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Final Report Summary - ITARS (Initial Training for Atmospheric Remote Sensing)

ITaRS (Initial Training for atmospheric Remote Sensing; has brought together young researchers and leading experts of atmospheric remote sensing from universities, research institutes and high-tech companies. Together they take advantage of the rapid advancement of instrumental techniques to better understand aerosols, clouds and their interaction, which is the single largest uncertainty in current climate projections (International Panel on Climate Change IPCC, 2013). Specifically, ITaRS aimed:

1) to impart an in-depth understanding of instrumentation and algorithms needed to retrieve geophysical quantities and atmospheric applications;
2) to foster the synergy of different sensors by bringing together experts from the individual techniques;
3) to develop and implement pan-European courses on atmospheric remote sensing by exploiting new web-based techniques;
4) to close the gap between the specialized development of single instruments and atmospheric applications by training a new generation of scientists in academia and the private sector.

ITaRS fostered sensor synergy by combining the expertise of partners including the industrial partners who are specialized in different remote sensing “instrumentation” (lidars, radar, microwave radiometers, radars etc.), the development of “algorithms” to extract atmospheric parameters from their measurements and the application to investigate “physical processes” related to “aerosols”, “clouds”, and “weather and climate”. Accordingly, this structure was used to guide the training. Fellows became experts in one instrument but also learned to exploit the synergy with at least one other instrument to study physical processes. This was also reflected in the research projects of the 11 Early Stage Researchers (ESR) and 4 Experienced Researchers (ER) that are closely interlinked.

The work performed in ITaRS can be divided into four phases, each characterized by one of the work packages (WP). The focus shifted from 1) recruitment (part of WP1) in the first half to 2) network training (WP3) in the central phase to 3) individual training and research (WP2) from recruitment to the end of the project, and 4) dissemination (WP4) in the second half of the project.

1) The call for ESRs was announced worldwide and an assessment centre was organized concurrent with the 9th International Symposium on Tropospheric Profiling (ISTP) in L’Aquila, Italy. This event committed the fellows to the network at an early stage and introduced ITaRS to the scientific community. For both ESR and ER selection a structured interview was conceptualized in cooperation with the personnel development department of the University of Cologne. From the 15 recruited fellows, six are female (40%) and five are non-EU citizens.

2) The network training needed to take into account the different backgrounds of the recruited fellows, i.e., engineering, environmental science, mathematics, meteorology, and physics. A three-day start-up workshop in Athens (February 2013) featured dedicated lectures by ITaRS principle investigators (PI) to provide an overview on the research field; the summer schools in Bucharest (September 2013) and Jülich (September 2014) complemented lectures by both ITaRS’ and external experts with exercises and project work on field measurements. Here, the ITaRS fellows and external researchers were trained in instrumentation, algorithms for the interpretation of the measurements and atmospheric physics on the basis of small research projects. Transferable skills were conveyed during special courses (e.g. on Science communication, Entrepreneurship, High-impact paper writing) but also through the active involvement of the fellows in the development of the network (e.g. organization of a measurement campaign, co-leadership of the learning platform, acting as a fellows’ representative). The learning platform Blackboard was established and all ITaRS members contribute continuously to the online tutorials.

3) The individual training programme was developed to guide the fellows in their research projects. The following measures for supervision were introduced across the network:
i) For each fellow (ESR & ER) an individual supervision team was formed with members from different ITaRS-partners;
ii) The fellow and the team signed a Career Development Plan (CDP) which also included the planning of secondments and complementary training and was updated regularly;
iii) Regular meetings were held where the fellows reported on their research progress and career development according to the guidelines developed to structure the bi-annual meetings.

Fellows presented their research in poster sessions and short talks at network events. Weekly e-seminars provided an important opportunity to present and discuss the work of the fellows more in depth than can be done at network events. All sessions have been recorded and are available on the learning platform. In particular, the interaction with industrial partners and the joint field campaigns were very successful resulting in several innovations in terms of i) new observation techniques, ii) novel algorithms and iii) process understanding. Examples include i) an extension for cloud radars for a novel assessment of shape and orientation of ice crystals, ii) algorithms combining multiple instruments like lidar and microwave radiometer for temperature and moisture profiling or lidar and radar for aerosols, and iii) use of cloud radar observations to improve cloud parametrizations in atmospheric models. Furthermore, multiple instruments were used to characterize the atmospheric boundary layer and their representation in atmospheric models which is of importance for air quality applications.

4) To create awareness among the general public about ITaRS research, outreach activities were an important part of every ITaRS event. In the first phase of ITARS, the outreach activities were focused on public awareness of climate change and the potential impact thereof. Towards the end of the project the emphasis shifted towards professional stakeholders, either scientific or entrepreneurial, to enhance the future employability of the fellows. Currently, ITaRS fellows have presented 86 posters and 37 talks at international conferences and workshops, 27 papers have been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals and 7 more have been submitted. ITaRS members are well integrated into related networks such as ACTRIS (Aerosols, Clouds and Trace gases Research Infrastructure Network) and the US Department of Energy Atmospheric Science Research Program (DOE-ASR). The 2nd ITaRS summer school inspired a group of researchers from Northern America to implement a similar training course in Norman, Oklahoma in June 2015, funded by the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility (ARM). The Cost action TOPROF invited a group of participants from the 2nd ITaRS summer school to present their results at their workshop in November 2014. ITaRS had a continuous exchange of experiences with the ITN LINC, coordinated in Barcelona, both on a management and scientific level.

In brief, the four years of ITaRS were used for a setup of common standards in supervision within the interdisciplinary field of atmospheric remote sensing. The fellows have successfully completed the training programme and interesting scientific results have been published with many more to come. With the end of ITaRS, the research training capacity in Europe in the emerging field of atmospheric remote sensing has significantly improved. The institutions involved with ITaRS are now familiar with each other’s training standards and recognize them mutually. ITaRS served as a nucleus to reach a new standard which is spread via its dissemination activities. A new factor in the training of young researchers with the ITaRS partners was the close cooperation between academia and industry which is demonstrated by strong involvement of five leading instrument manufacturers in training activities and individual research programs.

In the final year of ITaRS, 9 out of 15 fellows have already started a new job, two of them in industry working on remote sensing issues. Four are in the final phase of their PhD at the host institution, two more have submitted their thesis and are waiting for the date of their defence. They all have a profile on the ITaRS alumni page and have founded a Facebook group to stay in touch. At the final event in October 2015, all fellows (and alumni) presented their results at the ITaRS booth at the Meteorological Technology World Expo in Brussels, where they could directly discuss their future plans with the industry. Their projects will enhance the attractiveness of atmospheric remote sensing research.

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