PredictFest brings people to the science

University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists are presenting their work at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in New Orleans this week. This article is part of a series highlighting UAF research from the world’s largest Earth and space science meeting.

An upcoming science brainstorming event will take an uncommon approach to developing new Arctic-based research proposals: Include more people who aren’t researchers.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks-led effort, called PredictFest, will bring together at least a few dozen community members, scientists, programmers and students to develop new research ideas during a two-day virtual and in-person session on Feb. 24-25.

Erin Trochim, a research assistant professor at the Alaska Center for Energy and Power, was part of a similar effort in 2017 that worked to predict snowfall in Fairbanks. It helped build relationships and illustrated the value of including people outside the science community, which can help keep proposals anchored in the real world, she said.

“Researchers are really good at talking to each other, but we’re not good at talking to community members or people who use our science,” Trochim said. “Finding balance in what’s interesting scientifically to what’s relevant is pretty essential."

The upcoming effort could cover a broad range of potential Arctic-related topics — safety, health, resource management, planning and more. It is designed to identify ideas and see if they can be turned into viable research proposals.

“The topic areas are pretty fluid. We’re just looking for people who want to participate,” Trochim said. “It really helps focus the projects a lot more.”

PredictFest is supported by the National Science Foundation’s Navigating the New Arctic program.