Introducing the Revamped Early Career Climate Forum: What, Why, How and Where

 Jun 24, 2015    by Michelle Staudinger

Welcome to the new and improved Early Career Climate Forum (ECCF)! We (Michelle Staudinger, Science Coordinator of the Northeast Climate Science Center and Ezra Markowitz, Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Conservation at UMass Amherst) are excited to get things kicked off after a 6-month overhaul of the ECCF; a process that has involved a complete redesign of the ECCF website as well as the development of new tools to foster and support easier exchange of ideas, advice and resources among ECCF members. To get things started, we thought we’d answer four questions that have helped guide the redesign process over these past few months. On behalf of the entire ECCF editorial board, we’re glad you are here and we hope you’ll be back frequently to check out the new material that will be up on the website each week.

What is the ECCF hoping to achieve?

MS – Our vision for the ECCF is to help connect students and other early career professionals conducting research in the climate sciences and related disciplines across the Department of the Interior Climate Science Centers (CSC). Because the field of climate science is under an incredible amount of scrutiny from the public, the ECCF also aims to provide early career professionals an outlet to discuss the challenges they are facing in communicating with a wide variety of audiences. We thought it would be helpful for students asking similar questions about climate change and adaptation to share their experiences and create a community of knowledge exchange.

EM – Another core goal we have is to really foster active engagement and communication within the extremely diverse community of early career researchers working on climate-related issues. Forging stronger connections between one another will not only improve the work that we all do individually, but it will also provide a support structure that all ECCF members can rely and count on throughout this phase of their careers. If we’re successful, the relationships that the ECCF helps foster will last long after today’s “early careers” have become the well-established researchers of the future.

Why develop the ECCF?

EM – Everyone is busy—especially early-career researchers. Finding time and, especially, opportunities to connect with other researchers who are working on and thinking about similar issues can be challenging. Yet making those connections is incredibly helpful and important, particularly at this stage in our careers, when hearing about a new funding opportunity or being introduced to someone at just the right time can make a huge impact on the trajectory of our careers. That’s one reason we’ve worked to redesign the ECCF in a way that makes it easier for community members to rapidly share information in a variety of formats (from blog posts to quick emails sent to the ECCF listserv).

MS – There are a number of communication outlets for the CSCs in the form of public or stakeholder newsletters and websites, as well as email groups at the upper administrative and Principal Investigator levels; however, up until now there has been no infrastructure in place to connect students and post-docs across the CSC network. With the ECCF and companion listserv we hope to provide a means for this community and its partners to exchange ideas and information.  

How did we choose the format for the ECCF?

MS – The format that we chose for the new ECCF is intended to help break down the barriers that often keep scientists or organizations from different disciplines from communicating with each other. We added a public interface to encourage our community and followers to think broadly as well as to get experience speaking to different audiences in both technical and non-technical terms.

EM - We also recognized that each ECCF community member has his or her own level of interest, availability and experience when it comes to communicating about science, so we wanted to develop a multi-platform structure that provides community members with a variety of different ways to interact with one another. Some people just want to be kept up to date with new announcements and opportunities, so being a member of the listserv is just right; others want to be more active in the conversation, so posting to the Forums or even writing a longer piece for the Blog might be best. At the end of the day, the ECCF is for all of you, the community members we want to help engage and connect with.

Where do we see ourselves a year from now?

MS – Success for the ECCF would be that we become the go-to place for early careers to find out what students and post-docs at the CSCs are working on and thinking about.  I also hope that the community expands to include early career professionals from other climate-focused programs (e.g., USDA Climate Hubs or NOAA RISAs) and institutions (academic and beyond). In a year from now we hope to offer additional platforms for our community to exchange information and ideas, perhaps in the form of an early career webinar series, newsletters, and trainings.

EM - If we are able to build the ECCF community and really engage people in meaningful dialogue with one another, we have the potential to be a key hub of information exchange and knowledge sharing for early career folks working in and around the climate domain. The Forum pages will be filled with respectful, if at times passionate, conversations on a wide variety of issues and new Blog posts will be going up on the site regularly. With membership and readership in the hundreds (if not higher), the ECCF will play a central role in promoting and supporting scholarship and outreach among its community members and its positive impact will be felt far and wide.

Again, welcome to the ECCF community! We hope you feel inspired to contribute in any way you feel comfortable, and share your successes and challenges with your peers.

-Michelle and Ezra

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NE CSC Science Coordinator Michelle Staudinger and UMass Amherst Dept. of Env. Conservation Assistant Professor Ezra Markowitz