Image of Sir David Attenborough research ship

Funding success. UKPN and APECS Iceland were awarded funding from the NERC Arctic Office to help ECRs gain scientific cruise experience.

UKPN and APECS Iceland collaborated on a successful grant application to obtain funding from the NERC Arctic Office. This funding will be used to host a networking scheme tailored towards UK and Icelandic Early Career Researchers (ECRs) on board the RRS Sir David Attenborough for a week passage from the UK to Madeira. The aim of the scheme is to provide ECRs with limited fieldwork experience the opportunity to participate in a mock scientific cruise. Participants will receive training and familiarisation with ship instrumentation and learn about oceanic and atmospheric sampling from British Antarctic Survey scientists. An insight into the practical and theoretical logistics of cruise will be provided with hand-on experience and a guided session towards writing a cruise report.

Stay tuned for your chance to apply.

Photos: Sam Hunt (@samwise_adventure)


Reflection on 2021 from UKPN

A little later in the year than we initially planned, but we would still like to take a moment to record and share with you the highlights of all the UKPN activities in 2021. Granted, 2021 may have only been mildly better than 2020 in many respects, and we’ve still had to organise the majority of our events virtually, but we’ll present a few UK Polar Network related highlights here and let you decide for yourself. Stay tuned for our recent updates and future opportunities on our social media pages!

First of all, a new UKPN committee has been formed for the 2021/2022 academic year, and with 40 early career volunteers from across the UK, this is the largest committee in UKPN history! Because new committees can only be successful thanks to the work of past committees, we had our first President symposium in October 2021, in which we brought together committee representatives from more than 10 years of UKPN history (2008-2021) to exchange knowledge and ideas for future directions.

As always, the 2021 Antarctic flags project was very popular: 180 flags were submitted by schools from 9 different countries including Poland, Portugal, Hong Kong and Uganda! To date, 40 flags have been received back from teams who have taken them to Antarctica and more will follow as the Antarctic Summer season progresses. The flags taken down by the RRS Sir David Attenborough even included a fantastic letter from the crew members to the schools.

The Polar Pen Pals project allows students to send letters with questions to polar researchers on subjects that they are currently studying, such as meteorology, zoology and glaciology. So far, 30 schools have signed up, and 6 requests for Skype or in person conferences have been received. 

The 2021 Polar Pride day was a huge success – and an absolute 2021 UKPN highlight! Social media posts about polar pride day reached an audience of 35.7 million people in 70 countries and 14 published news items mentioning Polar Pride reached about 15.7 million people.

The UKPN also organised three online Polar Pint of Science shows in collaboration with the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust (UKAHT) and Pint of Science. The shows ran over three weeks in October in the run-up to COP26 and all three shows had well over 100 live viewers and a total of 2000 views on Youtube. The episodes (Exploration Untold, The Polar Connection: linking past to future, A roadmap for the future: empowering the globe to save the poles) are still available on Youtube, so do have a look!

In collaboration with the National Maritime Museum (NMM) we organised workshops and activities during the Ice Worlds festival in October 2021. Thanks to the excellent work of our 8 ECR volunteers, the workshops such as “make your own polar animal”, “build a glacier”, “polar foodwebs” and “where did the Titanic sink?” received visitors who even returned to the NMM within the 4-day period to attend the workshops for a second time! Sorry you missed it? We will be collaborating with the NMM on other outreach events in the future!

Three webinars were hosted by the Arctic Sciences Priorities (ASPP) UK-Russia early-career researchers’ collaborations for future sustainability in 2021 and 4 more webinars will follow in 2022. Each webinar is live, and involves a discussion (in both English and Russian) and/or presentations on the various challenges faced by UK-Russia scientific collaborations and how to tackle them. You can re-view past webinars on Youtube: Collaborations matter: a webinar on UK-Russia collaborations in Arctic Science, Starting points: funding and networks, You-me understand: how to overcome cultural and language barriers. Or sign up for future webinars through our mailing list and the UK-Russia collaboration website.

The UKPN has also co-organised and attended a number of conferences in 2021 including:

  • the Polar Early Career Conference in May 2021, which was led entirely by ECRs, involved 400 attendees and over 100 presentations and included sessions on various Polar science disciplines, as well as employability workshops, and EDI session, and panels on local knowledge exchange and the impacts of COVID and Brexit on research (which resulted in a Nature article – see also our blogpost on this).
  • The ATOM Science Festival in Oxford, with digital activities, quizzes and QR codes which linked to videos on polar research to accompany a treasure hunt around Oxford.
  • In addition to this, talks which were given, posters presented and workshops co-organised at the Virtual Early Career Ocean Professionals Day 2021, the 2021 Arctic Circle Assembly and the Svalbard Science Forum.

The UKPN organised an online visual design course for early career scientists. During the  one-day course which was given by Infohackit, 24 ECRs learned essential design skills for making science infographics. Hopefully in 2022 we will be able to organise more training courses for our members!

Some other important 2021 highlights included the renovation of our website – doesn’t it look amazing now? - increased collaboration with the newly formed APECS Iceland committee, and support from our EDI officers to various Polar Science networks and activities.

With that, we would like to give a huge applause to our 2020-2021 committee members and the numerous early career scientist volunteers from the UKPN network who have made all of this possible. And we look forward to an equally exciting 2022: note down the Cardiff Science Festival (19 & 20 February) and the Cheltenham Science Festival (June 10th) in your agenda’s, and watch this space (or our newsletter and social media accounts) for more to come!


Survey to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on the Svalbard science community

To anyone with research interests in Svalbard, please find below information about a survey to understand the impacts of COVID-19 on the Svalbard science community.

This survey will be used to make a strategy for the upcoming (2021) field season in Svalbard. Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System (SIOS) invites all those who are associated with Svalbard science community including researchers/scientists, research management staff, logistics operators, academicians including students (PhD/Masters/Bachelors), and research station/facility/infrastructure staff, to respond to this survey. You can find more information and survey link here: https://sios-svalbard.org/News_20201209.

It will take approximately 15 minutes to complete this survey. The survey will be closed on 7 January 2021.

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How will we use the data and disseminate results from this survey? How will you get benefitted from this survey?

 (1) SIOS will host a dedicated online workshop ‘SIOS responses to COVID-19 and the new normal - adapting our strategy for the future’ on 13 January 2020 (09:30 Am to 12:00 Pm CET) as a part of its annual Polar Night Week (PNW) event (11-15 January 2020). More information is available here: https://sios-svalbard.org/PolarNightWeek. Registration to PNW is open: https://sios-svalbard.org/PNW2021_registration. Your inputs to this survey will help us to shape and formulate the programme of this workshop. Preliminary results of this survey will be discussed during the workshop. We encourage all the participants of this survey to attend this workshop.

(2) Since the pandemic is still ongoing, your response will be used to develop new services and strengthen existing services at SIOS-KC to support your fieldwork activities during 2021.

(3) Finally, responses from this survey and the PNW workshop will be analysed by SIOS-KC, RSWG and authors from the Svalbard science community. We may produce a manuscript based on the response from the community to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. If we do so, all the responses will be used anonymously without revealing the personal identity of anyone responding to this survey. If you are willing to analyse resulting data and provide inputs to the planned manuscript as an author, please respond to all questions of the survey and do not forget to mention your name and email id on the question 1 and 2.