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GeoTalk: Meet the EGU’s President, Jonathan Bamber

GeoTalk: Meet the EGU’s President, Jonathan Bamber

GeoTalk interviews usually feature the work of early career researchers, but this month we deviate from the standard format to speak to Jonathan Bamber, the EGU’s President. Jonathan has a long-standing involvement with the Union, stretching back almost 20 years. Following a year as vice-president, Jonathan was appointed President at this year’s General Assembly in Vienna. Here we talk to him about his plans for the Union, how scientists can stand up for science at a time when it is coming under attack and how the Union plans to foster the involvement of early career scientists (ECS) in its activities.

In the unlikely event that some of our readers don’t know who you are, could you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your career path so far and also about your involvement with the EGU over the years?

I started out with a degree in Physics. I’ve spent the last 20 years in the geography department at the University of Bristol focusing on Earth Observation. In that time, I’ve covered a lot of topics: from oceanography to land surface processes, but glaciology is my core discipline and research area. Most of my work has broadly been in the area of climate change and climate research but also solid Earth geophysics.

I’ve been involved with EGU (actually, it was EGS then) since the late 90s. I used to attend the meetings and I realised there was a gap in the market for cryospheric sciences. I approached Arne Richter [the former General Secretary of EGS] to form the Division of Cryospheric Sciences. I put together a proposal and became secretary of the division at the time and later became president of the division when EUG & EGS merged to form EGU. I spent five years in that role, towards the end of which I proposed (and launched) the open access journal The Cryosphere, which just celebrated its 10th anniversary and publishes about 220 papers per year.  I’m very proud of those contributions to the community and feel that they have helped develop the discipline and strengthen it.

It was 2007 when I stepped down from the EGU Council all together although I still attended the General Assembly, of course, and convened various sessions. It was 2015 when the then EGU vice-president, Hans Thybo, suggested I stand in the next presidential elections. I wasn’t at all certain I wanted to take on the role, but decided to go for it because I think it is important to serve the scientific community and colleagues and EGU is an organisation that is close to my heart.

At this year’s General Assembly, you were appointed Union President (after serving as Vice-President for a year). What are the main things you hope to achieve during your two-year term?

There are two main areas that I am very keen to promote and foster:

First, I want to make the organisation [the EGU] more attractive to early career scientists (ECS) and offer them more opportunities, be that more and better short courses, career support and other benefits of attending. For some years now there has been a strong ECS network within the Union and there have been great advances in that direction already.

Second, I’d like to increase the EGU’s opportunities, and those of members, to be involved in policy activities.

Why those two in particular?

There are many things one could do; but having attended the General Assembly for 15 years, there is no doubt that ECS are the future of the discipline, so if we don’t make the meeting attractive and useful for them, what are we here for?

In terms of policy, there are a number of events which have happened in the past few years which make it come into focus.

Certainly, in the UK, it is important that the science we do has impact, and just as important is that we [researchers] understand what the impact of the research we do has. Ultimately, tax payers pay for the research we do, so it is important not to get detached from the role we have in benefiting society in broad terms but also through specific opportunities and activities.

From many years attending the AGU Fall Meeting, I am aware the American Geophysical Union (AGU) has a very well developed and successful policy related programme. It is, of course, simpler for them, as the policy landscape is restricted to one nation and AGU’s headquarters are in Washington. Nonetheless, despite those differences, EGU is not, currently, providing opportunities for engagement in the policy realm in the way we could, for example, with the European Commission and its funding instruments.

Science for policy is not suited to all scientists, and all disciplines that we represent. However, it is important for a large cohort of our membership.

EGU President, Jonathan Bamber (centre left) and EGU Vice-President, Hans Thybo (centre right), stand along side the 2016 EGU Outstanding Student Poster and PICO (OSPP) awardees. Credit: EGU/Pflugel

ECS make up a significant proportion of the Union’s membership. EGU is a bottom up organisation and there is no doubt that ECS have a say in many matters of the Union already, but how do you plan on including ECS further in decision-making processes in the future?

I wouldn’t necessarily classify ECS separately. They are simply geoscientists, just like the majority of our members. It is important, however, for us to show them and highlight the opportunities available for them to be involved in the General Assembly and the Union as a whole.

We have a Union-wide ECS Representative on Council – this gives ECS a good understanding of how the organisation works and gives the individual experience of the machinery involved in running all the activities of EGU. Roles like this give the next generation skills to take on leadership roles in the future too. How do they know how organisations operate if they don’t have opportunities like this?

There are also no barriers to them being involved in convening sessions, organising short courses and proposing activities for the Union to prepare.

It can be intimidating as a junior scientist to be involved in these activities, so it’s important that we make it accessible to them. I think we are making great progress in this direction.

As an established scientist, what advice would you give ECS starting out in their career?

Accountancy pays very well!

More seriously: get involved!

Also, look at your most successful and respected senior colleagues and identify what about them makes them successful and what do you admire in them. Positive role models are very important.

Recently, the scientific process has come under attack. Initiatives such as the March For Science have given scientists opportunities to make their voices heard. What role can the Union play in supporting members wanting to stand up for science?

We can put together advice for how scientists can get their voice heard. The Union’s Outreach Committee is quite active in this regard already.

Trying to make sure that the voice of the geoscience community is heard within Europe is another area where we can contribute. We’ve been involved in an EU Parliamentary meeting, representing EGU, where discussions focused on improving the integration of science and collaboration across Europe.

We also offer policy makers and institutions the opportunities to contact scientists, through our database of experts.  We need to make European policy-makers more aware that we can provide that service.

In terms of funding for scientific research, we’ve established links with the President of European Research Council. Jean-Pierre Bourguignon gave a talk at this year’s General Assembly and participated in one of our Great Debates. We also hosted a meeting where senior members of the EGU’s council met with Bourguignon to discuss how the EGU could support the ERC in the future.

As an organisation, it should be our goal to provide our members with a mechanism by which they can communicate with the European Commission and policy-makers.

Last month, the EGU issued a statement condemning President Trump’s decision to pull the USA out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Why is this decision so troubling and, in your opinion, what can Union members do to raise awareness of the challenges facing the globe?

We should communicate the importance of our science: what we know, what we understand, the evidence based facts.

In the absence of evidence based science, how do policy makers reach decisions? They rely on gut instinct, on beliefs, on prejudices… But they should be making them on evidence based science. So, it is crucial that we communicate what we know to the public and policy-makers.

In Europe, a large majority don’t question human influence on climate. They understand it is real and that it’s an issue of upmost importance.

Trump’s decision was about politics not science; it is important to remember that. He didn’t deny that climate change was real, but he was making the decision on an economic basis and that is something else again. Whether it was a wise economic decision or an entirely myopic one is another question altogether.  I speak about this in more detail in an open editorial I wrote shortly after the decision was announced.

Geoscientists are, perhaps, more important in terms of policy and the health of the planet than they ever have been before. All the work we are doing in the geosciences has huge implications for policy and for safeguarding our future on the planet.

Jonathan, thank you for talking to me today about a whole range of topics. I’d like to finish this interview by bringing the conversation back around to EGU. We’ve discussed, at some length, what the Union hopes to do for its members and highlighted that there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. So, how exactly do they go about taking a more active role in the Union’s activities?

One of the easiest ways to have your voice heard is by getting involved through your scientific division. Attend your division(s)’s business meeting. Each division has quite a few officers: a secretary, vice-president, secretaries for sub disciplines and so on. There are lots of opportunities there. In general, anyone who wants to put the time in will be welcomed by division presidents because it’s always good to have enthusiastic, dedicated volunteers.

When it comes to the General Assembly in Vienna, anybody can propose a session. If you want to organise a session or a short course, just fire it out there! The call-for-sessions is currently open [until 8th September]. You’ll find all the details online.

If you are interested in policy-related activities do complete the register of experts questionnaire.  It doesn’t take long and you’ll find details on our webpages. Make sure you provide as much detail about your expertise as possible. That way we’ll be able to match you up with those who make inquires and opportunities in the most effective way.

Interview by Laura Roberts Artal (EGU Communications Officer)

 

 

 

 

GeoTalk: Lena Noack, Early Career Scientist Representative

GeoTalk: Lena Noack, Early Career Scientist Representative

In addition to the usual GeoTalk interviews, where we highlight the work and achievements of early career researchers, over the next few months we’ll be introducing the Division early career scientist representatives (ECS). They are responsible for ensuring that the voice of EGU ECS membership is heard. From organising short courses during the General Assembly, through to running Division Blogs and attending regular ECS representative meetings, their tasks in this role are varied. Their role is entirely voluntary and they are all active members of their research community, so we’ll also be touching on their scientific work during the interview.

Today we are talking to Lena Noack , ECS representative for the Planetary and Solar System Sciences (PS) Division and upcoming Union-wide ECS Representative (as of April 2016).

Before we get stuck in, could you introduce yourself and tell us a little more about yourself and your career?

I am currently a post-doc at the Royal Observatory of Belgium. I studied Mathematics in Germany at the Humboldt-University of Berlin, but discovered soon that I would prefer to work in a field that was my hobby for a long time – astrophysics! I found a PhD position at the German Aerospace Center at the Institute of Planetary Research in Berlin, where I could work for four years on the simulation of plate tectonics on Earth-like planets and the general evolution of terrestrial bodies in our Solar System and beyond. My post-doc position in Belgium allows me to pursue this fascinating topic.

Although we touch upon it in the introduction of this post: what does your role as ECS representative involve?

Apart from being the voice of the ECS in my division, for me the task of the ECS representative involves a wide range of other activities, both during the General Assembly and during the whole year. Luckily, my division doesn’t lack enthusiastic PhD students and post-docs, and we organize different events during the EGU and the related EPSC (Earth and Planetary Science Congress) like short courses and competitions, or this year for the first time also a smaller workshop directly dedicated to ECS. We are also responsible for the division’s outreach activities (via the EGU-PS website, the division Facebook page and a twitter account).

Why did you put yourself forward for the role?

My involvement as ECS representative actually started with organising the division’s Outstanding Student Poster award. In this function I started to communicate with other ECS (obtaining also feedback in this way and forwarding it to the PS president). Since I was also interested in different ideas on how to improve the networking between division ECS’s and the division outreach activities, the role of the ECS representative came quite naturally to me.

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What is your vision for the EGU ECS PS community and what do you hope to achieve in the time you hold the position?

Sadly my time as ECS PS representative will come to an end during the next General Assembly (the call for candidates to put themselves forward for the role of PS Division ECS Rep will be opening soon, so keep a look out for that if this is an opportunity you might be interested in!).

Future activities I could imagine include division internal networking events directly at the GA (for example a PS social event in the evening) and more ECS workshops organised outside of the GA. Also as I take on the role of EGU-wide ECS representative in April.

What can your ECS Division members expect from the PS Division in the 2016 General Assembly?
Apart from our usual tasks, including for example a flyer with all important ECS-related activities during the GA, as well as ECS-convened PICO sessions and interesting short courses co-organized with the other divisions, we have a special “bonbon” for the PS division this year. The annual GIFT workshop, bringing teachers to the GA to interact with scientists and for education-related session, will be co-organized in 2016 by the PS division. Under this header, we are organisinge a new contest (SECreT – Scientific Easy Creative Texting), to which every interested scientist can contribute by submitting a short (max 1 page), entertaining, but also informative texts about their research, which will be made available to all GIFT attendants. The contest is of interest to all ECS that want to share their work with non-scientists, and of course there will be awards!

How can those wanting to, get involved with the EGU?

Every ECS related to the PS division is very welcome to get more involved within our division. The easiest way is to get in contact with anyone of the ECS PS group at the GA, or to drop me an e-mail before. Our Facebook page can also be used to contact us, since the page is hosted by the ECS group of the PS division. Also, in 2016 our division is searching for a new ECS representative. If you are interested in that position, best to join the ECS PS group now! To apply as a candidate for the ECS PS representative, you only need to write an e-mail confirming your participation to the PS president Ozgur Karatekin and myself.

GeoTalk: Meet Andi Rudersdorf, winner of I’m a Geoscientist 2015!

GeoTalk: Meet Andi Rudersdorf, winner of I’m a Geoscientist 2015!

Earlier this year we ran the second I’m a Geoscientist event, an online chat-based game show in which school kids vote for their favourite geoscience communicators. In this week’s GeoTalk, Laura Roberts  talks to Andi Rudersdorf, a neotectonics PhD student and winner of this year’s I’m a Geoscientist…

First, for those who didn’t been following I’m a Geoscientist, can you tell us a little about yourself and what made you decide to take part in the competition?

My name is Andreas Rudersdorf, Andi, and I’m a Geoscientist – studying the neotectonics of an intracontinental basin in the Gobi Desert: the Ejina Basin. This basin lies between the Tibetan Plateau and the Gobi Altai ranges. Currently, I am finishing my PhD thesis at Neotectonics and Natural Hazards | RWTH Aachen University on the integration of geological, geophysical and remote sensing data which I collected to find out when and where tectonic processes shaped the Ejina Basin, where the topography is very flat and where only few prominent geological features document past earthquakes.

I first heard of I’m a Scientist last year when the first geoscience event was advertised and when I was just about to plan my trip to the EGU General Assembly. We have just had an intern in our institute who really liked all the different topics we were working on during that time and I thought it would be great to get in touch with even more pupils and to excite their curiosity in geosciences and to show them what I do.

Have you done any geoscience outreach before?

Our working group in Aachen is quite activeon social media – my colleagues and I are trying to get our friends and followers involved in what we study and publish. So sharing pictures and stories about my work was not new to me. I even suggested to my supervisor that we create a Facebook page to reach out to even more people. However, I guess that the first followers were our students – so the outreach component was rather small at that time…

But there is this great community and blog called paleoseismicity.org, where my friend Christoph and many other authors from the scientific community around the world write about scientific news, recent earthquakes, tsunamis, past and upcoming meetings, field work and recent developments in the fields ofearthquakes and active tectonics. I joined the authors during my Master’s in 2011 and now I’m preparing a weekly section called the Friday links. Of course we aim to reach the scientific community, but we also have lots of readers outside of science.

What inspired you to take part in the competition?

From my blogging experience I knew how good it feels to get feedback when you share your work and how motivating it can be to see others learn new things.

Last year, my supervisor Klaus Reicherter got in touch with school classes where he and my colleagues started a project to teach geology and natural hazards to young pupils. The pupils were really keen to learn about our work and they loved the experiments and field trips they did together. They eventually planned to prepare the first German ShakeOut Day, a school event where earthquake awareness is raised and the right actions during earthquakes are trained. I was impressed by this project and was certain I wanted to take part in a similar event: then the call for the second “I’m a Geoscientist event” started circulating.

What was your toughest question during the competition and how did you respond?

There were quite a few questions that were tough to answer, for example the ones on what happened before or during the big bang, or whether a dress is white and gold or blue and black… In the questions section those questions were great, because I had the time to read a bit on topics outside my field or sometimes think outside the box, and then answer what I learned. During the chats with the students, I just had to learn to say that I didn’t know. And the pupils liked that!

Andi out in the field. Credit: Andreas Rudersdorf

Andi out in the field. Credit: Andreas Rudersdorf

What was the question you enjoyed the most?

I enjoyed all the questions on natural hazards and climate change, because it showed that the pupils were aware of current topics. I loved explaining earthquakes, because I could share how and why I study them and why it is important to learn about the past to understand the present.

You’re the lucky winner of 500 euros, how do you hope to spend it?

I’m still planning to engage more pupils with active faults and earthquakes! But I still have a couple of things to solve before I can break the news…

What’s your top tip for aspiring geoscientists?

Oh, I hope I can give great advice in a couple of years from now. Today I can say that it certainly is fun and rewarding to pursue a career in science. It’s great to answer small scientific questions that may eventually lead to figuring out how to answer the big questions we face today.

 

 

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