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Local training network: Netherlands Earth System Science Centre: “NESSC”

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NESSC (Local training network: Netherlands Earth System Science Centre: “NESSC”)

Reporting period: 2019-04-01 to 2021-03-31

Within NESSC researchers are working together in the domain of climate dynamics, paleoclimatology and biogeosciences. NESSC addresses one of the Grand Challenges our society faces today, exemplified by the UN Global sustainability goals: Climate Change. NESSC focusses on research questions dealing with past, present and future interactions between the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and atmosphere. The multidisciplinary program brings together experts in physics, chemistry, earth sciences, ecology and mathematics – in order to create synergistic insights. NESSC research will significantly improve our understanding and will provide a more quantitative framework for Earth System functioning in the future. NESSC hosts many young researchers, both PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, who play a fundamental role in performing the research in the centre under the guidance of the PIs.
Through COFUND we were able to expand our successful PhD research program internationally. To ensure the success of the COFUND program we secured the commitment of a number of partner organisations outside academia to provide additional research and training components and an important intersectoral dimension. Their contributions will increase the impact of the NESSC research program beyond academia: our partners will offer secondments and other career development opportunities for all Early Stage Researchers (ESRs).

In summary: NESSC objectives are to:
• Establish a training program that integrates physics, earth sciences, ecology, and mathematics of climate research with non-academic aspects. Consequently, this will provide a jump-start for early-career scientists by giving them the skills and competencies needed to operate effectively in multidisciplinary teams in- and outside academia;
• Offer superb working and training conditions for bright young researchers worldwide to take part in a highly innovative training-through-research program in Climate Research with high-quality supervision, a unique multidisciplinary training program, including transferable skills, and meaningful interactions with international and societal partners;
• Significantly advance our understanding of the Earth System and greatly improve future climate projections by using emerging knowledge about past climates.

Through open recruitment, NESSC will attract the most talented researchers and select the best candidates through a fair, transparent, merit-based and impartial selection procedure. NESSC will deliver a cohort of research professionals providing them with an excellent basis and strong network for their future careers, both in- or outside academia.
Within the reporting period (M1-24), the NESSC consortium focused on the four work packages as defined in the GA, Annex 1 (see also the periodic report for more details).
The yielded the following results in the first year:
-An amendment to the existing NESSC CA to cover the COFUND obligations
-Organisation of two recruitment calls
-Evaluation and selection COFUND eligible candidates, through a fair, open, transparent, merit-based and impartial process
-Appointment of 17 COFUND eligible candidates, balanced in gender (13 female and 4 male candidates)
-Start of 15 COFUND eligible PhD students in multidisciplinary research projects
-All selected projects were checked for potential ethical issues
-Outreach and dissemination of NESSC research through various efforts
In the second year of the reporting period the COVID pandemic hit and we had to adjust the original plans, this results of the second year are therefore as follows:
-Start of the last two COFUND eligible PhD students in multidisciplinary research projects
-Change to online meetings, including the organisation of range of meetings and lectures, the frequency of the number of meetings was increased to ensure maximum interaction and consortium/community building
-We continued our Outreach and dissemination of NESSC research through various efforts
-We secured funds to offer the PhD students (up to three months) extensions for their projects - if needed - to cover COVID delays (e.g. laboratory closure and cancelation of fieldwork)
Up to now the progress beyond the state of the art is rather limited due to the lifetime of the project and the COVID pandemic. However, NESSC has taken additional measures to stimulate community feeling to compensate for COVID measures and impacts. This includes for instance biweekly presentations or topical discussions organised by theme participants and frequent keynote lectures by internationally renown scientists to inspire the ESRs. Also funds have been secured to ensure project extensions (up to three months) to compensate for COVID related project delays. The first ESRs have already submitted their science in peer reviewed literature.
For the remaining part of the program: we expect that, with lifting COVID restrictions, we will go back to the originally planned NESSC training program including as many elements as originally planned and the additions we introduced during the COVID lockdown, to ensure a maximised impact of NESSC.
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