Taking Initiative

A new Strategic Initiative within ICES aims to better integrate early career scientists in the organization.
Published: 17 July 2021

​​​​Early career scientists (ECS) have always been active in ICES network and to encourage participation, ICES provides travel funding for symposia, a dedicated programme at the Annual Science Conference, as well as a dedicated ECS Conference with PICES every five years and a new editorial mentorship programme at ICES Journal of Marine Science. While these programmes facilitate networking, symposia participation, and skills development, what about becoming involved in the nuts and bolts work of ICES –how do you become a member of an expert group and what opportunities are there for ECS? The recently established Strategic Initiative for Integrating Early Career Scientists hopes answer these questions.

The new initiative is chaired by Alina Wieczorek, Fisheries Ecosystems Advisory Services, Marine Institute, Ireland, Amanda Schadeberg, Environmental Economics and Natural Resources, Wageningen University & Research, the Netherlands, and Fedor Lishchenko, Laboratory for Ecology and Morphology of Marine Invertebrates, Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, the Russian Federation.

Entry point

All three chairs have been aware of ICES from early in their career but agree that it can be difficult to know where the entrance is. Initially, they became active members of the community through encouragement from senior colleagues or being invited to a meeting. The value of having encouraging colleagues that are involved with ICES cannot be understated. But it shouldn't be the only entrance point to the organization.

ICES community is a welcome and supportive environment for early career researchers and a valuable place to meet collaborators. Schadeberg comments that in her experience, “Early-career researchers are taken seriously and encouraged in ICES community. It is a large institution with a long and prestigious history, which can be intimidating, but my impression has been that there is a culture of openness, inclusion, and working in a very “down to earth" way that makes it a great environment for early career researchers to develop their skills and networks and to make real contributions".  Wieczorek agrees, “When I joined my first working group meeting, I was encouraged by the chair to give a presentation of my work and while it was a bit intimidating at first, I really appreciated the opportunity and encouragement. I have since closely interacted with various members of the community who are always open to work with me and develop new ideas".

Taking initiative

Wieczorek noticed that while some ECS actively contribute to ongoing efforts within working groups, integrating early-career researchers better is an opportunity for new connections within ICES, benefitting both the expert groups and ECS. “We also felt that it would be important for ECS who are active within ICES to interact more with one another which would help establish international and inter-disciplinary collaborations and enable information exchange between the different expert groups".

Having been involved with another valuable early career marine network (EuroMarine OYSTER), Wieczorek discussed the opportunity of a similar platform within ICES with Jörn Schmidt, Science Committee Chair. Along with Schadeberg, Lishchenko, and other ECS, it was clear that there was a lot of motivation and enthusiasm and they worked closely together to develop a resolution for an initiative that made ICES more accessible for ECS.  

Making connections

“One application of the SI is as a platform to connect ECS from different expert groups" says Lishchenko, “At present, many expert groups are linked by senior scientists who have known each other and worked together for many years. For young scientists, this kind of connection is very limited".

Schadeberg sees the new strategic initiative as having the potential to attract a broader base of researchers into the community and foster engagement from a diverse group of marine scientists, thereby improving representation across ICES member countries. Wieczorek adds, “We will bring new perspectives to the table. I think this is important to ensure that ICES remains attractive to the next generation of scientists".

Lishchenko comments that those at the beginning of their careers may feel a lack of experience within an international team. Given some time, he notes, people become much more engaged, contributing to the development of the specific tasks, preparation of the reports, communication, and cooperation. “An important part of your individual career development is the opportunity to write articles with the experienced members, even leading the development of such papers. Promotion and support of such activities is one of the key aims of the strategic initiative".

Initial plans

In the short term, the chairs would like to raise the profile and accessibility of ICES amongst early career researchers, especially among those who are not already connected to ICES via supervisors or their institutions. Several of their activities aim to make it easier to understand ICES structure and goals, inviting ECS to actively contribute. Another important goal is to contribute to the discussion on diversity, equity and inclusion in ICES. Connecting ECS will further provide a platform to exchange views about career development, share their experiences of working as scientists and provide support for one another.

“In the long-term, we hope to give ECS a voice in ICES community and incorporate new perspectives and ECS insights in the organization, says Wieczorek.  Schadeberg agrees adding, “It is crucial that the work done in this strategic initiative is helpful for both​ ICES community and the members themselves, and we have tried to build that into the design of the activities in the resolution as well as working to ensure recognition and reward for contributing members. Most important for me personally in the long term, however, is that this network will also encourage interdisciplinary work as researchers from diverse scientific backgrounds work together with common goals. We hope that we can foster a culture of interdisciplinarity with this next generation of ICES scientists."

Interested in joining?  

The Strategic Initiative for the Integration of Early-Career Scientists (SIIECS) is looking to build an interdisciplinary early-career team including social and natural scientists, fishers and other ocean experts (e.g. citizen scientists, industry, engineering, communication). All activities run by SIIECS are open to anyone who would identify themselves as an ECS. If you'd like to become a member of the Strategic Initiative or are simply looking for more information, contact us with a short note about who you are and why you'd like to be involved in SIIECS. 

Register also for ICES Annual Science Conference and join our Early Career Scientist Day on 2 September. 

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Taking Initiative

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