Column - On the Subject

The next generation of climate scientists

Gaby Langendijk © G. Langendijk

Young researchers will be the ones who have to deal with the impacts of climate change. The Young Earth System Scientists community brings them together. Gaby Langendijk, one of their Executive Committee members, talks about their expieriences and visions for the future of Earth system science.

An editorial view from Gaby Langendijk, Young Earth System Scientists community

Recently a group of early career scientists from the Young Earth System Scientists (YESS) community voiced their vision on the future of Earth system science. I was one of them. We identified four main frontiers: seamless Earth system prediction, communication, user-driven science, and interdisciplinarity. The article was published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) and demonstrates a clear future scientific direction, as well as that the new generation is ready to continue pioneering crucial areas of research which provide solutions to benefit society.

During the last two years I worked at the World Climate Research Programme WCRP and was concerned with stimulating opportunities for early career scientists to involve them more closely in the international research community. Though increasingly more women and researchers from diverse cultural backgrounds enter the established research community, often the composition of panels and commissions shows that there is still some way to go, providing a clear motivation to further enhance diversity in the research community. Furthermore, traditional disciplinary boundaries become apparent when scientists are demanded to conduct interdisciplinary or even transdisciplinary research to develop solutions for the real-world problems we currently start to face with climate change.

It is exactly in these aspects where the next generation plays a crucial role. Not solely younger researchers will be the ones who have to deal with the impacts of climate change, but merely because early career scientists have recently obtained their university degrees and are increasingly trained in an interdisciplinary manner. We are very open to collaborations outside of the academic spheres in order to combat today’s complex challenges related to climate change. Also, the recent developments in technology offer new opportunities to connect scientists across the continents in an increasingly flexible manner, allowing crossing of the traditional institutional and political boundaries.

This interdisciplinarity and global focus is clearly visible within YESSwith over 1000 members from more than 90 countries worldwide. Currently I’m a board member, together with an international group of researchers working in climate and weather science, economics, engineering, and architecture in close connection to environmental issues. Within YESS we believe that networking and fostering collaborations on a global scale is crucial to build a diverse and strong next generation of scientists.

YESS seeks for more opportunities to voice the perspectives of early career scientists in the established community, by being present in international conferences and meetings, through contributing to sessions for early career researchers, organizing side-events, serving on panels and initiating new types of presentation formats. YESS members elaborate on the perspectives of early career scientists through publishing a range of papers on various scientific topics, such as the above mentioned article published in BAMS. One other concrete example is an ongoing research on how early career researchers can play a role in the IPCC process. For this study over 500 early career researchers from all over the world completed a survey about their motivation, ideas for possible contributions and obstacles to play an active role in the IPCC process. Additionally, major senior IPCC contributors were interviewed for the study. The outcomes will be published soon in an international scientific journal.   

With this type of activities and research YESS aims to bring a collective voice of early career scientists to the table, bringing in a fresh way of thinking, as well as to create more opportunities ensuring that the next generation will be closely involved to define and to realize the future of Earth system science.


About the author
Gaby Langendijk wrote this text with the help from the YESS Council. She is a member of the YESS Executive Committee and works on her PhD at the Climate Service Center Germany (GERICS). Find out more about thee YESS community on their website.

Translation to German
Jörg Burdanowitz is a member of the YESS community and works at the Meteorological Institute of the Universität Hamburg and the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M).



30. January 2018

Picture credit: © G. Langendijk



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