The latest in the UK Polar Network’s acclaimed career skills workshop series was held at the University of Aberdeen, on the 12th – 14thJanuary. The theme of this workshop was “Science Communication”. Around twenty early career researchers came from across the UK to take part in active and lively discussions, as well as dynamic and entertaining practical sessions.
Focussed discussions were held on many topics over the course of the workshop. These took an informal style, with an external speaker giving an introduction to their work, then fielding questions and contributing to an open discussion. Antony Jinman, polar explorer and founder of Education Through Expeditions, gave a talk on the outreach work of his organisation, which includes videocasting and other interactive elements giving school groups the opportunity to experience expeditions from the classroom.
Andy Kerr, director of the Edinburgh Centre on Climate Change, gave a session on the relationship between scientists and policymakers, drawing on his experience in working with the Scottish Government on its climate change related publications. The way in which scientists interact with the TV industry was de-mystified by Mark Brandon, an Open University senior lecturer and consultant on BBC programmes such as Planet Earth and Blue Planet, using examples of his work at all stages of programme production. The many ways to get involved in public outreach work through opportunities such as the STEM ambassador scheme were described by Ken Skeldon, from the University of Aberdeen’s Public Engagement with Science Unit. All of these sessions provoked insightful and absorbing conversation, both during the sessions and afterwards, over coffee and, later, a pint.
Practical activities were an integral part of the workshop, and a great deal of training was offered in this area too. Athena Dinar, PR and Communications Manager at the British Antarctic Survey, led an exercise on press release writing which saw groups attempt to effectively summarise a study about satellite images of penguin poo, and conducted mock radio interviews, allowing volunteers the chance to practice these skills and receive feedback from the room. Sian Henley from the UK Polar Network committee took everyone through two demonstrations previously carried out with school groups: one showing the working of the polar vortex around Antarctica and its effect on atmospheric ozone, that involved people linking arms and dancing in a circle, and the other illustrating the problem that penguin mothers have trying to find their hungry chicks after a hunt, which saw everyone walking slowly around the room, honking and clapping at each other until (almost) all of the mother / chick pairs were re-united. Richard Morris, also from the Polar Network committee, led an exercise in which groups analysed newspaper articles, podcasts and short films on scientific issues for differences in tone, style and effectiveness. Rounding off the workshop, Stuart Monro and Christine Angus from Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh introduced their work with schools using puppets and props, gave some interactive demonstrations of different methods of communication, and led a discussion on the different styles employed by TV presenters.
All of our speakers and attendees are warmly thanked for their efforts and enthusiasm. Events such as this enhance the skills and abilities of Network members to communicate their science to the wider public, assisting them in becoming ambassadors for their fields, for the Network and for science more generally.
This event was made possible through generous grants from the Natural Environment Research Council, the Royal Astronomical Society, and the International Glaciological Society.
During the annual IGS British Branch meeting, held at Aberystwyth University by the Institute of Geography and Earth Science, the UKPN held a mentoring session for early career scientists concerning career paths and future employment. The session was held at the end of the first full day of the conference and was attended by over 45 delegates including Masters students, PhD candidates, post-doctoral researchers and others in full-time employment. The panel consisted of four leading scientists in cryospheric research; Dr Robert Bingham (University of Aberdeen), Dr Neil Ross (University of Edinburgh), Dr Nick Rutter (Northumbria University) and Maarten Krabbendam (British Geological Survey), all with various backgrounds and career paths.
Lessons from the session; as scientists in glaciology we must be flexible; be prepared to follow research around the world. Prove to yourself and to others that you are the right person for that job, or for that research grant. Be confident in your own abilities, and do not give up if you fail to get the job or funding. The same goes for getting your work published; you will receive criticism, but use it as a positive and not a negative… even the best academics get work rejected! Staying within your comfort zone or expanding your research areas, the choice is yours, as long as you can prove to future employers that it has benefitted you. Network; building good relationships within the glaciological community will improve the chances of getting employed. And finally, follow your ambitions.
Feedback from the session was extremely positive, from both the delegates and the panel. We wish to thank all of those who attended, those who posed questions and to Robert, Neil, Nick and Maarten for proving a wealth of information to budding cryospheric scientists.
As a great start to the Career Skills series this year, the University of Leeds hosted a multi-disciplinary workshop Investigating Variability in Polar Climates; Past, Present and Future. The workshop took place on the 8th and 9th of April and saw over 30 PhD, Masters students and Post-Docs gather to discuss the latest topics surrounding variability in Polar environments.
The workshop was organised by PhD students at the University of Leeds; Aisling Dolan, Amber Leeson, Sarah Monks, Thomas Pleavin, Jo Browse and Abigail Clifton.
Two keynote talks were given by leading scientists from the British Antarctic Survey. Dr. Anna Jones gave a presentation on ‘Air/snowinteractions and its influence on polar tropospheric chemistry’ and Dr. Adrian Jenkins gave a talk on oceanic forcing on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Other speakers included Prof. Jane Francis and Prof. Piers Forster (IPCC Author) looking at the past and future evolution of Polar Climates. Technical sessions included An Introduction to Modelling Polar Climates, Polar Meteorology, Polar Atmospheric Composition and Cryosphere Remote Sensing. A speed researcher networking session was given by Dr. Andrea Howarth (Skills Training, Leeds) and anintroduction to Science and the Media was given by Hannah Isom; a Senior Press Officer at Leeds. Practical sessions on ice sheet modelling (Dr. Daniel Hill, BGS) and a Q&A panel on fieldwork also provided an interactive learning environment.
Many researchers gave a poster of their current or projected research and all posters were of a very high standard. Three posters were chosen by a panel of senior academic judges as outstanding; Kathryn Nye (Durham, best overall poster), Carys Cook (Imperial College, highly commendable) and Daniel Grosvener (Manchester, highly commendable). The poster session and conference dinner offered a valuable networking opportunity and allowed for many in depth discussions about current Polar research.
We feel that the workshop was a huge success and we hope that early career researchers found the event of value and that it may have sparked off future collaborations. We would like to take the opportunity to thanks all of the participants and presenters who made this event as enjoyable as it was.
Particular recognition must also go to our sponsors – the Natural Environment Research Council, International Polar Year International Programme Office, the University of Leeds (Institute of Climate and Atmospheric Science, Earth System Science Institute and the Sellwood Group for Palaeo-Climatology) and the Royal Meteorological Society - for making this event financially possible.
Aisling Dolan (UKPN Committee)