Geology for Global Development

Geology for Global Development

Commentary: ‘Globalize Geoscience’ and International Capacity Strengthening

The international community will soon agree on a set of sustainable development goals. This is a significant moment for the international community, and a great opportunity for geoscience. Over the coming months a broad discussion is needed as to how we can best support this global effort to eradicate extreme poverty. One important way this can be done is through ‘globalizing geoscience’ as was suggested in the recent Nature Geoscience Editorial.

Universal access to water and sanitation or energy, resilient cities and infrastructure, food security and sustainable agriculture will only be achieved if geologists join with geographers, economists, social scientists, health professionals, engineers, politicians and the many other stakeholders in development, not least local communities themselves. Geoscience education, training, research, practice and effective knowledge dissemination need to be examined to see what more can be done to utilise our knowledge of the Earth for the public good and global development.

This examination of the geoscience profession should draw upon ideas from the full spectrum of geoscience organisations (universities, geological surveys, not-for-profits, professional and learned societies, scientific unions, and the private sector), and from the widest possible geographical spread. It was very welcome, therefore, to see the latest Nature Geoscience editorial raise the important question of how we can strengthen geoscientific capacity in the developing world. In the same issue, Hewitson (2015) outlines the benefits of this, with the rewards being progress in both socio-economic development and global scientific output. Conversely, our collective understanding of geological processes and applied implications is being held back by challenges in geoscience education, training and dissemination pathways.

Of importance for the geoscience community to consider, is how existing collaborations between scientists in established centres of excellence and the developing world can be strengthened and adapted for maximum positive impact. The Nature Geoscience editorial included a map showing global distribution of Nature Geoscience author affiliations from January 2008 to May 2015. This map reveals no authors from many developing countries, including much of sub-Saharan Africa.

Reprinted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd: Nature Geoscience, Editorial (Vol. 8, p491), copyright (2015)

Reprinted by permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd: Nature Geoscience, Editorial (Vol. 8, p491), copyright (2015)

An overview of the same articles, however, shows that research was conducted in, or relevant to, some of these same geographical locations. Tanzania, for example, has no co-author affiliations and yet there are at least three studies published between 2008–15 that included collaboration with individuals in Tanzania (Tierney et al., 2010Roberts, 2012Selway, 2015), the latter also being in the most recent (July 2015) issue.

In these specific examples (Tierney et al., 2010Roberts, 2012Selway, 2015) I acknowledge that there may be circumstances to explain why those Tanzanian scientists supporting and contributing to data collection were not co-authors on the final publication. This situation, however, is indicative of an all-too common problem that we must address. Overseas research conducted by institutions in existing regions of scientific excellence is often reliant on the goodwill and support of in-country scientists and technicians, from both universities and geological surveys. There are some worrying trends, however, of visiting scientists repeatedly failing to (i) send data, reports and publications relating to their collaborative work, and (ii) involve in-country scientists in writing and publishing articles derived from that data. Both of these issues were raised last year at the 3rd YES Network Congress and 25th Colloquium of African Geology, held in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania). Not unique to sub-Saharan Africa, formal and informal interviews that I conducted last year with scientists in Guatemala and India noted similar frustrations. Given the importance of trust when building collaborative relationships, we should urgently seek to reverse these trends.

It is reasonable to imagine that Nature Geoscience’s map (above) would look very different if all scientists from established institutions worked in a different way when doing research in the developing world. Visiting-scientists already bring benefits, such as training in fieldwork and data collection skills. If all scientists working in these contexts, however, committed themselves to sharing data (in useful and accessible forms) and reports, and collaborating in the authorship of publications the benefits would be even greater. Scientists in the developing world would grow in their own research, analytical and dissemination skills, and grow in the confidence described by Hewitson (2015), a confidence needed to submit research to journals such as Nature Geoscience. This is not to suggest that Nature Geoscience is the only way to disseminate information, there are many other ways. The international geoscience community would benefit by having access to the insights and intellect of a broader sub-set of the community, in many different forums.

This progression to best-practice in collaboration needs to go alongside other aspects of capacity building, including improved education, continued professional development, and facilities. Hewitson (2015) notes:

“…it is important to ask two key questions; what type of capacity we are trying to build, and why. The first question can have many answers, but any answer should be based on more than just assumptions made from a distance about a community’s needs.”

Capacity-building programmes cannot be designed to have maximum effect from an office in London, Brussels or Washington DC – they must involve meaningful consultation, with all relevant groups represented and working together as equals. This demands a wide range of supporting skills, including cultural understanding, effective communication, diplomacy and knowledge exchange.

As we progress through 2015 – one of the most important years to date with respect to sustainable development – the geoscience community needs to have a broad, informed debate about our role in tackling global poverty through strengthening scientific capacity. This does not just involve changes in the developing world, but should start with changes in many of our own institutions and individual practice – improved data sharing and more efforts to encourage co-authorship with scientists at host institutions that we work with overseas. If individual commitment to capacity building can occur in parallel with well-informed, -designed and -delivered larger-scale projects – progress in both socio-economic and scientific development can accelerate.

Find out more: Geology for Global Development are organising their 3rd Annual Conference on the theme ‘Fighting Global Poverty: Geology and the Sustainable Development Goals’. The event takes place on Friday 30th October, at the Geological Society of London. Full details here.

GfGD Annual Conference 2015 (2) – Present a Poster

DSCF3314 (1)We are offering seven people the fantastic opportunity to prepare and present an A1 poster at the next GfGD Annual Conference. We are looking for volunteers to take on each of the following themes:

Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all (poster allocated).
Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all (poster allocated).
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (poster allocated).
Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development (poster allocated).

Posters should describe and discuss the importance of understanding geoscience in the specific sustainable development goal.

Creating and presenting a poster at a national conference is a great opportunity, and good for your CV. It will profile your ideas and thoughts to a big, mixed audience – including students, professionals and our range of speakers and guests. We will print your poster (and you can keep it), you will get free registration at the event, and a prize will be given for the best poster.

Guidelines:

  1. Register to complete a poster by emailing conference@gfgd.org.
  2. Themes will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Available titles will be regularly updated on this page.
  3. To save you money and time – we will print and bring your poster to the conference – if it is emailed to us by Wednesday 30th September.
  4. Posters should be produced at an A1 size, and sent as a PDF.
    • Check that the page size is set to A1 (594 x 841 mm) before starting.
    • Do not place anything within 5mm of the edge of the poster.
    • Check that text is not too small, and images are of a high enough resolution.
Free registration will be given to those preparing posters. We will award a prize for the best poster. 

GfGD Annual Conference 2015 (1) – Conference Theme

Promotional Image 2In September the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ will be agreed – an ambitious set of targets, building on the Millennium Development Goals. These goals and associated work plans will set out how the world will work to promote poverty eradication, change unsustainable consumption patterns and facilitate sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development and environmental protection over the next 15 years (2015-2030).


Specific goals are likely to include ‘ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’ and ‘make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable’. Achieving these, and the other goals, by 2030 will require effective engagement by the geoscience community. We have a significant responsibility and exciting opportunity to work with other disciplines to promote strong stewardship of the Earth for the benefit of society and with the objective of global development.

 

Join us on Friday 30th October 2015, at the Geological Society of London, to consider our role over the next 15 years and share your ideas on how we can mobilise the wider geoscience community to join this fight against global poverty.

Hearing from a range of geology and development specialists, the 3rd Geology for Global Development Annual ‘Fighting Global Poverty’ Conference will:

  • Look back at what progress has been made through the Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015).
  • Consider the aims of the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (2015-2030), their relationship to the work of geologists, and likely obstacles that may hinder their progress.
  • Discuss what Geology for Global Development needs to do over the next 15 years, in parallel to these goals, to best support geoscience education, research and industry in the fight against global poverty.

We’ll be finishing the event with a drinks reception and opportunity for you to meet others from around the UK (and beyond) that have a similar interest in international development.

(This event is primarily aimed at students and early-career geoscientists, but limited tickets are available to others).

Further details, including tentative programme and speakers, will be made available on our website in the near future.

**Tickets available here from mid-July**

**Download a poster about the conference for your Department/Organisation**

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