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A new flow for Canadian young hydrologists: Key scientific challenges addressed by research cultural shifts

Authors:
INVITED COMMENTARY
A new flow for Canadian young hydrologists: Key scientific
challenges addressed by research cultural shifts
Caroline Aubry-Wake
1
| Lauren D. Somers
2,3
| Haley Alcock
4
|
Aspen M. Anderson
5
| Amin Azarkhish
6
| Samuel Bansah
7
| Nicole M. Bell
8
|
Kelly Biagi
9
| Mariana Castaneda-Gonzalez
10
| Olivier Champagne
9
|
Anna Chesnokova
10
| Devin Coone
6
| Tasha-Leigh J. Gauthier
11
|
Uttam Ghimire
6
| Nathan Glas
6
| Dylan M. Hrach
11
| Oi Yin Lai
14
|
Pierrick Lamontagne-Hallé
3
| Nicolas R. Leroux
1
| Laura Lyon
3
|
Sohom Mandal
12
| Bouchra R. Nasri
13
| Nataša Popovi
c
11
| Tracy E. Rankin
14
|
Kabir Rasouli
15
| Alexis Robinson
16
| Palash Sanyal
17
| Nadine J. Shatilla
9,18
|
Brandon Van Huizen
11
| Sophie Wilkinson
9
| Jessica Williamson
11
|
Majid Zaremehrjardy
19
1
Centre for Hydrology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
2
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
3
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
4
Department of Natural Resource Science, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
5
Department of Earth Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
6
School of Engineering, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
7
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
8
Centre for Water Resources Studies, Department of Civil & Resource Engineering, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
9
School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
10
Department of Construction Engineering, École de technologie supérieure, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
11
Department of Geography & Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
12
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
13
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada
14
Geography Department, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
15
Meteorological Service of Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Dorval, Quebec, Canada
16
Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
17
Global Institute for Water Security, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
18
Lorax Environmental Services Ltd, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
19
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Correspondence
Caroline Aubry-Wake, Centre for Hydrology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada.
Email: caroline.aubrywake@gmail.com
Funding information
Global Water Futures; McGill University
Received: 3 February 2020 Accepted: 5 February 2020
DOI: 10.1002/hyp.13724
Hydrological Processes. 2020;16. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/hyp © 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd 1
1|INTRODUCTION
Canadian hydrological research is built on a strong legacy and has
seen a steady progression over recent decades (Woo, 2019). Canada
is a leader in cold regions hydrology and its varied landscapes have led
to developments in our understanding of hydrological processes
across forest, prairie, mountain and wetland environments. Today's
early career researchers (ECRs), including graduate students, postdoc-
toral researchers and junior faculty, will shape the future of hydrologi-
cal research in Canada. ECRs play an important role in advancing
Canadian hydrological sciences as they make up a large portion of
conference presentations and publications.
The strong presence of students and other ECRs in the science
community led the Canadian Young Hydrologic Society to organize a
three-day workshop from July 4 to 6, 2019, in Montreal, Quebec.
Thirty-three hydrology ECRs (within 5 years of their last degree,
including graduate students) from across Canada discussed current
and future challenges as well as emerging opportunities in Canadian
hydrology. Each day, the workshop comprised small (610 people)
peer-moderated group discussions followed by plenary discussions.
These conversations formed the basis for this perspective paper. We
outline three challenges faced by Canadian hydrology ECRs: (a) Data
management, (b) multidisciplinary methods and (c) scientific engage-
ment with society. These scientific challenges have underlying institu-
tional and cultural factors, which may exacerbate existing technical
challenges or barriers. In other words, non-scientific aspects of gradu-
ate education and collaboration significantly impact scientific out-
comes. We propose institutional and cultural shifts that can address
inherent obstacles in Canadian hydrological research and can help us
to propel the discipline forward in the coming decades.
2|MAKING THE MOST OF THE
AVAILABLE DATA
2.1 |Difficulties in collecting and accessing data
The use of field data is fundamental to hydrological research; observa-
tions underlie our understanding of processes, assessment of model
performance and application of remote sensing products. Canada's
vast and sparsely populated area presents an important challenge to
collecting representative data and affects both the direction and
scope of field-based studies. The cost and logistical challenges of
working in remote and northern areas are rarely explicitly mentioned
in publications (e.g., Petrone, Jones, Hinzman, & Boone, 2006;
Shatilla & Carey, 2019). However, these factors cause research
resources to be funnelled into a handful of long-term monitoring sites
with existing support (e.g., Scotty Creek, Quinton et al., 2019; Baker
Creek, Spence & Hedstrom, 2018; Wolf Creek, Rasouli, Pomeroy,
Janowicz, Williams, & Carey, 2019; Utikuma Region Study Area,
Devito, Mendoza, & Qualizza, 2012). These observatories are
extremely valuable, as they provide long-term high spatial and tempo-
ral resolution datasets that improve process understanding and
predictive modelling, and are essential in identifying hydrological
trends (e.g., DeBeer et al., 2016; Rasouli, Hernández-Henríquez, &
Déry, 2013; Spence, Kokelj, Kokelj, McCluskie, & Hedstrom, 2014;
Tetzlaff, Carey, McNamara, Laudon, & Soulsby, 2017).
Outside of these heavily monitored sites, large expanses of the
Canadian landscape remain data sparse. For comparison, the United
States has approximately eight times more government-run stream
gauging stations than Canada, despite similar land mass (USGS, 2014).
In data-poor areas, it can be particularly difficult to capture hydrologi-
cal processes such as snowmelt or river ice break-up that require high
temporal resolution data, or to capture long-term trends in discharge
and hydrochemistry.
Where data exist, they are sometimes difficult or impossible for
ECRs to access due to a lack of consistency in data reporting and pre-
sentation. This hiddendata can take many forms. It can be
unprocessed, held by a given lab group, owned or rendered confiden-
tial by an industry stakeholder, or fragmented between several publi-
cations, online data repositories and branches of federal, territorial
and provincial governments. This accessibility issue can be particularly
detrimental to ECRs, who lack the extensive network or experience to
know if hiddendata exist and where to look for them.
Even when data are accessible, metadata are often lacking. Meta-
data include vital information about the instrumentation used in data
collection, analytical methods employed, data processing procedures
and how quality control protocols were applied. This supporting infor-
mation is particularly important in the context of Canadian hydrology,
where conducting fieldwork over large areas and in remote landscapes
may lead to difficulties in following standard protocols. Without meta-
data, it is difficult for the user to determine the quality or applicability
of the data and to combine data from different sources.
2.2 |Open science and metadata education to
address data needs
To address the data-related challenges outlined above, we support
the ongoing shift towards open science within the Canadian hydrol-
ogy community. Open science is a movement to make scientific publi-
cations, data, and software publicly accessible. The movement already
has a strong following. For example, funding agencies in Europe are
mandating open access publications (Schiltz, 2018), publishing
datasets in data journals is becoming increasingly popular (Carlson &
Oda, 2018) and negativeresults are being discussed and published
more often (van Emmerik, Popp, Solcerova, Müller, & Hut, 2018).
Open science is also popular among the global hydrological commu-
nity where a survey of 336 hydrologists showed that 97% of partici-
pants felt all data should be shared, though no consensus was formed
on exactly how to share data and acknowledge the person or group
who collected them (Blume, van Meerveld, & Weiler, 2017).
In a Canadian context, we suggest the hydrology community
could benefit from enhanced use of data sharing platforms
(or developing Canada-focused communities on existing platforms) to
help combat the fragmented state of many datasets. The use of
2AUBRY-WAKE ET AL.
communal databases or online repositories (e.g., Zenodo) that allow
for responsible and consistent storage of datasets and models would
ensure data are visible and accessible, contain sufficient metadata and
are properly quality-controlled. The adoption of such communal data-
bases could reduce research redundancy, facilitate integrated research
efforts and comparative studies and lead to more broadly applicable
findings and higher impact publications from the Canadian hydrologic
community.
Beyond simply making data accessible, including appropriate
metadata is essential to effective data-sharing. Since ECRs are often
producing and archiving datasets, we would benefit from more inte-
gration of data management practices into graduate training curricu-
lum. Furthermore, data stewardship efforts could be enhanced by
including standardized procedures and templates within individual
research groups, which has been shown to increase model sharing
(Weiler & Beven, 2015). These templates could include naming con-
ventions, file formats, metadata structure and collection techniques
during fieldwork. Templates could be shared with incoming ECRs,
enhancing learning, promoting institutional memory and allowing
ECRs to focus on new findings. Considering the short residence time
of some ECR positions, longer-term members of the research team
such as laboratory managers, field technicians and professional
research associates could play a key role in developing and
maintaining standardized datasets. Data management and protocol
development require a time investment, but we argue this initial cost
is rewarded by facilitating data sharing and the subsequent advance in
scientific understanding.
3|MULTIDISCIPLINARY RESEARCH
3.1 |Inadequate training for advanced
methodologies and interdisciplinary projects
With the rise of disciplines such as ecohydrology (Hunt & Wilcox,
2003), socio-hydrology (Sivapalan, 2012), and cryohydrology (Woo,
2019), hydrology research projects are becoming increasingly interdisci-
plinary, presenting both challenges and opportunities for ECRs. New
research niches bridge the gap between hydrology, atmospheric science,
biology, ecology, geochemistry, geomorphology, and social science
(Clark, Luce, & van Meerveld, 2017; Blöschl et al., 2019). Though inter-
and multidisciplinary work sometimes faces funding challenges
(Bozhkova, 2016), it is essential to address societal needs that often lie
at the intersection of scientific disciplines (Nature Editorial, 2016).
Workshop attendees reported varying levels of collaboration both
within and between laboratory groups. Some research groups pro-
mote and encourage collaboration at the ECR level, while other
groups expect ECRs to complete their work individually. Furthermore,
we found that the structure of graduate training does not often
encourage interdisciplinary collaboration. For example, manuscript-
based doctoral theses typically emphasize first author papers and
exclude co-authorships.
While research questions are becoming increasingly interdisci-
plinary, methodologies for individual disciplines are ever-evolving in
complexity, often reducing their application outside of a highly spe-
cific context or group of experts. An example discussed during the
workshop that resonated widely was the uncertainty analysis of
hydrological models. A disconnect between those researchers specif-
ically focused on uncertainty analysis and those focused on hydro-
logical modelling who needed to apply the uncertainty analysis has
left many ECRs unsure if and how they should use these complex
uncertainty analysis methods. Many ECRs felt that the time cost of
applying complex uncertainty analysis and the risk of misusing these
advanced methods and producing systematic errors outweighed
the potential reward of increasing the quality of their research.
While learning new methods and facing challenging work are vital
and beneficial elements of ECR training, our research is impaired by
a lack of training in the peripheral methods needed for our individual
projects.
3.2 |Fostering effective collaboration between
experts
Creating a research framework that encourages collaboration
between ECRs will bridge the gap between increasingly specialized
sub-disciplines. Increased collaboration will better allow ECRs in
Canadian Hydrology to tackle important interdisciplinary research
questions, while still developing the expertise needed to advance in
our own discipline and increase the quality of interdisciplinary pro-
jects. Ideally, this would begin as graduate students, learning to foster
and establish collaborations to maximize scientific learning and pro-
gress. To ensure development of this important skill, departments
could incorporate collaboration as part of programme requirements or
offer incentives for ECR-led collaborative research projects. This
would also better prepare ECRs for later in their career, where collab-
oration and teamwork are necessary for a successful research pro-
gramme. Furthermore, isolation during graduate studies can have a
serious negative impact on the mental health of graduate students.
This can be partly alleviated by encouraging collaboration and
exchange between peers (Barreira, Basilico, & Bolotnyy, 2018; Evans,
Bira, Gastelum, Weiss, & Vanderford, 2018; Levecque, Anseel, De
Beuckelaer, van der Heyden, & Gisle, 2017).
Considering that ECRs typically do not have an established
research network outside of their lab group, there is also a need for
increased opportunities for engagement between ECRs. This can be
addressed by organizing more discussion-based and practical work-
shops through ECR networks, which can play an important role in
developing a collaboration network and a research community to fos-
ter scientific exchange (Langendijk et al., 2019). A culture of collabora-
tion must begin with individual research groups, and increased
exchange and communication within a research group has the added
benefit of improving continuity to achieve the data management goals
outlined in the previous section.
AUBRY-WAKE ET AL.3
4|CONNECTING SCIENTIFIC OUTCOMES
WITH SOCIETY
4.1 |Conducting and communicating useful
science
From water contamination to floods, hydrology is a scientific disci-
pline with particular importance to society. Many Canadian hydrologi-
cal studies have resulted in useful infrastructure and engineering
projects such as hydropower dams and irrigation systems, all of which
require knowledge of the local hydrology (Woo, 2019). Furthermore,
the impact of climate change on water quality and quantity is increas-
ingly important for local and regional water security. Accordingly,
there was a consensus among most workshop participants that scien-
tific knowledge should be useful to society and for decision-making.
There is, however, a disconnect between the current scientific process
and how new research findings are communicated to stakeholders.
One barrier is how academics typically disseminate their research
findings, through academic journals. Having a multitude of publica-
tions in high-impact journals is critical for academic career develop-
ment (Nicholas, 2019). However, journal articles are not usually
accessible to the general public, due to technical jargon and prohibi-
tively expensive paywalls (Schiltz, 2018).
Interacting with traditional media (e.g., radio and newspapers) can
be a daunting task for ECRs, who typically lack science communica-
tion training. There is a risk, with anecdotal evidence (Lutz et al.,
2018), for the presented facts to be taken out of context and mis-
represented, or to draw criticism against the scientist. Moreover, for
ECRs willing to interact with journalists, getting in touch can be diffi-
cult, as media outlets typically reach out to long-established contacts
within academia, or well-known scientists (Peters, 2013), and less to
ECRs and under-represented groups.
ECRs at the workshop expressed interest in involvement in sci-
ence education and communication initiatives. However, an increased
involvement in science communication may represent a large time
commitment on top of already strenuous graduate studies. Outside of
the benefit to some scholarships and fellowships, science outreach
does not appear to be highly valued professionally. With the added
time commitment and perceived lack of professional development,
this can represent a large barrier to ECR involvement in science edu-
cation and communication.
4.2 |Opening the windows of the ivory tower
Scientific outreach is an essential part of our work as emerging scien-
tists, and engaging with society improves the quality of both our train-
ing and research. Engagement activities can include sharing science
on social media, writing policy briefings, working with not-for-profit
science education programmes or developing relationships with local
stakeholders. Investing time into outreach activities can be beneficial
to ECR career development because it provides an opportunity to
begin developing working relationships with stakeholders as early as
possible. Building long-lasting involvement can help to address the
lack of continuity and disconnect between local communities, stake-
holders and scientists. Communicating scientific progress through
media outreach can also lead to recognition among peers, developing
non-academic networks, promoting scientific findings and impacting
policy making (Lutz et al., 2018).
To achieve stronger communication and outreach strategies,
ECRs should leverage communication specialists at their institutions.
Communication training empowers researchers to build their commu-
nications skills, and more effectively communicate the importance
of their findings in a meaningful and relatable way. Working with
academia-partnered media outlets such as The Conversation can also
help scientists shape how their results are communicated. Addition-
ally, collaboration between scientists, communication specialists, art-
ists and journalists should be encouraged to create compelling
scientific stories.
Communication, education and outreach initiatives are becoming
more rewarded and formally recognized in the traditional academic
framework following the development of peer-reviewed science com-
munication journals such as Geoscience Communication (Illingworth,
Stewart, Tennant, & von Elverfeldt, 2018). To ensure that future hydro-
logical research projects will be clearly communicated and will address a
societal need, the work of ECRs needs to be evaluated beyond their
number of publications. Non-traditional metrics, such as altmetric (Priem,
Taraborelli, Groth, & Neylon, 2010), can be used to quantify online inter-
actions. Further development of metrics that include impact and useful-
ness of research should be developed (Lebel & McLean, 2018).
5|CONCLUSION
ECRs from across Canada came together to discuss current challenges
and opportunities in Canadian hydrology. We identified three major
challenges for ECRs in Canadian hydrology: (a) Data management;
(b) multidisciplinary methods and (c) producing useful science. Under-
lying cultural factors exacerbating these three challenges emerged
along with potential solutions: (a) open data and improved data man-
agement training; (b) fostering ECR collaboration and (c) enhanced
engagement with society. We believe that addressing these underly-
ing cultural factors will help the Canadian hydrological community
advance the science needed to manage Canada's water resources.
The cultural changes we are suggesting come from our experience as
Canadian ECRs in hydrology, but reflect global trends emerging in sci-
entific research. A focus on open science, data sharing, ECR collabora-
tion, adapting graduate training, and improved communications and
outreach are paradigm shifts of emerging importance for ECRs in sci-
entific fields globally (Bankston, 2019; Windsor, 2018). Achieving
these cultural shifts is no small feat and will require the participation
of not only ECRs, but also senior faculty, funding agencies, university
administrators, science policy makers, and scientific publishers. Ulti-
mately, we hope that addressing these cultural scientific challenges
will enable us to ask and answer important hydrological questions in
Canada and beyond more effectively.
4AUBRY-WAKE ET AL.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
We wish to thank the Canadian Geophysical Union Hydrology Sec-
tion, McGill University Departments of Earth and Planetary Sciences
and Geography, McGill University Faculty of Science, and the Global
Water Futures Young Professional group, who provided financial sup-
port for the Canadian Young Hydrologic Society (CYHS) ECR work-
shop ahead of the Canadian Geophysical Annual Meeting in
July 2019.
AUTHOR CONTRIBUTIONS
C.A.W. and L.D.S. organized the workshop and acted as principal edi-
tors during manuscript development. All authors participated in the
discussions, assisted in writing the initial draft and edited subsequent
drafts.
ORCID
Caroline Aubry-Wake https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9452-8580
Lauren D. Somers https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5382-1625
Samuel Bansah https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7190-9973
Uttam Ghimire https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0336-3731
Alexis Robinson https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5991-8866
Brandon Van Huizen https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8422-7592
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6AUBRY-WAKE ET AL.
... The cost of field research, the vast size of Canada, the transitory nature of data collection opportunities, and a scarcity of long-term data records make water science data especially valuable. Access to well-managed data is crucial for researchers to develop insight into Canada's most pressing issues and to inform effective solutions; but data can be hard to find (Aubry-Wake et al., 2020). The COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted the importance of having data to inform timely response decisions in crisis management and amplified the hindrance caused by disparate data collection, access and compatibility issues (Hurley, 2020). ...
... Even with these significant strides, Canadian water science data are often managed in ways that make data retrieval and analysis time consuming and expensive, and research collaboration challenging (Aubry-Wake et al., 2020;GWF, 2019). This is a significant loss for science; historical field observations cannot be recaptured, and these data are key to understanding past and future trends (Gudmundsson et al., 2018). ...
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