Alliance Week 2013
7 – 10 Oct, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
There are many scientific perspectives on our earth, which this Alliance aims to unite. Likewise, there are many individual perspectives on the first Alliance Week, which this article will try to unite in the following. First of all, it was a scientific workshop with many presentations, posters and discussions. But it was also an interdisciplinary meet and great, with a lively exchange of programmatic perspectives for the future and tough discussions on the non-scientific challenges in the daily life of a researcher. Or was it even the yearly gathering of an innovative debating society, who steers its discussions with cow bells and enjoys Bavarian cuisine after hiking through natural landmarks? As always… the truth might lie somewhere in the middle.
It was Monday, 7th October 2013 when 94 scientists of the Helmholtz Alliance Remote Sensing and Earth System Dynamics convened in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in order to hold the first of their yearly project workshops: The Alliance Week. Many of them met for the first time, curious about the research focus of other workpackages and the progress made in this early stage of the project.
The following four days were comprised of overviews on the ongoing work in each of the four research topics, oral sessions dedicated to the detailed research on the PhD and Postdoc level, specific meetings for young scientists, external experts and themed working groups, and also discussions on the non-scientific challenges on the individual and project level.
Principal Investigator Prof. Alberto Moreira commenced the Alliance Week by opening the plenary session, which catered for all tastes. The perceptions of the funding institution, the Helmholtz association, international co-operation and science activities with JAXA, a user perspective by MunichRe and a stimulating science talk on the revolutionizing impact of earth observation over the past decades. Following this motivating start, the research topic speakers gave an overview on the ongoing activities in each sphere of the Alliance. An astonishing amount of cross links between workpackages and research topics was already presented, which was not expected at this stage of the project. This was also audible during lunch and coffee breaks: “I think we all need the ionosphere guys”, “we consider snow as signal noise, but maybe the Cryosphere people can help us on that”, “Let’s cooperate with Biosphere workpackages for surface deformation estimation in forested areas”. Already during these first sessions, the valuable contributions of the invited external experts became apparent.
Tuesday turned out to be the most intense day of the week. Straight from breakfast until the team had to stop discussions for dinner. The day started with the research topic Biosphere followed by the Geosphere after lunch. The Hydro- and Cryosphere followed on Wednesday. Each sphere was addressed with an expert talk and seven PhD or Postdoc presentations. This turned out to demonstrate the potential of the Alliance by bringing together many different perspectives. On the one side by covering a broad range of scientific questions, on the other hand by combining experienced scientists, showing interesting results, with young PhDs, presenting their ambitious research ideas. One of them just one week after taking up her new position.
On Tuesday afternoon, the innovative and open minded spirit of the Alliance team culminated in the so called Open Space Conference. Disregarding the usual structure of most conferences with consecutive talks and questions, this session was full of widespread topics leading to concise and dedicated discussions with changing debating rounds. Many inspiring ideas how to foster the project arose, convincing also the skeptical ones. An Open Space Conference on technical issues was then also one of the recommendations encouraged by the Young Scientists Discussion Forum. Highly motivated, the PhDs and Postdocs came up with more innovative ideas how to improve the exchange and teamwork. Can you imagine agenda items like “Poster Swapping” or “Why should Obama care?”. No? Wait for it on the next Alliance Week!
The cross links between the different research topics were also illustrated by the social event: A hike through the Partnach gorge, where the hydrological forces shaped the geosphere in an impressive way, while we were lucky with the meteorological conditions, given the fact that a cryospheric event severely struck Garmisch-Partenkirchen only two days later. A Bavarian evening with local delicacies and live music was then just the right way of closing down the third day of the Alliance Week.
The final day started with sphere-based meetings in order to go into detail on the next steps of the project. Also many smaller discussion groups were established, e.g. for the planning of the next field campaign in Antarctica. This was followed by the finding that one hour is not enough to address the important topic of reconciliation of work and family life with a team so keen to debate. It was then time for the closing session, in order to wrap up four days of a successful Alliance Week and to receive the highly appreciated feedback of the External Advisory Board and the User Board.
After driving home with a very promising prospect on the upcoming years of the project, there is only one thing left to say…
…the offer of the conference venue for the Alliance Week 2014 is already in the inbox!