The Collectif Perce-Neige: For Young Scientists Engaged in Inter- and Transdisciplinary Research in Mountain Regions
article written by MRI
02.02.21 | 10:02

In this blog post, Emmanuel Salim, PhD student at Savoie Mont-Blanc University (USMB), and Raphaël Lachello, University Grenoble-Alps (UGA), share the impetus for forming a collective of young researchers to promote inter- and transdisciplinary research in mountain regions.

Mountain regions are nowadays largely subject to the consequences of global change. These regions require research in order to overcome the new challenges arising from this change. Unfortunately, such requests often remain unanswered.

Emmanuel Salim Pasterze Glacier Austria 2020 resized
Pasterze Glacier, Austria, 2020. (Emmanuel Salim)

Why is this? One would be tempted to answer: the elaboration of research questions with the actors of the regions, transdisciplinarity, is not an obvious undertaking. Indeed, researchers and actors often face a problem of understanding: vocabularies, practices and objectives differ. Moreover, it is sometimes difficult to bring together the objectives of both parties without falling into a client-service provider relationship focused on economic issues.

However, most of the time, collaboration stops long before these operational problems arise. On the research side, the lack of human and financial resources, the lack of reactivity and the lack of administrative flexibility often kill projects before they even begin. On the other side, states are often put off by the institutional mille-feuille that the academic world represents.

It is obvious that research and academics are sometimes unable to meet the needs of states, particularly when internal university problems reinforce difficulties. One of the main barriers lies in the issue of implementing truly interdisciplinary research projects (i.e., construction of research questions by at least two disciplines). How can we communicate with territories efficiently if we ourselves are incapable of understanding each other?

Emmanuel Salim Tasman Glacier New Zealand 2020 resized
Tasman Glacier, New Zealand, 2020. (Emmanuel Salim)

Despite that pessimistic assessment, the situation is improving! The dynamics exemplified by the Grenoble Alps (UGA) and Savoie Mont-Blanc (USMB) Universities on these subjects for the past ten years are beginning to produce results. The Labex ITTEM ANR (French National Research Agency) project, launched in 2012 and renewed in 2020 for 5 years; the Free-Alps federation; the Refuges-Sentinelles programme; and the Trajectories research programme all center questions of inter/transdisciplinarity, transitions and adaptation to climate change. Also, those initiatives allow young researchers to experiment with inter- and transdisciplinary issues.

On the one hand, the states need research, and on the other hand, young researchers are looking for jobs. Why not bring the two together? This was the idea underlying the creation of the Collectif Perce-Neige. Born from the will of eight young researchers from the Universities of Grenoble-Alpes and Savoie-Mont-Blanc, the Collectif Perce-Neige aims to be a place for discussion among researchers from various disciplines of Human, Social, and Environmental Sciences. Beyond interdisciplinarity, the Collective aims to promote transdisciplinarity, by bringing together academic institutions and stakeholders from mountain regions. Finally, the Collective hopes to strengthen the position of young researchers by ensuring the international dissemination of their research work.

More than 60 people attended the launch day of the Collectif Perce-Neige on 9 November 2020, not only from the academic world, but also actors from different mountain regions. Beyond introducing the Collective, this gathering allowed us to work on four axes around i) the challenges of creating a structure for the Collective; ii) the work in collaboration with the actors of the mountain regions; iii) the organisation of inter- and transdisciplinary research “stays”; and iv) the opening to the possible development axes of the Collective.

Concrete objectives: An InSitu project being prepared

The newly formed Collective has already set itself several objectives for the year 2021, including the organisation of an InSitu project. It aims to set up a residency for researchers in a mountainous area requiring global attention in terms of challenges faced, in order to develop inter- and transdisciplinary research work. It is an opportunity to put into practice the ideas defended by the Collective while trying to respond to the issues of mountain regions.

Follow & contact Collectif Perce-Neige:Perce Neige v1.6





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Cover image by SteenJepsen.