To encourage the next generation of mountain scientists to participate in the IPCC’s important work, the MRI has collaborated with several partners to organize two group reviews of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) specifically for early career researchers (ECRs). To date, these joint efforts have resulted in the submission of over 3,000 review comments to the IPCC by over 200 ECRs.

Most researchers are familiar with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, but the processes leading to these assessments may seem distant. Who are the experts producing them? What kind of workflows lead to them? And who is experienced enough to submit review comments to draft versions? In order to address these and other such questions, since 2018 the MRI has been actively involved in building the capacity of the next generation of mountain experts, offering a glimpse behind the scenes and helping ECRs to understand and engage in IPCC processes.

Mountain expertise strengthened

In 2018, the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS) coordinated the first ECR group review of the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC), which was then published in 2019. The MRI Coordination Office was subsequently invited on board for the ECR review of IPCC AR6; the AR6 Cross-Chapter Paper on Mountains as part of the Working Group II contribution served as a timely stepping stone for the MRI to join the project in order to help coordinate and strengthen the mountain expertise that could be engaged.

In 2019-2020, a total of 235 ECRs participated in joint reviews of the AR6 First Order Draft (FOD) of Working Group II and the Second Order Draft (SOD) of Working Group I. Roughly half of the participants were postdoctoral level researchers, and the other half were in doctoral and masters programmes – also including motivated undergraduate students. The two reviews resulted in a total of 3,767 review comments, which were provided to the IPCC as group submissions.

To ensure a smooth and communal review, a group of organisers from the participating networks guided the review process, offered training, enabled exchange between the participants during the review, and – lastly – organised all the comments submitted. The IPCC’s Technical Support Unit also supported efforts by setting up webinar meetings with the lead authors of the reports.

Across the generational divide

A study conducted by Casado and colleagues (2020) after the first APECS ECR group review showed that students actually spent more time on the review than more advanced researchers, and were able to provide a similar proportion of substantive comments. Overall, the group review left participants feeling more confident in their skills, and considering the option of conducting their own independent reviews. The study authors therefore encourage the scientific community to engage ECRs in the review process; on the one hand, to distribute the task among experts across the generational divide, and on the other hand to allow the new generation to develop important professional skills relevant to advancing climate science and informing policy.

Your next opportunity to join a group review is now! The group review for AR6 SOD WGII was postponed due to the COVID-19 situation, and will take place in winter 2020-2021. Apply to participate by 23 September. Applications from all ECRs (up to 7 years after graduation) will be considered, and commitment and interest are more important qualities than strong review experience.

Learn more.

Reference: Casado et al. (2020) The benefits to climate science of including early-career scientists as reviewers. Geosci. Commun., 3, 89–97.

The group reviews for AR6 FOD WGII, SOD WGI and the upcoming review of SOD WGII are joint efforts of The Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS), Permafrost Young Researchers Network (PYRN), Young Earth System Scientists (YESS), PAGES Early-Career Network (PAGES-ECN), the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI), and the Interdisciplinary Marine Early Career Network (IMECaN).

We are grateful to the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) for its contribution to the MRI Coordination Office to help coordinate these activities as part of its support for our IPCC AR6 programme.

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Cover image by Joseph Redfield Nino.

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