Community Input on the Future of Deep Carbon Science

Task Force 2020 is a Deep Carbon Observatory subcommittee charged with charting a course for deep carbon science after the Deep Carbon Observatory culminates in 2019. To help define a clear path forward, the group decided to go directly to the source to hear their views on what direction this burgeoning scientific discipline should take.

By the Numbers

To elicit feedback from DCO scientists, Task Force 2020, working with the Smithsonian Office of Policy and Analysis, sent an email survey to every member of the science network. Nearly half those contacted responded, and those who did had a great deal to say about DCO. Overall, member reviews of DCO’s accomplishments to date were very positive. Most agree that the continuation of DCO past 2019 is absolutely essential or of great importance, and that DCO has already made great strides in growing the field of deep carbon science.

Respondents said that they benefit primarily through networking opportunities and more collaborative research experiences. They proffered that these benefits made it worthwhile to continue their association with DCO, with 34 percent of respondents willing to help raise funds to keep it going in some form.

Let’s take a closer look at the survey results:

Most important DCO functions

Respondents identified DCO as an important conduit for building a scientific community; one that encourages and supports early career scientists, supports basic research, and fosters novel interdisciplinary research.

For early career scientists, DCO plays a particularly important role in directly supporting their research and career advancement. In general, early career scientists reported less involvement in non-research DCO activities than their more established counterparts, however those who did participate in non-research activities found it just as valuable as their senior colleagues.

How members engage with DCO

As expected, the level of DCO member involvement exists along a continuum.  Most members engage with DCO by attending meetings, conferences, or workshops. About half have participated in a research project funded or organized by DCO. One third reported participating in DCO scientific research projects as well as serving on DCO committees or interacting with the Engagement Team.

These responses highlighted the variety of ways DCO is benefiting the deep carbon science community, and how any future activities might further solidify a productive and collaborative scientific discipline.

Suggested directions for a future DCO

From the 387 responses to the survey a fairly clear path forward is emerging. A key step is finding a way of directly funding deep carbon research, especially for interdisciplinary work. The respondents suggested that it would be preferable if funding was drawn from multiple sources—foundations, governments, industry, and universities—rather than from a single foundation. (TF2020 is currently exploring ways of addressing this fundamental need.)

To help realize the vision of deep carbon science in 2020 and beyond, respondents also suggested DCO should do more to encourage collaboration across disciplinary fields through research project funding and cross-disciplinary workshops and meetings. In doing so, they also suggested DCO be more forthcoming about its operations and distribution of funds among the various scientific communities. To achieve this goal, they also pointed out that DCO could play a role in improving cross-community communication, as well as continuing to reach out to broader audiences.

It is clear from the survey results that the community is motivated to make the success of deep carbon science a reality, with a substantial fraction of the most active DCO members willing to lead efforts developing proposals to secure funding. The momentum pushing the DCO community into the next decade is strong.

“Enthusiasm for continuing the scientific work launched by DCO is clearly evident in the poll results,” says Claude Jaupart, chair of Task Force 2020. “And, it is heartening to have validation that the community is willing to work together to develop great scientific ideas and secure funding. A great future lies ahead for the new field of deep carbon science ”

Members of the DCO Science Network at the Third DCO International Science Meeting in St Andrews, Scotland, March 2017. 

Further Reading

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