The 68 global change scientists from 15 nations who met in Innsbruck at a 2-day meeting organized by the Mountain Research Initiative had in common a willingness to cross their disciplinary boundaries, share project ideas, and engage in international projects.
The meeting was one of a series of meetings of MRI's Global Change Research Network in European Mountains, GCRN_EM, initiated and moderated by Dr. Astrid Björnsen Gurung, MRI science officer. These meetings are shaped by the participants' topics and requests, and are designed to stimulate innovation and facilitate networking by providing time for interaction. Thematic inputs are kept short and concise. The meetings are complemented and documented by a GCRN_EM website and Newsflash, and the MRI database of experts (see links below).
The availability of funding is crucial for research. Experts provided firsthand information on the European Union (EU) funding instruments FP7, COST (European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical research), and Interreg IV B: Alpine Space Programme 2007–13. Six speakers focussed on interdisciplinarity and presented their experiences in EU projects: Andreas Muhar (BOKU); Martin Price (Centre for Mountain Studies); Axel Borsdorf (IGF); Carmen de Jong (Institut de la Montagne); Michael Tyrkas (Alpenforschungsinstitut); Andreas Gobiet (Wegener Center).
Mountain Research Market
Participants displayed their ideas, project experiences and expertise. The functioning of a network is determined by its nodes, the contacts between people and institutions. A networking meeting is only successful if new nodes are created and new linkages established. When asked to indicate the number of “promising new contacts,” most participants noted between 5 and 10, some “more than 10.”
Coffee table discussions
The coffee table discussions followed the idea of Open Space. Participants had the chance to propose topics for which they seek discussion partners. Rooms and visualization material were provided to such self-elected groups to meet and interact during one or several time slots of 90 minutes.
The Coffee Table themes were: unexpected/accelerated impact of climate change in the alpine environment; (water) conflicts in mountains; the crisis in the mountains: social, geographical, and political factors; climate change-caused disturbances and their impacts on mountain regions; “Endeavour Alp”—an Interreg IVB proposal; linking patterns and processes in mountain ecosystems (FP7); IT support for large databases; GCRN_EM proposal for an ESF Research Network Project; and FP7 research infrastructures.
The MRI has a vivid interest in the outcome and success of these discussions, but its role is limited to that of a facilitator. It will be up to the initiators whether the discussions lead to “real projects in real places.”
With this very successful meeting, the GCRN_EM has been firmly established. The European network has now taken on the form which MRI envisages for all its regional networks. The event was co-organized by MRI and the Institute for Mountain Research (IGF) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW), and co-financed by MRI, IGF, ÖAW, alpS (Centre for Hazard Management), and the University of Innsbruck: regional research institutions have taken ownership of this European network whose existence once depended on MRI alone. This is a crucial step in establishing a functioning and purposeful network. Two institutions have signalled their interest in hosting the next meeting. Apart from the positive feedback from participants, this was the most valuable sign of success.
Global Change Research Network in European Mountains (GCRN_EM): http://mri.scnatweb.ch/content/category/3/47/68/
MRI database of experts: http://mri.scnatweb.ch/index.php/content/view/40/44/