Obergurgl Workshop: 4th-6th November, 2016

28 researchers from 10 different research groups spent a weekend discussing climate

Group picture

Participants of the Obergurgl workshop. Photo: Melanie Bartos

Background and Introduction

Climate research and the associated environmental response span many disciplines at the University of Innsbruck. Thus, our research community contains the knowledge to identify, research, and address knowledge gaps about climate change using novel, interesting, and interdisciplinary approaches. During a discussion meeting of the Climate Seminar during December, 2015, the idea was born to combine this expertise in the form of a workshop-based retreat. Early in 2016, a small organising committee representing different institutes was formed. The committee decided to concentrate on the physical-science basis in the first instance, with the possibility of expanding the initiative to other human-related disciplines (e.g., policy, mitigation, sociology, economics) in the future.

The workshop thus had one simple aim, to bring together physical-science-based climate researchers from UIBK in order to: improve networks and collaborations; promote the exchange of ideas; identify key research questions facing our field; and to establish interdisciplinary approaches for answering them. The focus of the workshop was loosely on “the alpine response to climate variability”, though as was discovered during the course of the workshop, the term “variability” might have been an ambiguous choice.

In total, 28 climate-related researchers from 10 different research groups attended the meeting (), plus one representative of the UIBK Public Relations Office. The meeting took place between 4-6 November, 2016, at the University Research Centre, Obergurgl, Austria.


Nov 4th, 2016

word-cloudWelcome and Icebreaker

The meeting began on the evening of 4th November with registration followed by an evening meal, welcome speech, and then the icebreaker. During the welcome speech, Gina Moseley mentioned the motivation for the initiative, thanked so many people from different disciplines for attending, and encouraged everyone to keep the open-minded momentum going to make the weekend a success. Since the aim of the workshop was to encourage interdisciplinary exchange, the ice breaker took the form of a speed dating event. Each person was asked to find a partner from another research group, then they had 4 minutes to discuss their work and record the common research ground on sheet of paper. There were four rounds in total, which some people said was not enough. They had enjoyed the event and wanted to continue. The common research themes have been collected together and turned into a “word cloud”. In general, the larger the font, the more common the research theme (though this is not sensu stricto).


Nov 5th, 2016

How do Different Disciplines Approach the Topic of Climate?

The morning session was titled “How do different disciplines approach the topic of climate?” and was split into two parts: (1) introductory presentations by each research group, chaired by Fabien Maussion; (2) and an open discussion, chaired by Wolfgang Gurgiser and Katee Wendt.

For the introductory presentations, each research group was asked to make a 10 minute presentation about their work. The style and content of the presentation was left entirely flexible.

Developing Avenues for Interdisciplinary Climate Research

The afternoon session was titled “Developing avenues for interdisciplinary climate research” and involved working in small interdisciplinary groups. During the preparations for the workshop, all participants were asked to propose climate-related questions that they thought could be answered through interdisciplinary work. Each participant was then asked to rank each question as either most, high, some, low, or no interest to work on such a topic. Based on these results, the five questions with the highest combined level of most and high interest were chosen for further discussion. Participants were then placed in groups based on their preference for such a topic, whilst keeping in mind the need for the group to be interdisciplinary and to contain researchers at different stages of their careers.

Each group had 3.5 hours to discuss and develop an interdisciplinary strategy for addressing the designated research question.


Nov 6th, 2016

Presentation of Interdisciplinary Ideas

Each interdisciplinary working group was given 30 minutes to present their ideas and hold discussion on their designated research question. A discussion took place following the presentation of the interdisciplinary group work.

Final Open Discussion

Unfortunately, due to bad weather, the final open discussion where we were to discuss the success of the workshop and how to move forward as a climate research community was cut short a bit.

Thanks from the Organising Committee

The event was successful, being both enjoyable and interesting thanks to the open-mindedness, motivation, and interest of the participants. From the perspective of the organisational committee, the aims of the workshop were achieved: UIBK physical-science-based climate researchers were brought together; networks and collaborations were improved; ideas were exchanged; and, interdisciplinary approaches for answering key research questions facing our field were considered. The outcomes of the workshop were thus that we have a better knowledge of other disciplines, the momentum for future interdisciplinary collaborations, and a draft strategy for public outreach. Only time will reveal the long-term success of this initiative, but hopefully we have built the foundations for a strong interdisciplinary climate research community.

Gina Moseley, Wolfgang Gurgiser, Fabien Maussion, Daniela Festi, Marc Luetscher, Katee Wendt, Gabriella Koltai