MIST

Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial

Latest news

Charter amendment and MIST Council elections open

Nominations for MIST Council open today and run through to 8 August 2021! Please feel free to put yourself forward for election – the voting will open shortly after the deadline and run through to the end of August. The positions available are:

  • 2 members of MIST Council
  • 1 student representative (pending the amendment below passing)

Please email nominations to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 8 August 2021. Thank you!

Charter amendment

We also move to amend the following articles of the MIST Charter as demonstrated below. Bold type indicates additions and struck text indicates deletions. Please respond to the email on the MIST mailing list before 8 August 2021 if you would like to object to the amendment; MIST Charter provides that it will pass if less than 10% of the mailing list opposes its passing. 

4.1  MIST council is the collective term for the officers of MIST and consists of six individuals and one student representative from the MIST community.

5.1 Members of MIST council serve terms of three years, except for the student representative who serves a term of one year.

5.2 Elections will be announced at the Spring MIST meeting and voting must begin within two months of the Spring MIST meeting. Two slots on MIST council will be open in a given normal election year, alongside the student representative.

5.10 Candidates for student representative must not have submitted their PhD thesis at the time that nominations close.

SSAP roadmap update

The STFC Solar System Advisory Panel (SSAP) is undertaking a review of the "Roadmap for Solar System Research", to be presented to STFC Science Board later this year. This is expected to be a substantial update of the Roadmap, as the last full review was carried out in 2012, with a light-touch update in 2015.

The current version of the SSAP Roadmap can be found here.

In carrying out this review, we will take into account changes in the international landscape, and advances in instrumentation, technology, theory, and modelling work. 

As such, we solicit your input and comments on the existing roadmap and any material we should consider in this revision. This consultation will close on Wednesday 14 July 2021 and SSAP will try to give a preliminary assessment of findings at NAM.

This consultation is seeking the view of all members of our community and we particularly encourage early career researchers to respond. Specifically, we invite:

Comments and input on the current "Roadmap for Solar System Research" via the survey by clicking here.

Short "white papers" on science investigations (including space missions, ground-based experimental facilities, or computing infrastructure) and impact and knowledge exchange (e.g. societal and community impact, technology development). Please use the pro-forma sent to the MIST mailing list and send your response to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Quo vadis interim board

 

A white paper called "Quo vadis, European space weather community" has been published in J. Space Weather Space Clim. which outlines plans for the creation of an organisation to represent the European space weather community.
Since it was published, an online event of the same name was organised on 17 March 2021. A “Quo Vadis Interim Board” was then set up, to establish a mechanism for this discussion, which will go on until June 21st.

The Interim Board is composed of volunteers from the community in Europe. Its role is to coordinate the efforts so that the space weather (and including space climate) European community can:

  1. Organise itself
  2. Elect people to represent them

To reach this goal, the Interim Board is inviting anyone interested in and outside Europe to join the “Quo Vadis European Space Weather Community ” discussion forum.

Eligible European Space Weather Community members should register to the “Electoral Census” to be able to vote in June for the final choice of organisation.

This effort will be achieved through different actions indicated on the Quo Vadis webpage and special Slack workspace.

Call for applications for STFC Public Engagement Early-Career Researcher Forum

 

The STFC Public Engagement Early-Career Researcher Forum (the ‘PEER Forum’) will support talented scientists and engineers in the early stages of their career to develop their public engagement and outreach goals, to ensure the next generation of STFC scientists and engineers continue to deliver the highest quality of purposeful, audience-driven public engagement.

Applications are being taken until 4pm on 3 June 2021. If you would like to apply, visit the PEER Forum website, and if you have queries This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The PEER Forum aims:

  • To foster peer learning and support between early career scientists and engineers with similar passion for public engagement and outreach, thus developing a peer support network that goes beyond an individual’s term in the forum 
  • To foster a better knowledge and understanding of the support mechanisms available from STFC and other organisations, including funding mechanisms, evaluation, and reporting. As well as how to successfully access and utilise this support 
  • To explore the realities of delivering and leading public engagement as an early career professional and build an evidence base to inform and influence STFC and by extension UKRI’s approaches to public engagement, giving an effective voice to early career researchers

What will participation in the Forum involve?

Participants in the PEER Forum will meet face-to-face at least twice per year to share learning and to participate in session that will strengthen the depth and breadth of their understanding of public engagement and outreach.

Who can apply to join the Forum?

The PEER Forum is for practising early-career scientists and engineers who have passion and ambition for carrying out excellent public engagement alongside, and complementary to, their career in science or engineering. We are seeking Forum members from across the breadth of STFC’s pure and applied science and technology remit.

The specific personal requirements of PEER Forum membership are that members:

  • Have completed (or currently studying for – including apprentices and PhD students) their highest level of academic qualification within the last ten years (not including any career breaks)
  • Are employed at a Higher Education Institute, or a research-intensive Public Sector Research Organisation or Research Laboratory (including STFC’s own national laboratories)
  • Work within a science and technology field in STFC’s remit, or with a strong inter-disciplinary connection to STFC’s remit, or use an STFC facility to enable their own research
  • Clearly describe their track record of experience in their field, corresponding to the length of their career to date
  • Clearly describe their track record of delivering and leading, or seeking the opportunity to lead, public engagement and/or outreach
  • Can provide insight into their experiences in public engagement and/or outreach and also evidence one or more of
  • Inspiring others
  • Delivering impact
  • Demonstrating creativity
  • Introducing transformative ideas and/or inventions
  • Building and sustaining collaborations/networks
  • Are keen communicators with a willingness to contribute to the success of a UK-wide network
  • https://stfc.ukri.org/public-engagement/training-and-support/peer-forum/  

    Astronet Science Vision & Infrastructure Roadmap

     

    Astronet is a consortium of European funding agencies, established for the purpose of providing advice on long-term planning and development of European Astronomy. Setup in 2005, its members include most of the major European astronomy nations, with associated links to the European Space Agency, the European Southern Observatory, SKA, and the European Astronomical Society, among others. The purpose of the Science Vision and Infrastructure Roadmap is to deliver a coordinated vision covering the entire breadth of astronomical research, from the origin and early development of the Universe to our own solar system.

    The first European Science Vision and Infrastructure Roadmap for Astronomy was created by Astronet, using EU funds, in 2008/09, and updated in 2014/15. Astronet is now developing a new Science Vision & Infrastructure Roadmap, in a single document with an outlook for the next 20 years. A delivery date to European funding agencies of mid-2021 is anticipated. 

    The Science Vision and Infrastructure Roadmap revolves around the research themes listed below:

    • Origin and evolution of the Universe
    • Formation and evolution of galaxies
    • Formation & evolution of stars
    • Formation & evolution of planetary systems
    • Understanding the solar system and conditions for life

    but will include cross-cutting aspects such as computing and training and sustainability.

     

    After some delays due to the global pandemic, the first drafts of the chapters for the document are now available from the Panels asked to draft them, for you to view and comment on. For the Science Vision & Roadmap to be truly representative it is essential we take account of the views of as much of the European astronomy and space science community as possible – so your input is really valued by the Panels and Astronet. Please leave any comments, feedback or questions on the site by 1 May 2021.

    It is intended that a virtual “town hall” style event will be held in late Spring 2021, where an update on the project and responses to the feedback will be provided.

    Public Engagement and Me

    by Affelia Wibisono

    Affelia Wibisono is a first year PhD student at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory (University College London). Alongside her research into Jupiter’s x-ray aurorae, Affelia is involved in a wide variety of public engagement activities. In this post Affelia talks about her experiences doing public engagement and ways to get more involved yourself!

    My Experiences in Public Engagement

    Public engagement is something I’m passionate about. In fact, I had a career in science communication for 6 years before starting my PhD at MSSL. It was something that I knew I wanted to do since I was at school, so I took part in as many outreach activities as I could during my undergraduate studies. I also worked as a summer intern at Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium and even had the chance to take part in the BBC’s Bang Goes the Theory Roadshow whilst I was there.
    Photo of Affelia and Liz Bonnin

    Me with Liz Bonnin, one of the presenters of Bang Goes the Theory, during my summer internship at Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium.

    After graduation, I started working at the Science Museum in London as an Explainer where I did pretty much that: I explained the science behind the exhibits in the Launchpad (now known as Wonderlab), Pattern Pod and The Garden interactive galleries. I got to engage with a variety of people - from toddlers to their nannies, from Year 1 classes to A-Level students, science enthusiasts, international visitors and even people who wanted to impress their dates. By far my favourite part of the job was to present science shows with a lot of demos and audience participation. I had two shows, my first was “Flash! Bang! Wallop!” which was about explosions and was obviously great fun to perform! Who wouldn’t want to blow a squib or fire Barbie out of a cannon?! My second show was “The Bubbles Show” and was for younger children. One of my highlights was when I had 200 people (yes, including the adults) shout “WE LOVE BUBBLES! WE LOVE BUBBLES!” at me.

    A photo from the "Flash! Bang! Wallop!" show at the Science Museum.A photo from "The Bubbles Show" at the Science Museum.

    Presenting my two science shows at the Science Museum.

    I then moved on to the Royal Observatory Greenwich (ROG) where I coordinated the schools programme and was in charge of the day-to-day running of the onsite activities. Making sure 300 students and teachers were in the right place at the right time amongst other visitors in a relatively small building was challenging at times! I also presented planetarium shows and led workshops, again for a whole range of audiences, and even gave talks at festivals such as the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition, Camp Bestival and Space Rocks. It was at the ROG where I truly developed my writing skills. I was lucky enough to write posts for their blog, articles for newspapers, and short pieces for the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year books. Our online audience was also very important to us, so I was also involved in the ROG’s Live Streams, animated videos and podcasts. Something I never thought I would get to do was give media interviews. My very first was a live interview about New Horizon’s flyby of Pluto for a South African radio show. Since then, I’ve spoken to journalists about Tim Peake, the Great American Eclipse of 2017 and various astronomical events amongst other things for TV, radio, print and online.

    A photo of Affelia giving a talk.

    Left: Presenting at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition. Right: My piece for The Guardian about the Perseids meteor shower.

    Since I started at MSSL in September 2018, I’ve taken part in a number of public engagement activities. Some of them were small scale and required very little preparation like running a workshop for a group of scouts or visiting a local school. Others needed more planning like giving a public lecture at the ROG (I was asked to do this before I’d even left my full time job there!) or being interviewed for a short film about the 50th Anniversary of the first lunar landing.

    A photo of Affelia giving a public lecture.A photo of Affelia talking to primary school pupils.

    Left: My public lecture at the ROG’s Peter Harrison Planetarium. Right: Using fruits to show the relative sizes of the planets in our Solar System to some primary school pupils.

    I’m grateful that both of my supervisors do a lot of outreach themselves and are very supportive of me doing the same. I still work at the ROG and present planetarium shows and school workshops when they need someone to cover.  I can accept and reject shifts as I like so I can fit them around my work at MSSL and other commitments. I was asked by Jasmine to write about how I manage my time between public engagement and research, and to be honest, I don’t know if I’ve done that successfully yet. I limit myself to no more than 2 days at the ROG per month and make myself unavailable to work there for at least two weeks before a Big Deadline or conference. Before saying yes to any outreach requests at MSSL, I check what my schedule looks like around the time of the event. If it looks clear(ish), I ask myself these questions: 1) Will I enjoy it? 2) Will I gain any new experience, skills or contacts by doing it? 3) Am I the best person to do it or is the event better suited for someone with a different expertise? Public engagement should benefit you and your audience.

    Why do Public Engagement?

    My belief is that engaging the public is just as important as the research that we do as PhD students. Some research councils, such as STFC, require those they support to do a certain amount of outreach. Interacting with non-specialists is a great way to share your passion for your work and I often find myself more motivated to continue with my research afterwards because they remind me that Jupiter’s X-ray aurorae are freaking awesome. Their questions can really test your understanding and even give you ideas as to where to take your research next.

    Public engagement allows you to develop skills that can be transferred to your research and beyond. The most obvious being your communication skills. There’s no doubt in my mind that my experience in public engagement has helped with every presentation, report and funding application I’ve produced during my PhD so far. It allows you to grow your professional contacts and develop your team working skills. I’ve already mentioned time management, but it can also help improve your people management and leadership skills too. If you can successfully get 30 teenagers to do what you ask them to, you can do it to anyone. I love coming up with new demos and new activities to engage the public with because I get to be creative and practise my problem solving skills.

    I’d like to think that I’ve sparked scientific interests in some of the young people I’ve worked with and helped them to build their confidence.  If they decide that they want to continue studying science then that’s great. But they won’t all grow up to be scientists, and that’s ok. My hope is that they have a newfound appreciation for the Universe and enjoyed themselves whilst doing so. That’s enough for me. 

    Last but definitely not least, it’s fun!

    What kind of Public Engagement can I do?

    There are so many things you can do! You could organise something through your department, like an open day or work experience week for A-Level students. Your university probably has an Outreach or Widening Participation team that could offer advice and resources. There are already existing programmes with guaranteed audiences like Pint of Science, Soapbox Science (for women researchers), and the online based I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here that you can get involved in. I’m a Scientist is a two week long competition in which scientists from a wide range of disciplines are split into several groups. The winning scientist from each group receive £500 to communicate their research with the public. School students (from both primary and secondary schools) ask questions for the scientists to answer at any time between the two weeks. There are also live chats that last 30 minutes each and can be very intense as the aim is to answer as many questions from the children as possible. To be honest, I never saw it as a competition but as a chance to interact with many young people without too much effort.

    A screenshot of the "I'm a Scientist Get Me Out of Here" Profile.

    My I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here profile

    Schools and astronomical societies are always looking for expert speakers. They may contact your department or you could sign up to be a STEM Ambassador. Teachers and group leaders advertise their events on the website and you can volunteer to do as little or as many as you want.

    You can go down the digital route by writing a blog, recording podcasts or starting a YouTube channel. Your university might have one of these already that you can help with. MSSL has a podcast called Thinking Space and with the help of other first year PhD students and Professor Geraint Jones, the creator of the podcast, I recorded an episode about our first few months at MSSL for prospective students. If that sounds like too much then you can use Twitter or Instagram to engage the public with your work.

    It’s super important to remember that there is no such thing as the “general public”. Public engagement is most effective when you have a clear idea of who your target audience is. This could be based on their age group, shared interests or needs. This will help you decide what kind of activity you do.

    Training and Funding

    There’s a lot of support for researchers who want to do more public engagement. Look out for training opportunities run by your universities. There’s a number of mailing lists and communities you can be a part of that provide training and are great ways to meet other public engagement doers and professional science communicators. Three that I’m a member of are the  PSCI-Comm mailing list, BIG and the Presenter Network. I find the Presenter Network especially helpful because you get to meet a wide variety of presenters, including actors, comedians, museum workers and YouTube presenters. It was founded by the ROG but it has now grown and has several hubs around the country (and even internationally!) so if you’re not based in London, chances are there’s a hub near you. We meet every 2 or 3 months at different places (different organisations take it in turns to host (e.g. the ROG, the Science Museum, ZSL London Zoo) and share best practice about different aspects of presenting. There is now an annual conference every September at the ROG. Best thing is that it’s all free! Organisations like the NCCP, IOP, STFC, the Royal Society and the RAS offer grants that you can apply for if you have a public engagement idea you want to come to life.

    I hope this has been helpful and have fun out there!

    If you have any questions about Affelia's post and how to get involved with public engagement, then you can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..