The Worldwide Universities Network recently held the first two networking workshops as part of its special program for early career researcher (ECR) entitled “Developing the next generation of research leaders for sustainable development.”
This initiative is intended to support ECRs in their professional development and network building, including within the context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). The program is a collaboration with the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
In the first workshop, focused on SDG 13: Climate Action, Ovais Sarmad, Deputy Executive Secretary (UN Assistant-Secretary General) for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), encouraged early-career researchers ‘not to be discouraged by highly bureaucratic structures, or narratives that we hear in the news … help convey the message of science, technology, of the multilateral process, in a way that can be resonated across society’.
Future research leaders have an important role to play in the shaping of the sustainable development agenda, argued Professor Jacques Dubochet, Emeritus Professor of Biophysics and Nobel Laureate, University of Lausanne. ‘Knowledge should be a common good, that belongs to everyone, we should celebrate the concept of open science,’ Dubochet reflected, before calling for the collaborative and interdisciplinary mobilisation of research to achieve climate solutions.
A look back at the WUN ECR networking workshop on SDG 13
Speakers at the second workshop, on SDG 4: Quality Education, highlighted the need to reorient education systems around inclusion, relevance and sustainability. Mrs. Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) made a powerful appeal to scholars to bring a ‘humanistic, values-based approach to education and development issues … and understanding and intellectual leadership to policy debates’. She reflected on how the decade of action calls for tighter connections between research and policies, ‘interdisciplinary approaches and scaled-up knowledge sharing – this is what universities are about’.
Professor Dawn Freshwater, Vice-Chancellor at The University of Auckland and Chair of the WUN Partnership Board, situated the unique challenges the pandemic has presented to early career researchers in a broader context of structural barriers to multi-disciplinary research, that need to be addressed in order to research the big global challenges. ‘It is particularly important for university leaders and networks to ensure that early career researchers have the opportunities to build disciplinary knowledge which they can share across international networks, allowing for the opportunity to collaborate across disciplines’.
A look back at the ECR networking workshop on SDG 4
WUN supports the development of innovative solutions to these challenges by enabling interdisciplinary, comparative analysis grounded in different geographical, cultural, and legal contexts. As part of this commitment, Peter Lennie, WUN Executive Director and Susan Gourvenec, WUN Chair of the Responding to Climate Change Global Challenge Group, invited early career researchers to take advantage of WUN as a vehicle to support their budding careers, especially at this time when traditional models of building international collaboration are no longer possible.
The series of online workshops extends WUN’s support of international research collaboration and mobility. Although the series was triggered by the constraints imposed by the COVID19 pandemic, Lennie noted that it is not intended merely as a stop-gap measure. “It can be a vehicle for enlarging opportunity generally, especially for researchers whose freedom to collaborate internationally has historically been limited by financial or other restrictions on travel.”
If you’d like to subscribe to program announcements for the WUN Early Career Researcher International Network Development Program, please sign up at this link. Opportunities for upcoming networking events will also be announced on Twitter: follow us at @WUNetwork and join the conversation using the hashtag #WUNECR