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Multidisciplinary network provides climate change researchers with support and impact expertise

7 Jun 2022

The Glasgow Climate Change Conference continued to highlight the urgent need for a fair climate policy based on research and impactful climate action, which is needed in all sectors and at all levels of activity. In the coming decades, there will also be a great need for multidisciplinary research and new innovations that support climate change mitigation and adaptation. It is important that this information is available – and applied to the Finnish climate, society and business life. At the moment, young researchers in the early stages of their scientific careers play a key role in producing research-based information and safeguarding the continuity and renewal of science.

The Strategic Research Council's (SRC) Climate Change and Humans programme and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's Catch the Carbon research and innovation programme are significant research investments in climate change mitigation and adaptation. These recently launched research programmes widely share a thematic interface. Those working in the projects form a significant, multidisciplinary-oriented group of researchers studying the promotion of climate action in the entire Finnish field of science.

As directors of these research programmes, we want to offer doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in the early stages of their scientific careers an opportunity to network and develop their expertise to increase the social impact of their research. That is why we have initiated a network of young climate action researchers, which will meet virtually for the first time today. The network includes some thirty researchers working on the programmes’ projects. Opportunities for expanding the network within the programmes will be examined during next year.

In a country the size of Finland, science cannot afford to overlap. Instead, close national research collaboration plays a key role. A prerequisite for this is that researchers have the chance to get to know each other and each other's research. The national graduate schools that operated in the early 2000s were natural places for discipline-specific networking already in the early stages of a researcher's career.

With the transition to local university-specific graduate schools, it has no longer been that easy for doctoral researchers from different parts of the country to meet. Through the new network we have initiated, young climate researchers working in different organisations have the possibility to network and familiarise themselves with each other's research topics. Our objective is that the connections established in our network will lead to, for example, new research initiatives and consortia in the future and thus strengthen national research collaboration.

The operating environment of science and research is transforming. Positive changes include the active development of practices for open science and responsible researcher evaluation. The recurrent threat of science funding cuts particularly poses challenges. The uncertainty about the continuity of long-term funding and its impact on career prospects worries young researchers. Researchers also have concerns regarding climate change and their opportunities to promote climate action through their own research. The objective of our network is to enable discussion and share peer support between young researchers in the same situation, which hopefully gives them faith in continuing their scientific career.

Recently, the importance of the social impact of research has also been emphasised. The means and paths of impact vary by discipline – however, what they all have in common is that in addition to discipline-related competence, researchers must also increasingly invest in communication and impact skills. For example, Sofi, the joint project of the four Finnish science academies, has identified that researchers have difficulties in linking their own research and expertise to the social context because the structures and stages of decision-making are not familiar to them, and they do not necessarily recognise how their research could impact decision-making. That is why we will offer climate-themed impact training to young researchers in the network.

Science plays a key role in solving climate change, biodiversity loss and other sustainable development challenges. We hope that the new network of climate change researchers will support young researchers and offer them the courage to continue making the world better through science.

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