SMHI convened conference debate for young researchers

Last week a group of SMHI colleagues attended EGU, the European Geosciences Union annual conference in Vienna. Helena Martins, head of climate research at SMHI, convened a panel debate focusing on how young researchers can navigate the policy-research divide and have an impact on society in their early career.

“Climate change is one of the societal challenges that requires evidence-based policy decisions. It is important that researchers provide expertise to support decision-making”, says Helena. She continues:

“Engaging with society can play an important role in building public trust for scientific research and in helping citizens understand policy measures.”

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Challenges for early career researchers

The gap between research and policy can be especially challenging to navigate for young researchers. Helena explains:

“Challenges may include lack of mentoring, trust from senior researchers, professional recognition, access to policy-makers or training. Through the debate we wanted to explore the sustainable engagement of early career researchers with the policy landscape.”

Many ways to have an impact

The debate panel consisted of five experts, all with a science background but with different professional paths, who provided their insight to the topic.

GDB EGU Helena
The panel at the debate.

Themes such as favoring collaboration, developing a broad set of skills and making sense of your work through societal engagement were covered, but the main message of the debate might have been this: there are many different ways to have an impact as a researcher.

“The traditional pathway of academia really isn’t the only way to have an impact with your expertise”, says Helena, who herself has spent the majority of her years at SMHI working with science communication and project management before taking on the role as head of climate research. She concludes:

Helena Martins
Helena Martins

“Papers and extensive research projects are great, but focusing on other skills, translating science and extracting key messages can be a just as impactful. For young researchers this path may also be more accessible and can be applied both in- and outside the workplace.”

The event hosted around 150 attendees and was a joint initiative between the EU-funded research projects OptimESM and ESM2025.