Inspiring Young Scientists to Serve

by Allison Goodwell (AGU H3S member)

Why should a graduate student or early career researcher set aside time to participate in a service-oriented organization? When we finally achieve a delicate balance between research, classes, teaching, and fieldwork, service might seem like a fifth wheel that we lug along on our academic journeys. However, community involvement can be a fundamental component of a successful scientific career rather than this proverbial fifth wheel. Service engagement directly benefits the community, reveals relevant issues for research, and can ultimately lead to more societally impactful science. As part of a broader mission to represent, inform, and support early career scientists in the field of hydrology, the AGU Hydrology Section Student Subcommittee (H3S) aims to motivate students and young scientists to make service an integral part of their academic experience. We hope to inspire students to serve their communities, help them find service opportunities, and prepare them for effective service.

This year H3S is initiating several activities to address these goals. We aim to inspire students to participate in service through organized sessions and pop-ups at the AGU Student Conference and Fall Meeting, where researchers will discuss their personal service-related stories.  These sessions will address the innovations, rewards, and pitfalls involved in service engagement, and motivate students to explore how their own scientific expertise can serve society (submit at To help students find service activities, we are creating a web-based searchable repository that will hosted by the Young Hydrologic Society at This database will grow as research community members add opportunities, and hopefully become a valuable resource to students seeking service opportunities in their own communities or abroad. Service types range from mentoring with Big Brothers Big Sisters or 4H to design and development projects with Engineers Without Borders or Lifewater International, and scope can range from local to global.  Each organization provides a different perspective on the meaning of service as well as inspiration for those looking to develop their own activities.

Finally, to prepare students to effectively participate in service, we plan to hold workshops on relevant issues such as effective science communication, building stakeholder partnerships, or addressing the needs of a particular community.

With these goals and activities, we hope to encourage young scientists to explore how their expertise can serve society and how they can integrate service into their future careers. Scientists serve society by obtaining and disseminating knowledge to solve problems and improve our future well-being. At times, the links from new knowledge to perceived relevance and action are tenuous or act on long time scales.  Meanwhile, service engagement provides a direct link where scientific expertise can benefit short-term humanitarian needs.  Broad participation in service and outreach is a valuable way to strengthen ties between science and society and can lead to more informed and impactful research.

Link to editable spreadsheet:

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