Early career researcher networks meet in London

At a recent meeting in London, participants discussed the challenges facing early career researchers in sustainability. Photo: Alice Bradley
At an event convened by Future Earth, early career researchers across a wide range of fields discussed how sustainability science can advance in the years ahead.

Last week, representatives from 17 international networks of early career researchers met in London to discuss new collaborations and the challenges facing professionals beginning careers in sustainability. The workshop, convened by Future Earth, brought together a range of networks, including groups that focus on everything from international science policy to community resilience in Zambia.

These organisations are members of the Early Career Researchers Network of Networks, a coalition of 26 international networks that seek to facilitate cooperation and ensure effective participation of the early career community in international research activities. The Network of Networks, a strategic partner of Future Earth, is now the world’s largest collaboratory structure for early career interdisciplinary research. It reaches thousands of next generation researchers and professionals around the world.

Workshop participants hold a small group discusison. Photo: Hannah Moersberger

At the London meeting on 22 to 24 January, member representatives came together to discuss how these networks could work together and with Future Earth around shared goals, visions and future activities. The exchange was interdisciplinary, bringing together researchers studying everything from ecology to anthropology and finance and economics, and covered topics beyond academics. For example, the non-governmental organisation Envaros builds community resilience in Zambia through innovative research and capacity building around issues of water supply, environmental sanitation, climate resilience and mining.

On a more international scale, the meeting also included representatives from the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Young Fellows Programme. These fellows constitute a global transdisciplinary team of emerging experts in biodiversity and ecosystems services working at the interface between science and policy.

The Young Earth System Scientists community (YESS), in contrast, is centred on a broader research area, bringing together more than 1000 early career scientists from 85 countries and a range of disciplines. The Sustainability and Livelihood Research Organization (Suliver) focuses on the impacts of research on livelihoods and sustainability in Nigeria and other parts of the world, aiming at ensuring that research results in action. The International Consortium of Research Staff Associations (ICoRSA) supports the development of national associations to enhance the productivity and experiences of research staff, postdoctoral scholars and early career researchers.

Engaged in a plenary discussion about early career challenges. Photo: Hannah Moersberger

Over the coming year, the Network of Networks will focus its efforts on two main topics: the challenges of early career professionals in inter-, multi- and transdisciplinary research and helping researchers to understand how policies are made and how research can effectively impact them. Two working groups will lead efforts to hold webinars, create surveys and publish the results in different formats, such as articles, books and videos. A third working group will improve internal and external communication of the the Network of Networks to ensure efficient and productive exchanges between member networks and their external partners.

In addition, the Suliver and Earth System Governance (ESG) networks used the occasion to initiate a process for collaborative activities on small-scale fisheries in developing countries. The two networks will commence the collaboration with a joint webinar on “Governance, Sustainable Fisheries, Livelihood and Aquaculture in the Developing World”.

The Early Career Researchers Network of Networks welcomes new networks and working group members on a rolling basis. If your network is interested in joining the initiative, please visit the coalition’s website.

The meeting was followed by a “Futures” workshop co-sponsored by Future Earth and the British Academy. This workshop brought together 45 early career practitioners and researchers with a colourful mix of perspectives. The aim of the workshop was to create a new Europe-wide early career network based in the United Kingdom. It was the first event of a newly-created long-term collaboration between Future Earth, the British Academy, the United Kingdom early career network and the Network of Networks.

A brainstorming discussion at a recent "Futures" workshop. Photo: Hannah Moersberger

The workshop was led experts from different sectors, such as international policy-making (Jacquie MacGlade), the arts (Chris Fremantle), design fiction (Emmanuel Tsekleves), urban development (Serena Pollastri), transformations (Jonathan Rowson) and renewable energies (Mark Tarry). Together, participants developed scenarios of future systems, the required changes and pathways for four of Future Earth’s Knowledge-Action Networks: Natural Assets, Transformations, Urban and Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production.

Over one and half days, the group worked on future scenarios laying out new and innovative ideas on how to advance action and research in the Knowledge-Action Networks.

The proposals will be further developed with the Knowledge-Action Network Development Teams and other partners, and participants envision developing a synergistic publication on early career perspectives in Knowledge-Action Networks.

If you would like to get involved in the newly established United Kingdom early career network, please contact Kirsti Ashworth: k.s.ashworth1@lancaster.ac.uk

Current Early Career Researchers Network of Networks members: