Magnetosphere, Ionosphere and Solar-Terrestrial

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A Summary of the SWIMMR Kick-Off Meeting

The kick-off event for the Space Weather Innovation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk Study (one of the Wave 2 programmes of the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund) took place in the Wolfson Library of the Royal Society on Tuesday November 26th. Seventy-five people attended the event, representing a range of academic institutions, as well as representatives from industry, government and public sector research establishments such as the UK Met Office. 

The morning session of the meeting consisted of five presentations, introducing the programme and its relevance to government, the Research Councils and the Met Office, as well as describing details of the potential calls. The presentations were as follows:

  •  Prof John Loughhead (Chief Scientific Advisor to BEIS) - Space Weather Innovation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk Programme (a governmental perspective). The slides from Prof John Loughhead's talk are available here.
  • Prof Chris Mutlow (Director of STFC RAL Space) - SWIMMR: Project funded by the Strategic Priorities Fund (a perspective from STFC).  The slides from Prof Chris Mutlow's talk are available here.
  • Jacky Wood (Head of Business Partnerships at NERC) - Space Weather Innovation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk (SWIMMR) - A NERC perspective.  The slides from Jacky Wood's talk are available here.
  • Dr. Ian McCrea (Senior Programme Manager for SWIMMR) -  SWIMMR: Space Weather Innovation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk: A wave 2 programme of the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund.  The slides from Dr Ian McCrea's talk are available here.
  • Mark Gibbs (Head of Space Weather at the UK Met Office) - SWIMMR (Met Office perspective and detailed description of the calls.  The slides from Mark Gibb's talk are available here.

During the lunch break, the Announcement of Opportunity for the five NERC SWIMMR calls was issued on the NERC web site.  The afternoon therefore began with a brief introduction by Jacky Wood to the NERC Announcement of Opportunity, and the particular terms and conditions which it contained.

The remainder of the afternoon session was spent in a Question and Answer session in which attendees were able to ask questions to the speakers about the nature of the programme and the potential timing of future calls, and finally to an informal discussion session, in which participants gathered into groups to discuss the opportunities for funding which had been outlined. 

2019 RAS Council elections

As you may have seen, the nominations for RAS Council are currently open with a deadline of 29 November. MIST falls under the “G” (Geophysics) category and there are up to 3 councillor positions and one vice-president position available. MIST Council strongly encourages interested members of the MIST community to consider standing for election.
Clare Watt (University of Reading) has kindly volunteered to be a point of contact for the community for those who may wish to talk more about being on council and what it involves. Clare is a councillor on RAS Council, with her term due to complete in 2020, and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Outcome of SSAP priority project review

From the MIST mailing list:

We are writing to convey the outcome of this year’s priority project “light touch” review, specifically with reference to those projects within the remit of SSAP. We would like to thank all the PIs that originally submitted ideas, and those who provided updates to their projects over the summer. SSAP strongly believe that all the projects submitted are underpinned by strong scientific drivers in the SSAP area.

The “light touch” review was undertaken with a unified approach by SSAP and AAP, considering factors that have led to priority project development (in STFC or other research councils) or new funding for priority projects (1/51 projects in the STFC remit) in the last 12 months. After careful discussion, it was agreed by SSAP and AAP not to select any project where the remit clearly overlaps with UKSA (i.e. space missions or TRL 4+), reflecting STFC’s focus on ground-based observations, science exploitation and TRL 0-3 development. Whilst in no way reflecting the excellence of the science, or community scientific wishes, this approach has resulted in some changes to the list of SSAP priority projects. However, now, unlike at the time of the original call, it is clear that such projects cannot move forwards without UKSA (financial) support, and such funds are already committed according to UKSA’s existing programme. SSAP remain strongly supportive of mission-led science in solar-system exploration, so SSAP have strongly recommended that the high-level discussions between UKSA and STFC continue with a view to supporting a clear joint priority projects call in future, more naturally suited to mission and bi-lateral opportunities.

The priority projects (and PIs) identified by SSAP for 2019/20 are:

  • Solar Atmospheric Modelling Suite (Tony Arber)
  • LARES1: Laboratory Analysis for Research into Extra-terrestrial Samples (Monica Grady)
  • EST: European Solar Telescope (Sarah Matthews)

SSAP requested STFC continue to work with all three projects to expand their community reach and continue to develop the business cases for future (new) funding opportunities. In addition, SSAP have requested that STFC explore ways in which the concept of two projects—“ViCE: Virtual Centres of Excellence Programme / MSEMM Maximising Science Exploitation from Space Science Missions”—can be combined and, with community involvement, generate new funding for science exploitation and maximising scientific return in solar-system sciences. Initially this consultation will occur between SSAP and STFC.

We would like to thank the community again for its strong support, and rapid responses on very short timescales. A further “light touch” review will occur in 2020, with a new call for projects anticipated in 2021. SSAP continue to appreciate the unfamiliar approach a “call for proposals with no funding attached” causes to the community and are continuing to stress to STFC that the community would appreciate clearer guidance and longer timescales in future priority project calls.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Helen Fraser on behalf of SSAP

The Global Network for the Sustainability In Space (GNOSIS)

The Global Network for the Sustainability In Space (GNOSIS) is an STFC Network+ with the goal of helping researchers within the Particle, Nuclear and Astrophysics areas to engage with researchers from other research councils and industry to study the near Earth space environment. For more details, visit the GNOSIS website or see this issue of the GNOSIS newsletter.

Over the next few years we expect a large increase in the number of satellites in Earth orbit. This will lead to unprecedented levels of space traffic much of which will end as debris. The aim of this network is to understand the debris populations and its impact on space traffic management with a view to enabling a safer environment.

The free GNOSIS lunch event will be held on 18 November 2019 at the British Interplanetary Society at Vauxhall, London, with a video link to the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, to facilitate participation from across the UK. Tickets can be obtained here.

GNOSIS will be producing a programme of meetings for both space operations specialists and subject matter novices and will be able to support the development of collaborative ideas through project and part graduate student funding. Details of our first workshop will be announced in the next month.

If you are an academic with no direct experience but have knowledge of areas such as observations, data analysis, simulation or even law, then register your interest on our website. If you are a currently working in the space sector or if you are just interested in the aims and goals of the network please also register your interest and get involved.

SWIMMR: A £19.9M programme of the UKRI Strategic Priorities Fund

Space Weather Instrumentation, Measurement, Modelling and Risk (SWIMMR) is a £19.9M programme of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Strategic Priorities Fund.

MIST would like draw the attention of the research community to the potential opportunities which will become available as a result of this programme, which received final approval from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in August. The programme will run from now until March 2023 and is aimed at improving the UK’s capabilities for space weather monitoring and prediction. UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund provides a means for linking research council investment to governmental research priorities, hence the areas being emphasised in the programme reflect space weather threats to critical infrastructure, as reflected in the UK national risk register.

The programme will be delivered jointly by the STFC and NERC, mainly through open grant calls, but including some elements of commissioned work to be delivered through open competitive tenders. The first calls are expected to appear during the coming weeks. More information about the programme is available through the RAL Space website, and is forthcoming from the NERC web site.

To mark the official launch of the programme and provide more details of the planned activities, a kick-off meeting is being held in the Wolfson Library of the Royal Society on Tuesday 26 November 2019, from 10:30. Pre-registration is required for this event and can be done using this link. We hope that many of you will be able to attend.

EGU2020: Sharing Geoscience Online

By Sadie Robertson

What is EGU?

The European Geosciences Union (EGU) is Europe’s leading geoscience research organisation and each year hosts the largest geoscience conference in Europe. This year, EGU2020 was set to be held in Vienna in the first week of May. Abstracts had already been submitted and presentations/posters allocated before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. After some initial uncertainty, the meeting was scheduled to be hosted online and rebranded as EGU2020: Sharing Geoscience Online.

Preparing for an online conference

As a second year PhD student, EGU was going to be my first large international conference, and I had been scheduled to give a talk. I have previously given talks at NAM (the UK’s National Astronomy Meeting) and at a smaller Magnetospheric Multiscale mission (MMS) Community Meeting.

After being informed that the conference and all talks/posters were online, I assumed that I would still be giving a similar presentation and talk, only over the internet – but I was wrong! A couple of weeks before the conference, I was pointed towards some extra information provided on the conference website; presenters had to upload materials (such as a pdf) prior to their session and then there would be a live online text-based chat during the session. There would be no video/audio element to ensure the conference was as inclusive as possible. As my slides would no longer be comprehensive without me talking alongside, I had to rework them to include more information and clearly portray my results. This culminated in a set of presentation slides/poster hybrid that I uploaded as a pdf, which seemed to be the way most people chose to present their work. I found the best presentations to be the ones with sufficient background detail so that I could understand the problem being investigated.

There was also an issue of copyright, which I had not needed to consider in the same way before. The presentation materials were uploaded and remained accessible by anyone for a month after the conference. EGU provided a creative commons logo to put on slides to make their copyright clear. To avoid issues with reproducing other people’s figures, I had to cut out some diagrams I would usually include and reference on my introductory slides – although it is fine to reproduce figures if you get permission.

The conference

My session, titled ‘Magnetic reconnection and associated multi-scale coupling in space, astrophysics and laboratorial plasmas’, was scheduled for the first day of the conference. I presented work on electron trapping associated with magnetic mirror structures and magnetopause flux ropes, which I have been investigating using MMS. After a few teething issues with the text-based chat, my session convenors decided to allow each presenter to introduce their work and then take questions for 10-15 mins before moving onto the next presenter. Some presenters were not online, so it was hard to predict what time a given presentation would be discussed. When it came to my turn, I had a few simultaneous questions about my work, resulting in some rapid typing to respond to them. Overall, I think I managed to give sufficient answers to the questions and people seemed interested in my work – although it is much harder to judge than when you are talking face-to-face!

I dropped into some other sessions throughout the conference week. The convenors of each session used slightly different formats, meaning each session was slightly different. I sometimes found the sessions hard to follow when viewing the materials being presented for the first time. Jumping between tabs, reading both the chat and presentations at the same time, could become overwhelming. I think the best results and discussion would come from reading the presentation materials in advance, particularly in the presentations most interesting to you. 

The conference was an excellent opportunity to share my work with a large audience and to learn more about a vast range of research. Having not yet attended a large international conference it is difficult to directly compare experiences; however, I did find the social aspects more limited than at in-person conferences. There were very few opportunities to engage in casual conversations, for example in lunch and coffee breaks, which could lead to interesting science discussions. Instead, I felt as though I had to have a specific question to engage in a conversation about someone’s work. Issues such as this may be amplified for students who are new to their fields.

Despite this, adapting to the pandemic has provided us with the opportunity to explore the potential benefits of virtual conferences. Flying is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions in academia. Over the past year, I have worked as part of a team alongside Imperial’s Grantham Institute assessing aviation emissions at Imperial. We found that in the 2017/18 academic year 9% of Imperial’s emissions could be attributed to aviation, comparable to those associated with electricity and gas consumption [1]. Virtual conferences could be used to compliment in-person conferences as a way to cut these greenhouse gas emissions.

Virtual conference advice

If you’re preparing for an online conference, some of my tips would be:

  • Read all email correspondence and online guidance carefully. Don’t assume you know what is expected of you as it can be very different to a regular conference.
  • Give yourself more time than normal to prepare presentation materials. You might need to use a different structure with more information than you usually would, and they could be more visible and remain online after the conference.
  • Don’t forget about technicalities, such as copyright, and get any permissions you may need in advance.
  • Do some reading of uploaded presentations in advance of the scheduled session – particularly if you plan to ask questions.

However, this advice may turn out to be EGU-specific and who knows what structure future online conferences may take!

If you have any more questions about Sadie’s experience at EGU2020: Sharing Geoscience Online, then you can This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..