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Great Debates

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.

At the General Assembly 2017: Thursday highlights

At the General Assembly 2017: Thursday highlights

Welcome to the fourth day of General Assembly excitement! Once again the day is packed with great events for you to attend and here are just some of the sessions on offer. You can find out more about what’s on in EGU Today, the daily newsletter of the General Assembly – grab a copy on your way in or download it here.

The Union-wide session of the day focuses on making facts greats again: how can scientists stand up for science (US3)? The session aims to identify strategies to counter recent attacks on science and brainstorm ways in which scientists can stand-up for science. With a selection of high profile panellists: Christiana Figueres, Sir David King, Heike Langenberg, Christine McEntee and the EGU’s President, Jonathan Bamber as chair person, the session promises to be one of the conference highlights. Join the discussion from 10:30 to 12:00 in room E2.

Thursday also sees two interesting Great Debates taking place: Arctic environmental change: global opportunities and threats (GDB1, from 08:30–10:00 in E2, jointly organised with American Geophysical Union – AGU). While many scientist support open access publishing, is support for open access to the underlying research data as easy to achieve? Join the discussion in GDB4, from 15:30 to 17:00 in room E1. At the same time, in room D1, conference participants can take part in the third Great Debate of the day. The two-way, complex interactions between urban and geophysical systems has been recently recognised as the key question for the fate our planet and the issue of the Anthropocene. How can we transition to next generation cities and planet Earth future?  Tune into to the sessions on Twitter using the #EGU17GDB hashtag or online at http://www.egu2017.eu/webstreaming.html.

Today’s interdisciplinary highlights include sessions on…

Take the opportunity to expand your skills in one of today’s short courses and splinter meetings. Be sure to share what you learn on social media using the hashtag #EGU17SC:

There’s also a number of Medal Lectures on throughout the day – here’s a sample of what’s on offer:

What have you thought of the Assembly so far? Let us know at www.egu2017.eu/feedback, and share your views on what future EGU meetings should be like!

If you need a change of pace, stop by the Imaggeo Photo Exhibition beside the EGU Booth (Hall X2, basement, Brown Level). You can vote for your favourite finalists there and – while you’re in the area – take the opportunity to meet your Division’s representatives in today’s Meet EGU appointments. While on the subject of competitions, make sure to ‘like’ your favourite  Communicate Your Science Video Competition film on the EGU YouTube channel.

Have a lovely day!

At the Assembly 2017: Wednesday Highlights

At the Assembly 2017: Wednesday Highlights

We’re halfway through the General Assembly already! Once again there is lots on offer at EGU 2017 and this is just a taster – be sure to complement this information with EGU Today, the daily newsletter of the General Assembly, available both in paper and for download here.

The day kicks off with an interdisciplinary Union-wide session: Vegetation-climate interactions across time scales (US1, 08:30–12:00 in E2, followed by posters from 13:30 to 15:00 in Hall X4). It will bring together palaeocologists, ecophysiologists, geoscientists and climate scientists to explore the different processes through which plants interact with the climate system across timescales. You can also follow the session on Twitter (#EGU17SSE) and catch up with the EGU 2017 webstream.

The second of our Great Debates is also on today. It is particularly gear towards Early Career Scientists (ECS). Head to room G1 from 19:00 to 20:30 to discuss, in a series of small group debates, whether ECS should be judged by their publication record? There will be free drinks provided to help lubricate the conversation. You can follow the discussion on Twitter with #EGU17GDB, and, #EGUecs.

Another highlight of today’s events is the EGU Award Ceremony (US0). Come and celebrate the recipients of the 2017 awards and medals from 17:00 in room E1.

Another promising event set for today is the EGU Award Ceremony, where the achievements of many outstanding scientists will be recognised in an excellent evening event from 17:30–19:00 in Room E1. Here are some of the lectures being given by these award-winning scientists:

The EGU Early Career Scientists’ Forum (12:15–13:15 in L2) is the best place to find out more about the Union and how to get involved. Because the EGU is a bottom up organisation, we are keen to hear your suggestions on how to make ECS related activities even better. There will be plenty of opportunities during the Forum for you to provide feedback.  It’s over lunch, so you’ll find a buffet of sandwiches and soft drinks when you arrive too!

There are a host of interdisciplinary events taking place today. If you are interested in big data and machine learning in the geosciences head to Room L2 at 08:30 for orals, or poster hall X4 at 17:30 for further discussion later in day. While session IE3.1/BG9.58: Information extraction from satellite Earth observations using data-driven methods (13:30–15:00 / Room L2, Poster:17:30–19:00 / Hall X4), is also set to be thought-provoking. Check the conference programme, our EGU Today, for details of a further two events spanning the cryospheric, atmospheric and ocean sciences.

There are more short courses than ever at EGU 2017! (Credit: EGU/Stephanie McClellan)

Now on to short courses! Today offers the opportunity to learn some tips for winning grant proposals with Open Science (SC74: 08:30–12:00 / Room -2.85). Don’t worry if you can’t make it today, it runs again tomorrow at the same time and place. Perhaps you’ve considered showcasing the fruits of your research in an informative science film, but are struggling to identify where you can find the funds to make the film happen. Then the workshop on finding funding for your science film is just the ticket (SC78:10:30–12:00 / Room 0.90). If instead you feel blogging might be the best way to make your work accessible to a broad audience, come along to the short course on the nuts & bolts of blogging with WordPress where you can pick up a tonne of tips to get you started. If you work in the field of natural hazards you can learn how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used for monitoring (SC53: 15:30-17:00 / Room -2.61). Writing your first paper can be daunting, so head to room N2 at 17:30 to develop successful strategies to design, develop and write a scientific paper (SC92:17:30–19:00 / Room N2)

And check out some of today’s stimulating scientific sessions:

Finally, remember to take the opportunity to meet your division’s representatives in the day’s Meet EGU sessions and, if you’ve had enough of the formalities, head on over to GeoCinema, where you’ll find some great Earth science films, including the finalists of EGU’s Communicate Your Science Video Competition. Make sure to vote on your favourite entries by ‘liking’ the videos on the EGU YouTube channel.

Have an excellent day!

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