Breakout Group D: Key educational ingredients to ensure the success of future paleoscientists

The breakout sessions at the 2nd YSM proved to be an extremely useful exercise that resulted in concrete suggestions for future directions for PAGES and the broader scientific community. The topic of our group was discussed in two subgroups by a total of 21 participants from 12 countries.

One of the key recommendations was that future paleoscience students need better computational skills. In the early days of paleoclimate research, students could turn 50 analyses into a dissertation, but with modern methodological advances, students can now produce hundreds or thousands of geochemical measurements. In addition to expertise in micropaleontology, palynology, organic geochemistry, etc., students need to have the quantitative skills to statistically analyze that data, and effectively put it in the context of a wealth of other paleoclimate archives.

Paleoclimate modelers should have more training in geosciences so that they can better understand the value and limitations of proxy records. Conversely, those generating proxy records need to be capable of understanding and using model results to make proxy-model comparisons.

Students should be encouraged to complete a small research project before opting for a doctoral program so that they can assess their interest as well as aptitude for research. This could be offered as a Bachelor’s or Master’s dissertation, as is already common practice in some countries, e.g. the USA. This also led to the idea of offering supervisors more incentives (e.g. research assistance or teaching time exemption) for investing time and energy in short-term (i.e. masters-level) research students. Inspired by the panel discussion on peer reviewing, it was also suggested that reviewing should be made a formal part of graduate education.

Over time English has become the single global language bridging international language borders, and thus its knowledge facilitates the effective communication of science. Accordingly, some participants from countries in which English is not the first language did express the need for formal training in reading and writing English. They also wished that some of their science education had been in English.

Earth science is currently not part of the required curriculum in many countries, and the need and importance for elevating earth science education at the primary and secondary school level was expressed. Regarding the much more advanced career stage paleoclimatologists, participants expressed the concern that “paleoclimate” is not as lucrative as mining and petroleum! Although not related to education, the breakout group argued that better incentives and job opportunities will be key conditions to ensure the success of the next generation of paleoscientists.

Category: Open Highlights | PAGES Magazine articles


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