Beijer Young Scholars

The second generation of Beijer Young Scholars (BYS2) held their third official BYS workshop at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and on the island of Ekskäret in the Stockholm Archipelago in May 2018. But the network lives on, the group has had several meetings in different constellations since then and are applying for a major grant together in late 2019.

BYS2 and resource persons 2017. Back row: Kevin Berry, Alon Shepon, Juan-Carlos Rocha, Andrew TilmanTom Chaigneau, Amir Jina, Robert Heilmayer, Patrik Henriksson, Matias Piaggio. Middle row: Tong Wu, Emmi Nieminen, Emelie Lindqvist, Inge van den Bijgaart, Caroline Schill, Maike Hamann, Agneta Sundin. Front row: Marty Anderies, Yolanda Lopez, Carl Folke, Tracie Curry, Jiangxiao Qiu, Jonas Hentati Sundberg.

Throughout the three years of support from the Beijer Institute, the 18 PhD candidates and early career researchers in the BYS group embarked on an exploration of the potential links between inequality and the biosphere. As a result, they contributed to this body of research with a literature review and a research agenda that outlines mechanisms between different types of inequality, changes in the biosphere and their impact on inequity or the perception of fairness, published in Annual Review of Environment and Resources in 2018. Together they also organised a well-attended session on the same theme at the Resilience 2017 conference in Stockholm.

Collaboration for the future

The group secured a SEK 2 million pre-proposal grant from the Swedish Research Council for sustainable development (Formas) in 2018, to explore the theme of trade-offs and synergies between Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with specific focus on the central role that inequality plays in these interactions. During 2019 they further developed research ideas emerging from their review paper mentioned above. A stakeholder workshop provided novel insights into inclusion of different voices and values in the SDG debate, questions of scale across space and time, and the importance of governance when considering inequality and its role in trade-offs and synergies between SDGs. These emerging themes will be taken into account in future research proposals by the BYS2 team.

BYS2 publications:

Hamann, M., K. Berry, T. Chaigneau, T. Curry, R. Heilmayr, P. J. G. Henriksson, J. Hentati-Sundberg, A. Jina, E. Lindkvist, Y. Lopez-Maldonado, E. Nieminen, M. Piaggio, J. Qiu, J. C. Rocha, C. Schill, A. Shepon, A. R. Tilman, I. Van Den Bijgaart, and T. Wu. 2018. Inequality and the Biosphere. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 43:1, 61-83.

Link to article

Shepon, S., P.J.G. Henriksson, and T. Wu. 2018. Conceptualizing a Sustainable Food System in an Automated World: Toward a “Eudaimonian” Future. Frontiers in Nutrition 5:104.

Read online

A valuable experience

At the end of their official term as Beijer Young Scholars, members testified that the experiences with the BYS network have also marked their career paths and inspired them to attempt more interdisciplinary work in the future:

“Having the privilege to be part of the BYS program has been an inspiring and transformative experience, to not only broaden my research horizontally towards becoming an interdisciplinary scientist, but also distil deeper understanding of how different fields such as ecology, economics, geography, and political sciences are inherently connected. It has also reinforced my aspirations for continuing interdisciplinary collaborations that are essential for addressing contemporary wicked social-environmental problems” – Jiangxiao Qiu, University of Florida

“The BYS program is a unique example showcasing a successful process in which a group of scientists from different backgrounds and skills produce quality research, and not least, enjoy it. It also demonstrates how to build successful networks of researchers, that will continue to collaborate into the future.”- Alon Shepon, Weizmann Institute of Science

“After the BYS I’m also more relentlessly active at the science-policy interface, bringing expert, indigenous, traditional, technical and scientific knowledge into policy and governance discussions through collaboration with NGOs, government, and international organizations such as the United Nations Forum on Indigenous People Issues.”- Yolanda Lopez-Maldonado, consultant

“The theme of inequality has become like a Greek chorus in all my research thinking – every time I encounter a new project or come up with a new idea, I can’t help but hear the question: “How does this relate to inequality?” – Tong Wu, Arizona State University

“I have realized that it is very rewarding and intellectually fascinating to engage in interdisciplinary discussions and collective learning. It really encouraged me to broaden my understanding and try hard to understand different disciplinary perspectives and ways of thinking. And it also forced me to confront some of the often unspoken and unquestioned assumptions in my own work and discipline.” – Maike Hamann, University of Minnesota

“It confirms the strength of interdisciplinary collaboration and learning. And the importance of time for developing good ideas.” – Jonas Hentati-Sundberg, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

“The BYS workshops introduced me to a community of inspiring, brilliant individuals that gave me confidence to pursue questions that I found exciting, rather than questions that I thought would gain acceptance among more traditional economists. This experience has been freeing and has led me to begin to tackle questions that are a deeper blend of economics, ecology and geography.” – Robert Heilmayr, University of California Santa Barbara

“One of the big factors was everyone’s willingness to engage – again, something that is hard to see on paper, but was essential to our group bonding.”- Amir Jina, University of Chicago