MIST

Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial

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A Summary of the SWIMMR Kick-Off Meeting

The kick-off event for the Space Weather Innovation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk Study (one of the Wave 2 programmes of the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund) took place in the Wolfson Library of the Royal Society on Tuesday November 26th. Seventy-five people attended the event, representing a range of academic institutions, as well as representatives from industry, government and public sector research establishments such as the UK Met Office. 

The morning session of the meeting consisted of five presentations, introducing the programme and its relevance to government, the Research Councils and the Met Office, as well as describing details of the potential calls. The presentations were as follows:

  •  Prof John Loughhead (Chief Scientific Advisor to BEIS) - Space Weather Innovation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk Programme (a governmental perspective). The slides from Prof John Loughhead's talk are available here.
  • Prof Chris Mutlow (Director of STFC RAL Space) - SWIMMR: Project funded by the Strategic Priorities Fund (a perspective from STFC).  The slides from Prof Chris Mutlow's talk are available here.
  • Jacky Wood (Head of Business Partnerships at NERC) - Space Weather Innovation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk (SWIMMR) - A NERC perspective.  The slides from Jacky Wood's talk are available here.
  • Dr. Ian McCrea (Senior Programme Manager for SWIMMR) -  SWIMMR: Space Weather Innovation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk: A wave 2 programme of the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund.  The slides from Dr Ian McCrea's talk are available here.
  • Mark Gibbs (Head of Space Weather at the UK Met Office) - SWIMMR (Met Office perspective and detailed description of the calls.  The slides from Mark Gibb's talk are available here.

During the lunch break, the Announcement of Opportunity for the five NERC SWIMMR calls was issued on the NERC web site.  The afternoon therefore began with a brief introduction by Jacky Wood to the NERC Announcement of Opportunity, and the particular terms and conditions which it contained.

The remainder of the afternoon session was spent in a Question and Answer session in which attendees were able to ask questions to the speakers about the nature of the programme and the potential timing of future calls, and finally to an informal discussion session, in which participants gathered into groups to discuss the opportunities for funding which had been outlined. 

2019 RAS Council elections

As you may have seen, the nominations for RAS Council are currently open with a deadline of 29 November. MIST falls under the “G” (Geophysics) category and there are up to 3 councillor positions and one vice-president position available. MIST Council strongly encourages interested members of the MIST community to consider standing for election.
 
Clare Watt (University of Reading) has kindly volunteered to be a point of contact for the community for those who may wish to talk more about being on council and what it involves. Clare is a councillor on RAS Council, with her term due to complete in 2020, and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
 

 

Outcome of SSAP priority project review

From the MIST mailing list:

We are writing to convey the outcome of this year’s priority project “light touch” review, specifically with reference to those projects within the remit of SSAP. We would like to thank all the PIs that originally submitted ideas, and those who provided updates to their projects over the summer. SSAP strongly believe that all the projects submitted are underpinned by strong scientific drivers in the SSAP area.

The “light touch” review was undertaken with a unified approach by SSAP and AAP, considering factors that have led to priority project development (in STFC or other research councils) or new funding for priority projects (1/51 projects in the STFC remit) in the last 12 months. After careful discussion, it was agreed by SSAP and AAP not to select any project where the remit clearly overlaps with UKSA (i.e. space missions or TRL 4+), reflecting STFC’s focus on ground-based observations, science exploitation and TRL 0-3 development. Whilst in no way reflecting the excellence of the science, or community scientific wishes, this approach has resulted in some changes to the list of SSAP priority projects. However, now, unlike at the time of the original call, it is clear that such projects cannot move forwards without UKSA (financial) support, and such funds are already committed according to UKSA’s existing programme. SSAP remain strongly supportive of mission-led science in solar-system exploration, so SSAP have strongly recommended that the high-level discussions between UKSA and STFC continue with a view to supporting a clear joint priority projects call in future, more naturally suited to mission and bi-lateral opportunities.

The priority projects (and PIs) identified by SSAP for 2019/20 are:

  • Solar Atmospheric Modelling Suite (Tony Arber)
  • LARES1: Laboratory Analysis for Research into Extra-terrestrial Samples (Monica Grady)
  • EST: European Solar Telescope (Sarah Matthews)

SSAP requested STFC continue to work with all three projects to expand their community reach and continue to develop the business cases for future (new) funding opportunities. In addition, SSAP have requested that STFC explore ways in which the concept of two projects—“ViCE: Virtual Centres of Excellence Programme / MSEMM Maximising Science Exploitation from Space Science Missions”—can be combined and, with community involvement, generate new funding for science exploitation and maximising scientific return in solar-system sciences. Initially this consultation will occur between SSAP and STFC.

We would like to thank the community again for its strong support, and rapid responses on very short timescales. A further “light touch” review will occur in 2020, with a new call for projects anticipated in 2021. SSAP continue to appreciate the unfamiliar approach a “call for proposals with no funding attached” causes to the community and are continuing to stress to STFC that the community would appreciate clearer guidance and longer timescales in future priority project calls.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Helen Fraser on behalf of SSAP

The Global Network for the Sustainability In Space (GNOSIS)

The Global Network for the Sustainability In Space (GNOSIS) is an STFC Network+ with the goal of helping researchers within the Particle, Nuclear and Astrophysics areas to engage with researchers from other research councils and industry to study the near Earth space environment. For more details, visit the GNOSIS website or see this issue of the GNOSIS newsletter.

Over the next few years we expect a large increase in the number of satellites in Earth orbit. This will lead to unprecedented levels of space traffic much of which will end as debris. The aim of this network is to understand the debris populations and its impact on space traffic management with a view to enabling a safer environment.

The free GNOSIS lunch event will be held on 18 November 2019 at the British Interplanetary Society at Vauxhall, London, with a video link to the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, to facilitate participation from across the UK. Tickets can be obtained here.

GNOSIS will be producing a programme of meetings for both space operations specialists and subject matter novices and will be able to support the development of collaborative ideas through project and part graduate student funding. Details of our first workshop will be announced in the next month.

If you are an academic with no direct experience but have knowledge of areas such as observations, data analysis, simulation or even law, then register your interest on our website. If you are a currently working in the space sector or if you are just interested in the aims and goals of the network please also register your interest and get involved.

SWIMMR: A £19.9M programme of the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund

Space Weather Instrumentation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk (SWIMMR) is a £19.9M programme of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Strategic Priorities Fund.

MIST would like draw the attention of the research community to the potential opportunities which will become available as a result of this programme, which received final approval from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in August. The programme will run from now until March 2023 and is aimed at improving the UK’s capabilities for space weather monitoring and prediction. UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund provides a means for linking research council investment to governmental research priorities, hence the areas being emphasised in the programme reflect space weather threats to critical infrastructure, as reflected in the UK national risk register.

The programme will be delivered jointly by the STFC and NERC, mainly through open grant calls, but including some elements of commissioned work to be delivered through open competitive tenders. The first calls are expected to appear during the coming weeks. More information about the programme is available through the RAL Space website, and is forthcoming from the NERC web site.

To mark the official launch of the programme and provide more details of the planned activities, a kick-off meeting is being held in the Wolfson Library of the Royal Society on Tuesday 26 November 2019, from 10:30. Pre-registration is required for this event and can be done using this link. We hope that many of you will be able to attend.

Public Engagement and Me

by Affelia Wibisono

Affelia Wibisono is a first year PhD student at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (University College London). Alongside her research into Jupiter’s x-ray aurorae, Affelia is involved in a wide variety of public engagement activities. In this post Affelia talks about her experiences doing public engagement and ways to get more involved yourself!

My Experiences in Public Engagement

Public engagement is something I’m passionate about. In fact, I had a career in science communication for 6 years before starting my PhD at MSSL. It was something that I knew I wanted to do since I was at school, so I took part in as many outreach activities as I could during my undergraduate studies. I also worked as a summer intern at Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium and even had the chance to take part in the BBC’s Bang Goes the Theory Roadshow whilst I was there.
Photo of Affelia and Liz Bonnin

Me with Liz Bonnin, one of the presenters of Bang Goes the Theory, during my summer internship at Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium.

After graduation, I started working at the Science Museum in London as an Explainer where I did pretty much that: I explained the science behind the exhibits in the Launchpad (now known as Wonderlab), Pattern Pod and The Garden interactive galleries. I got to engage with a variety of people - from toddlers to their nannies, from Year 1 classes to A-Level students, science enthusiasts, international visitors and even people who wanted to impress their dates. By far my favourite part of the job was to present science shows with a lot of demos and audience participation. I had two shows, my first was “Flash! Bang! Wallop!” which was about explosions and was obviously great fun to perform! Who wouldn’t want to blow a squib or fire Barbie out of a cannon?! My second show was “The Bubbles Show” and was for younger children. One of my highlights was when I had 200 people (yes, including the adults) shout “WE LOVE BUBBLES! WE LOVE BUBBLES!” at me.

A photo from the "Flash! Bang! Wallop!" show at the Science Museum.A photo from "The Bubbles Show" at the Science Museum.

Presenting my two science shows at the Science Museum.

I then moved on to the Royal Observatory Greenwich (ROG) where I coordinated the schools programme and was in charge of the day-to-day running of the onsite activities. Making sure 300 students and teachers were in the right place at the right time amongst other visitors in a relatively small building was challenging at times! I also presented planetarium shows and led workshops, again for a whole range of audiences, and even gave talks at festivals such as the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, Camp Bestival and Space Rocks. It was at the ROG where I truly developed my writing skills. I was lucky enough to write posts for their blog, articles for newspapers, and short pieces for the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year books. Our online audience was also very important to us, so I was also involved in the ROG’s Live Streams, animated videos and podcasts. Something I never thought I would get to do was give media interviews. My very first was a live interview about New Horizon’s flyby of Pluto for a South African radio show. Since then, I’ve spoken to journalists about Tim Peake, the Great American Eclipse of 2017 and various astronomical events amongst other things for TV, radio, print and online.

A photo of Affelia giving a talk.

Left: Presenting at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition. Right: My piece for The Guardian about the Perseids meteor shower.

Since I started at MSSL in September 2018, I’ve taken part in a number of public engagement activities. Some of them were small scale and required very little preparation like running a workshop for a group of scouts or visiting a local school. Others needed more planning like giving a public lecture at the ROG (I was asked to do this before I’d even left my full time job there!) or being interviewed for a short film about the 50th Anniversary of the first lunar landing.

A photo of Affelia giving a public lecture.A photo of Affelia talking to primary school pupils.

Left: My public lecture at the ROG’s Peter Harrison Planetarium. Right: Using fruits to show the relative sizes of the planets in our Solar System to some primary school pupils.

I’m grateful that both of my supervisors do a lot of outreach themselves and are very supportive of me doing the same. I still work at the ROG and present planetarium shows and school workshops when they need someone to cover.  I can accept and reject shifts as I like so I can fit them around my work at MSSL and other commitments. I was asked by Jasmine to write about how I manage my time between public engagement and research, and to be honest, I don’t know if I’ve done that successfully yet. I limit myself to no more than 2 days at the ROG per month and make myself unavailable to work there for at least two weeks before a Big Deadline or conference. Before saying yes to any outreach requests at MSSL, I check what my schedule looks like around the time of the event. If it looks clear(ish), I ask myself these questions: 1) Will I enjoy it? 2) Will I gain any new experience, skills or contacts by doing it? 3) Am I the best person to do it or is the event better suited for someone with a different expertise? Public engagement should benefit you and your audience.

Why do Public Engagement?

My belief is that engaging the public is just as important as the research that we do as PhD students. Some research councils, such as STFC, require those they support to do a certain amount of outreach. Interacting with non-specialists is a great way to share your passion for your work and I often find myself more motivated to continue with my research afterwards because they remind me that Jupiter’s X-ray aurorae are freaking awesome. Their questions can really test your understanding and even give you ideas as to where to take your research next.

Public engagement allows you to develop skills that can be transferred to your research and beyond. The most obvious being your communication skills. There’s no doubt in my mind that my experience in public engagement has helped with every presentation, report and funding application I’ve produced during my PhD so far. It allows you to grow your professional contacts and develop your team working skills. I’ve already mentioned time management, but it can also help improve your people management and leadership skills too. If you can successfully get 30 teenagers to do what you ask them to, you can do it to anyone. I love coming up with new demos and new activities to engage the public with because I get to be creative and practise my problem solving skills.

I’d like to think that I’ve sparked scientific interests in some of the young people I’ve worked with and helped them to build their confidence.  If they decide that they want to continue studying science then that’s great. But they won’t all grow up to be scientists, and that’s ok. My hope is that they have a newfound appreciation for the Universe and enjoyed themselves whilst doing so. That’s enough for me. 

Last but definitely not least, it’s fun!

What kind of Public Engagement can I do?

There are so many things you can do! You could organise something through your department, like an open day or work experience week for A-Level students. Your university probably has an Outreach or Widening Participation team that could offer advice and resources. There are already existing programmes with guaranteed audiences like Pint of Science, Soapbox Science (for women researchers), and the online based I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here that you can get involved in. I’m a Scientist is a two week long competition in which scientists from a wide range of disciplines are split into several groups. The winning scientist from each group receive £500 to communicate their research with the public. School students (from both primary and secondary schools) ask questions for the scientists to answer at any time between the two weeks. There are also live chats that last 30 minutes each and can be very intense as the aim is to answer as many questions from the children as possible. To be honest, I never saw it as a competition but as a chance to interact with many young people without too much effort.

A screenshot of the "I'm a Scientist Get Me Out of Here" Profile.

My I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here profile

Schools and astronomical societies are always looking for expert speakers. They may contact your department or you could sign up to be a STEM Ambassador. Teachers and group leaders advertise their events on the website and you can volunteer to do as little or as many as you want.

You can go down the digital route by writing a blog, recording podcasts or starting a YouTube channel. Your university might have one of these already that you can help with. MSSL has a podcast called Thinking Space and with the help of other first year PhD students and Professor Geraint Jones, the creator of the podcast, I recorded an episode about our first few months at MSSL for prospective students. If that sounds like too much then you can use Twitter or Instagram to engage the public with your work.

It’s super important to remember that there is no such thing as the “general public”. Public engagement is most effective when you have a clear idea of who your target audience is. This could be based on their age group, shared interests or needs. This will help you decide what kind of activity you do.

Training and Funding

There’s a lot of support for researchers who want to do more public engagement. Look out for training opportunities run by your universities. There’s a number of mailing lists and communities you can be a part of that provide training and are great ways to meet other public engagement doers and professional science communicators. Three that I’m a member of are the  PSCI-Comm mailing list, BIG and the Presenter Network. I find the Presenter Network especially helpful because you get to meet a wide variety of presenters, including actors, comedians, museum workers and YouTube presenters. It was founded by the ROG but it has now grown and has several hubs around the country (and even internationally!) so if you’re not based in London, chances are there’s a hub near you. We meet every 2 or 3 months at different places (different organisations take it in turns to host (e.g. the ROG, the Science Museum, ZSL London Zoo) and share best practice about different aspects of presenting. There is now an annual conference every September at the ROG. Best thing is that it’s all free! Organisations like the NCCP, IOP, STFC, the Royal Society and the RAS offer grants that you can apply for if you have a public engagement idea you want to come to life.

I hope this has been helpful and have fun out there!

If you have any questions about Affelia's post and how to get involved with public engagement, then you can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..