Geology for Global Development

Communication

#EGU16 – Sessions of Interest

EGU2016-700x161The EGU General Assembly 2016 takes place in Vienna between the 17-22 April 2016. Abstract submission is now open for their fantastic range of sessions, with support applications open until 1st December 2015. These offer financial support to early-career scientists and established scientists from low, lower-middle and upper-middle income countries.

We’ve noted some sessions of immediate relevance to our work below:

SDGsEOS15: Geoscience and the Global Goals for Sustainable Development (No Abstract Processing Charges)

In September 2015 the Global Goals for Sustainable Development’ (Global Goals) were formally adopted by member states of the United Nations. Building on the Millennium Development Goals, the Global Goals aim to eradicate global poverty, end unsustainable consumption patterns and facilitate sustained and inclusive economic growth, social development and environmental protection over 15 years (2015-2030). Achieving the Global Goals by 2030 will require many communities to engage, including the geosciences. Many of the themes within the Global Goals are at the heart of geoscience education, research and practice (e.g., sustainable agriculture, water and sanitation, disaster risk reduction and resilient cities, climate change). The geoscience community should be ready and equipped to take a leading role in promoting and facilitating responsible Earth stewardship, for the public good and global development. In this session we welcome abstracts from across all divisions that demonstrate examples of, or ideas for, effective engagement with the Global Goals. Recognising that these goals are at an early stage of implementation, we particularly encourage abstracts that offer (i) creative ideas to improve the involvement of geoscientists in the fight against global poverty, (ii) lessons learnt from engagement in the Millennium Development Goals, (iii) insights into the transitions required within geoscience education, research and practice to support sustainable development, (iv) case studies of meaningful stakeholder participation and technical capacity strengthening, and (v) case studies of public sector/private sector/civil society partnerships to promote sustainable development. Through this session we aim to collate and develop strategies for sustained, effective geoscience engagement in the implementation of the Global Goals. The best format for the session will be determined based on the abstracts submitted, however we believe that a PICO session may be the best option to promote dialogue and interaction.

Last year this session included a dynamic discussion session, posters and short-course on 'natural hazards demonstrations'

Last year this session included a dynamic discussion session, posters and short-course on ‘natural hazards demonstrations’

NH9.3:  Natural Hazards Education, Communications & Science-Policy-Practice Interface

This session addresses knowledge exchange between researchers, the public, policy makers, and practitioners about natural hazards. Although we welcome all contributions in this topic, we are particularly interested in: (i) The communication (by scientists, engineers, the press, civil protection, government agencies, and a multitude other agencies) of natural hazards risk and uncertainty to the general public and other government officials; (ii) Approaches that address barriers and bridges in the science-policy-practice interface that hinder and support application of hazard-related knowledge; (iii) The teaching of natural hazards to university and lower-level students, using innovative techniques to promote understanding. We also are specifically interested in distance education courses on themes related to hazard and risk assessment, and disaster risk management, and in programmes for training in developing countries. We therefore solicit abstracts, particularly dynamic posters, on all aspects of how we communicate and educate the better understanding of natural hazards. The ability to have graphic screens at poster sessions is available (if pre-ordered through EGU), as is a location to put hands-on demonstrations or other material. We welcome both oral and poster presentations, and hope to ensure ample time for discussion.

Read an article reflecting on this session at EGU15

Guatemala City

Guatemala City

NH9.5: Urban Hazards and Risk in Developing Countries | PICO Session

This PICO session will address natural hazards and risk in urban areas of developing countries, including the role of humans in magnifying or decreasing those hazards. In urban areas of developing countries, hazard and risk analysis presents challenges such as (i) data collection, (ii) rapid informal and unplanned development creating large demands on services and infrastructure, (iii) complex natural-human systems, (iv) limited resources and capacity, (v) interaction of natural and anthropogenic hazards including cascading and concurrent hazards and (vi) communication between science, policy and the public. Here, we define “developing countries” as countries/regions with a low to medium human development index, according to the United Nations. We welcome submissions from a range of stakeholders to share their innovative theoretical and practical ideas and success stories of how urban risk can be understood and addressed in cities and towns across developing countries. Presentations will cover a variety of topics including: database and archive construction; modelling, instrumentation and tools; conceptual understanding of multi-hazards and complex natural-technological systems; and communication and policy. We anticipate a lively discussion and the sharing of best practice and novel ideas to reduce the impact of hazard events in urban areas across developing countries. This session is particularly topical given that the internationally-agreed ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ have included (Goal 11) the need to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

Other sessions:

EGU15 Feature: Equipping to Educate, Educating for Empowerment

Education empowers communities and enables effective accountability between individuals, scientists, government, business and the charity sector. Geo-education is no exception, and while natural hazards education is only one area of this, it demonstrates well the importance of knowledge exchange. In this first blog, from the EGU Press Office, I explore this theme further, reflecting on the role of organisations such as EGU in equipping geoscientists to educate and reporting back on a session yesterday on natural hazards education and communication.

What are the warning signs that a slope may be about to fail? Why should a community water project be at a certain distance from a latrine, and what distance? When is the best time to conduct a survey for a new water project? What are the possible environmental dangers and economic opportunities of a new nickel mining project?

As geologists it’s easy to take for granted the understanding we develop over our training and careers. Most of us could give reasonable, accurate and comprehensive answers to the above questions without much thought. For others, however, a lack of opportunities for education, for discussion, for mutual knowledge exchange means they can’t.

Imagine… The consequences of an emergency settlement being built in a valley highly susceptible to debris flows. A water source offering ‘clean-water’ to a community for the first time being build next to a latrine, meaning the water is as dangerous as it was before. A survey for a water project being done at the end of rainy season, and the project failing when dry season arrives. Exploration in a region known to have nickel, and communities only having rumours to base their opinion, monitoring and ability to hold the company to account.

All of the above examples are things I’ve witnessed and discussed with people over the past few years. They resulted in decisions being made that had to be rectified, at high expense. They generated emotions of fear and frustration. Sickness, lost income, and lost education were all characteristics of failed water projects. Tragically, there is a high chance that death was also triggered by this lack of understanding. Similar decisions and consequences can be seen in the geoscience community also, where the lack of understanding is with regards social science, communication skills or engagement of stakeholder groups.

Scientia potentia est

The phrase ‘knowledge is power’ has been around for hundreds of years. When people expand their understanding, they are empowered to make balanced, well informed decisions that can transform their own lives that their communities. They can hold governments, industry, NGOs to account. When industries, NGOs and Governments expand their understanding, they can make better decisions, better serve in-country communities. When we as geologists expand our understanding – we can do our jobs better, integrating relevant socio-economic or cultural information to better manage work or research we undertake overseas.

There is a long and wide literature on different aspects of education, the importance of all stakeholders coming as equals, having information to contribute and co-generating new knowledge through research, discussions and other tools. Put simply, however, each individual has much to learn and much to share. Whether we choose to share the information we have with those who want to and need to understand it, depends on factors ranging from time, altruism, opportunities to engage, and confidence to share. When people are at risk of losing their livelihood, access to education, health or even lives, due to lack of geoscience understanding – we must carefully assess what we can do to maximise sharing, dissemination and discussion of our geoscience knowledge and research.

Equipping to Educate Effectively

If we are to see an increase in ‘global geoscience literacy’ – the ability of the general public to understand and use geoscience information – we need geoscientists who are equipped to educate effectively. The power of social media, the ability to engage people around the world at relatively low cost, the importance of developing sustainable education programmes and the high value of investing in educating women and children must be recognised. Culture changes are required in the training of young geoscientists at college, graduate and doctoral level. Universities must recognise that education and public outreach is not a sign of a failing research career, but a strong commitment to their subject and its impact on society. Professional and scientific organisations, such as the EGU, must take these topics as seriously as advances in scientific research. The wide array of communications, outreach and open-access sessions at the EGU General Assembly this year demonstrates an admirable commitment to this cause. These sessions are often well attended, with lively and informative debate. They are starting to ‘mainstream’ these conversations, moving them from a specialist niche to the attention of the wider community.

Natural hazards education, communications and the science-policy-practice interface

Yesterday afternoon, there was a well-attended session focused on natural hazards education, communications and the science-policy-practice interface, with some innovative abstracts sharing lessons learnt and a discussion on best practice. Perspectives offered in this session came from a range of international experiences – with board games to strengthen resilience in Africa, teacher training across Central Asia to encourage teaching on earthquakes, exciting ways to assess perceptions of hazards in the Caribbean and a number of examples from Europe. Perspectives were also offered by a range of generations, with the youngest participants being two high-school students from Italy. These students were working alongside the CNR-IRPI (Italy) on the development of software to help students understand hydrological hazards. Finally, it was a session that brought together physical and social scientists to share their perspectives.

EGU1a

Discussion participants turn to evaluating communications, and how responsive natural hazards scientists are to feedback that may suggest they need to change their approach

Many of the tools presented had two aims – knowledge transfer knowledge and discussion generation, simple interactive methods to promote a two-way dialogue about their experiences and understanding of natural hazards. The work of Mossoux et al (presented by Matthieu Kervyn), on the KAZAN board game for teaching natural hazards discussed this approach, as did Solmaz Mohadjer, talking about the work Parsquake undertakes on earthquake education in Central Asia. Solmaz spoke of the need to ‘fill the gap between fatalism and action by talking’. Dialogue builds knowledge which in turn empowers people to take positive actions.

EGU1b

Discussion participants think about things that hinder good communication, grouping them into core themes.

This was a message reinforced in a later discussion session, where participants shared their thoughts on positives and negatives when thinking about best practice in communicating natural hazards. The importance of (i) knowing your audience, not just in a superficial way, and (ii) recognising that it can take time to establish and build strong communication relationships, came across clearly.

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Events such as the EGU General Assembly play an important role in enabling discussions on topics such as education and communication. While ultimately individuals must understand the relationship between education and empowerment, and proactively choose to engage in such work – it’s a sign of a positive change in the culture of geoscience research and training that so much time is devoted at the EGU General Assembly to kick-starting important conversations and inspiring individuals with a passion for effective education.

 

#EGU15 – Some Sessions of Interest (1) – Education, Communication and Ethics

We’re expecting a strong GfGD presence again at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in 2015. We note below a number of relevant sessions that our readers may like to get involved with.

Deadline for abstracts is 7th January 2015.

Teaching Landslide Dynamics in Ladakh (India).  Credit: Geology for Global Development

Teaching Landslide Dynamics in Ladakh (India).
Credit: Geology for Global Development

NH9.4/EOS19
**Natural Hazards Education, Communications and Policy-Practice Interface**
This session addresses how we communicate and educate students, the public, policy makers, and practitioners about natural hazards. Although we welcome all contributions in this topic, we are particularly interested in: (i) The communication (by scientists, engineers, the press, civil protection, government agencies, and a multitude other agencies) of natural hazards risk and uncertainty to the general public and other government officials; (ii) Approaches that address barriers and bridges in the science-policy-practice interface that hinder and support application of hazard-related knowledge; (iii) The teaching of natural hazards to university and lower-level students, using innovative techniques to promote understanding. We also are specifically interested in distance education courses on themes related to hazard and risk assessment, and disaster risk management, and in programmes for training in developing countries. We therefore solicit abstracts, particularly dynamic posters, on all aspects of how we communicate and educate the better understanding of natural hazards. The ability to have graphic screens at poster sessions is available (if pre-ordered through EGU), as is a location to put hands-on demonstrations or other material. We are initially planning poster (or a PICO) session, combined with opportunity for those who want to orally present to the rest of the group, and ample time for discussion.

EOS8
**Geoethics for Society – General Aspects and Case Studies in Geosciences**
Geoethics consists of research and reflection on the values which underpin appropriate behaviours and practices, wherever human activities interact with the geosphere. Geoethics deals with the ethical, social and cultural implications of Earth Sciences education, research and practice, and with the social role and responsibility of geoscientists in conducting their activities. As scholars and experts on some of the most urgent problems affecting our planet, geoscientists can play a fundamental role in society, thanks to their unique range of skills, by helping to meet human needs and address environmental problems at the local and global scale, and by providing information and expert advice to support informed decision-making and public debate. Education, at all levels, must be re-oriented to give 21st century citizens a better understanding of natural systems and our interactions with them, and to equip them to participate in debate about the challenges of living equitably and sustainably on our planet. Geoscientists have a great deal to contribute to this re-orientation. The conveners invite abstracts on both practical and theoretical aspects of Geoethics, including case studies. The aim of the session is to develop ethical and social perspectives on the challenges arising from human interaction with natural systems, to complement technical approaches and solutions, and to help to define an ethical framework for geoscientists’ research and practice in addressing these challenges.

EOS12
**Geoscientists as Communicators**
Communication of the scientific process and its subsequent results is done to achieve a variety of objectives depending on the stakeholders involved: from generating awareness and stimulating interest in children to influencing policy and practice at national and international levels. Giving the numerous fields that the geosciences encompass, the complexity of the subjects and issues and the debate they can spark, and the variety of audiences that can be targeted, good communication is vital and as such there is a need to develop and share ways of communicating and measuring the impacts of communication and outreach efforts provided by our community. In this session we invite applied and theoretical contributions that cover the following topics: (1) Should geoscientists act as communicators? (2) Communication in practice and (3) Evaluation of communication. We particularly encourage submissions of examples of communication initiatives (via any type of tools from websites to lectures and exhibitions), whether successful or ineffective, to encourage shared learning and development towards best practice. To allow meaningful discussions and debates, we encourage geoscientists from all fields as well as journalists and communication experts to submit an abstract in our session.

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