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The FAMOS school day: Fostering confidence in a diverse body of early-career polar marine scientists
  • Michael Steele,
  • Andrey Proshutinsky,
  • Amelie Bouchat
Michael Steele
Applied Physics Laboratory University of Washington

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Andrey Proshutinsky
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Amelie Bouchat
McGill University
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The Forum for Arctic Modeling and Observational Synthesis (FAMOS) is a project funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation to advance the science of Arctic physical, chemical, and biological marine modeling. It is further designed to foster collaboration with marine observationalists and those who wish to work with Arctic marine modelers, e.g., atmospheric scientists, glaciologists, hydrologists, terrestrial ecologists. FAMOS holds an annual workshop of ~120 people and spawns numerous collaborative projects that have filled three special JGR collections and more. Attendance at FAMOS workshops is a mix of senior researchers and early-career scientists. The final three days of the 4-day workshop consist of AGU-style short talks, break-out sessions, and panel discussions. But the first day is devoted to the FAMOS School, wherein ~ 40 graduate students, postdocs, and early career polar scientists attend 5 longer-format (~ 35 minute) lectures. Discussion sessions are especially highlighted, and senior scientists in attendance are not allowed to speak. A “wild card” after-lunch session is devoted to various topics, e.g., outreach, alternate career choices, and geoengineering. The day ends with a working dinner in which further discussions and networking occur. School attendees are typically gender-balanced and have included students from non-traditional Arctic countries (e.g., Iran, Brazil, Egypt). The FAMOS School has been very successful, as measured by participant feedback and by the number of applications received (i.e., more than we can accommodate each year). A key outcome has been to bolster confidence in the early-career students, so that they are more willing to actively participate in the following days’ activities. This is also enhanced by naming them as session and discussion chairs, and by suppressing the tendency of senior scientists to “hog the microphone.” Discussion at FAMOS workshops has significantly influenced the focus of many PhD projects and spawned a number of student-led research papers. A main lesson learned from the FAMOS School is that just inviting students to a workshop or into a research community is not enough: One must also take active steps to foster confidence and give them a voice. The good news is that this really works.