Students attend U21 Early Career Researcher Workshop

The Universitas21 (U21) Early Career Researcher Workshop was held at Lund University in Sweden on 19-22 November. The theme of workshop was “Water in Society” and, across four days, it had the specific objective of deepening early career research participants’ understanding of how research impacts on water and sustainability through cross-disciplinary knowledge exchange, skills-sharing and networking.

The workshop attracted 38 participants in total from 13 different universities, spanning Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and Australia. UNSW was strongly represented, with seven attendees from across the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences; Engineering, Science, Law, and the Built Environment.

The workshop included lectures from internationally acclaimed water researchers based in Sweden, targeted training on how to maximise research impact and strategies for securing research funding as well as opportunities to share and gain feedback on research projects.

The welcome reception was held in the Skissernass Museum or ‘Museum of Sketches’ and included a tour showcasing the artistic process behind many works of art—including those by Henri Matisse, Ivar Johnsson and Alexander Calder.

Ruth Fisher, a Research Associate from the UNSW Water Research Centre, said, “It was interesting to see the progression of works from the initial sketches to the material models. Many attendees made the comparison to the progress behind journal papers or research projects and how the journey is similarly long and varied- and hidden from the final work.”

The workshop was hosted at the Bishop’s House at Lund University, beginning with an introduction by Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research, Stacey Ristinmaa Sorensen, and followed by a keynote address by Prof. Catherine Legrand, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Linnaeus University. In her presentation, titled ‘Vision 2030 for water: from murky to crystal clear?’ Prof Legrand highlighted that the siloing of different disciplines throughout history has created many problems, and expressed that collaboration between diverse groups including engineers, scientists, political scientists, economists and those from the social sciences is needed to understand implications and propose novel solutions.

The keynote was followed by a lively panel discussion on ‘Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Water and Society: Stakeholder Roles & Responsibilities’, featuring three panellists from physical and natural science and humanities: Prof. Ronny Berndtsson (Hydro-Solidarity, and HydroPolitics & Peacebuilding), Prof. Emeritus Gustaf Olsson (Water-Energy-Food Nexus and Circular Economy) and Dr. Mine Islar (Human Rights and the Ethics).

The afternoon featured ‘lightning talks’—with each talk consisting of 15 slides that automatically transitioned every 15 seconds—followed by poster sessions and time for networking.

Subsequent days followed a similar format, featuring keynote addresses and panel discussions on a wide array of water research on urban design, architecture, governance, security, energy, policy, ethics and management—all with a perspective on the challenges of the future climate.

Other highlights included a unique session titled ‘Conversations that Matter – Life as an ECR’ and a workshop named ‘Game of Flood’. ‘Conversations that Matter’ engaged participants in a fun and reflective manner by asking them to discuss two topics: What makes them lie awake at night, and what motivates them to get up in the morning. The ‘Game of Flood’ workshop was role-playing and a resource-management game, where groups were given the task of saving an imaginary island which would either flood or sink under sea due to sea level rise. Players had to manage community assets, adopt alternative strategies and negotiate, allowing them to experience, explore and learn about climate change risks and novel policies and strategies.

Workshop attendees said the biggest highlight of the workshop was opportunity to develop collaboration, networks and friendships with other water-focused emerging scholars from a wide variety of disciplines.

Paul Munro, one of the UNSW attendees, said, “A solidarity emerged among the participants in that they recognised not only the critical role they need to play in future water research, but also in terms of how academic careers can be crafted into a more collaborative, just and fulfilling endeavour.”


 Special thanks to Zeenat Mahjabeen, Damon Kai, Ruth Fisher, Paul Munro and Tariro Mutongwizo for sharing their experiences.

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