this question to them (and others) at a Great Debate at the EGU’s 2017 General Assembly. We also wanted to test out a new format where the audience had the opportunity to voice their opinions about important issues concerning modern academia. The publication issue affects us all, so we should have a say.

With only 8 people at each table and over 40 minutes to debate, everyone had an opportunity to speak their mind and contribute to developing solutions. The room was buzzing with over 100 early career and more established scientists discussing, agreeing, disagreeing, and finding compromises.

In the end, each table was tasked to debate and boil their thoughts down to one or two policy-type statements. These statements will be presented to the EGU Council to inform them of where EGU early career scientists stand on this matter.

So without further ado, here are the conclusions of the tables:

– We need more criteria. Quality is most important, measured by prizes, PhD results and the incorporation of the community via new media.

-More activities need to be taken into account in a measurable way, but according to scaled categories #notjustanumber.

-The current system is cheap, easy and fast. A person should be judged on the broader contributions to society, to their colleagues, to their disciplines. We should move beyond metrics.

-Because scientists are more than a list of publications, assess them individually. Talk to them and read their output, including publications, blogs and chapter/book contributions.

-We should not be judged on publication record alone. We need a multi-variant set of criteria for assessment for judgment of impact beyond just academic publications.

-One suggestion is a weighted metric depending on the position you’re applying for which considers other factors such as teaching, outreach, conference participation etc.

-No, the h-index should not be the sole number, even though it is not a totally useless number.

-Quality should be judged on more than quantity and the large number of authors on publications devaluates the contributions of early career scientists.

-Publications are the accepted way of communication in science, but there is not any one number describing the quality of the early career scientist, whom in our humble opinion should not only be judged on the quantity of papers but also on their quality as a part of a complete set of research skills, including other contributions such as project development.

-We acknowledge the publication record as a reliable metric, but we suggest an additional step for assessing applications, based on video or audio presentations to emphasize your other outstanding qualities.

-We doubt that we are mainly judged on our publication record and we think that publications should be part of what we are judged on.

-When hiring, follow the example of the Medical Department at Utrecht University: only ask for the 3 papers, teaching or outreach experiences you think are important for the position you are applying for: we are more than numbers.

Should they be adopted? Do you agree? How can we adopt them?

The message in many of the statements from the Early Career Scientists at the European Geosciences Union is quite clear: We are more than numbers! Several suggestions arose from the debate: new metrics, video presentations, and even new application processes. Now the statements from the debate are recorded. This will hopefully inspire us (and others) to find better solutions. At the very least, the discussion has begun. Solutions are impossible if we don’t talk!

By Mathew Stiller-Reeve, co-founder of ClimateSnack and researcher at Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Norway

Editor’s note: This is a guest blog post that expresses the opinion of its author and those who participated at the Great Debate during the General Assembly, whose views may differ from those of the European Geosciences Union. We hope the post can serve to generate discussion and a civilised debate amongst our readers.

Science is in fashion!

Sandra and Rolf model their REpost fashion at EGU 2017. Credit: Kai Boggild/EGU

Sandra and Rolf model their REpost fashion at EGU 2017. Credit: Kai Boggild/EGU

Back in August last year EGU’s Laura Roberts-Artal chatted with Sandra de Vries to discuss her new company REpost, which recycles old fabric conference posters into new products, such as bags or even clothes!

Today at the European Geoscience Union General Assembly, we caught up with Sandra and one of her satisfied customers, Dr Rolf Hut from TU Delft to find out what REpost has been up to in the last year.

Hi Sandra! First of all, can you give us a reminder of what REpost is all about?

So I started REpost three years ago when I was a masters student in hydrology water management at TU Delft and I was a poster assistant, here at EGU and I had to throw away the conference posters at the end of the day, which people apparently didn’t want to have any more. And I thought it was a sad thing because I could do so much more fun things with them. So actually I didn’t throw them away, I kept them and I made them into a beach bag and a dress, for fun, and they actually looked pretty awesome! I even made a hydrological pencil skirt and I did my thesis presentation wearing it!

Since Laura spoke to you last year, what has been happening with REpost poster?

At the end of my Masters I realised that I still want to do work on research, I want to do hydrology, I want to stay in the water sector, but I had to balance that with running REpost. So, what I did was I started contacting these ‘social working places’, which are places where you work together with disabled people or with people coming back into working society and these working places found a very good way of making, for example this bag, which is a sample version. Now I’m kind of facilitating for anyone who wants to REpost or upcycle their poster into something else and I do it together with those working places.

Then of course after the EGU said ‘wow, this is a good idea and if you want you can promote the idea at the EGU’, then I knew that I had a pilot location and I knew that I could actually see if people were interested in this. And I started kind of figuring out if indeed it was possible: can I do this with social working places, can I do it logistically, can I make my own website, you know? Whilst still doing my other jobs.

From your experience, what kinds of posters work best for REposting?

It is like with normal posters actually, the more visuals you have, the more it is eye catching. So for example indeed you said, you have the fish, that’s something that people look at. Or for example if you have the back side this is also something that people say ‘Hey what’s that?’ It’s like a graph, and there’s a map, what’s on the map, you know? And then people start asking you about your research because that’s actually what I found out is the most fun about it because you have the recycling part, which is nice, but I really think that you could show your scientific message on such a nice and more cool way and you can reach more people than just conference people, you can reach your neighbour and tell them about research and your research and make it more reachable for anybody in the world! That’s what I really like about it.

Doctor Engineer Dr. Ir. Rolf Hut is a MacGyver geoscientist specialising in hydrological data and sensor design. Today he is wearing one of REpost’s upcycled outfits to present his poster on programmable off-the-shelf GPS loggers that can be used and recovered in large river experiments.

So, Rolf, why did you want a data suit made by Sandra?

Well I really loved Sandra’s idea of being able to reuse posters, a lot of people take fabric posters with them, I’ve used them in the past and then whenever we have the opportunity. So last week in the Netherlands I was presenting something at an event where our former queen and some princesses would be, as well as a lot of press and so I thought it would be awesome to be able to show something that you made! Then Sandra just came over to me, “we should just do a suit!” So we just made a complete suit, this one [that Rolf is wearing], and then it went awesome, because they loved it. It got attention because they come to you, because it’s weird! So you explain what it is.. and then you get the opportunity to just give them a soldering iron and say ‘now you are going to make something’, right there. That was really good, I thoroughly enjoyed that.

If anyone is interested in upcycling their poster, Sandra has some useful advice:

Really look at the type of material if you want to REpost it; I recommend flag sheet, it might be a little see-through, but it is very flexible and very cheap and then we can do anything you want with it!

 

Contact REpost via email here, visit the website, on Twitter [@REpost_poster] or you can leave your poster at a facility desk, where you can fill in a form with your request for upcycling.

Interview by Hazel Gibson and video by Kai Boggild, Press Assistants at EGU 2017 General Assembly

 

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