Update: 08.12.2017

In a handful of fertile soil, there are more individual organisms than the total number of human beings that have ever existed.

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The International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS) is the global union of soil scientists. The objectives of the IUSS are to promote all branches of soil science, and to support all soil scientists across the world in the pursuit of their activities. This website provides information for IUSS members and those interested in soil science.

ICSU Young Scientists Conference

4-6 April, 2007, Germany

The International Council for Science (ICSU) was celebrating its 75th anniversary by organizing a conference for young scientists to discuss and address some of today’s important scientific challenges in a multidisciplinary and international environment. This conference, entitled Global Scientific Challenges: Perspectives from Young Scientists was held on 4-6 April 2007 in Lindau, Germany.

I was lucky to participate in this conference being nominated by the International Union of Soil Sciences. The conference agenda, participants presentations, videos, photos, and other materials are available on the conference website. Thus, in this brief report, I will address mainly my personal impressions about the conference, the impact that it had on me, and how it is affecting my current career development.

I was always convinced that my research should help to resolve problems that the society is faced with. For instance, I was always interested in the methodologies for remediation of metal-contaminated soils. This problem has become to be a global challenge. However, I never realized the importance of dissemination the results of my research beyond the frontiers of the soil science. Indeed, universities are generally requiring young scientists to publish in scientific journals rather than sharing scientific knowledge with the general public and the policy makers. The conference made me to decide writing extension papers and communicating my results through the media in hope that they can be integrated into decision-making processes.

The second topic that caught my attention at the conference was the issue of a growing necessity for international cooperation in scientific observations, monitoring, research, and assessment. Currently located in Chile, I see a need for effective partnerships between scientists in developing and industrialized countries. However, I personally feel that the current possibilities in building international scientific partnerships are quite limited or the international programs are too complicated to be accessed (as in the case of the European community projects). To this end, the International Council for Science may play an important role in encouraging the national science-funding agencies of the industrialized countries to have more effective and more easily-accessible programs for cooperation with developing countries.

Another topic that came across my attention during the conference was trans-disciplinary collaboration. Although a considerable progress has been made in breaking down the barriers among many traditional scientific disciplines (for instance, between earth sciences and biology, between environmental and medical sciences), there are still lots of barriers that currently impede the development of trans-disciplinary interaction and collaboration. On a personal level, I might be interested to develop my future research on the topics of soil and water contamination with a collaboration of human toxicologists. However, there might be some difficulties in getting such a trans-disciplinary research proposal funded. This is mainly because science-funding agencies review scientific proposal in commissions of specialist and still do not have effective mechanisms to accommodate trans-disciplinary proposals. This topic was extensively discussed at the conference.

In summary, the conference was a very enriching experience that certainly will affect and already affecting my career development as a young scientist.

Alexander Neaman, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Soil Science

Faculty of Agronomy

Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaso