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Geodynamics

geodynamics

Happy blog birthday!

Happy blog birthday!

Can you believe it, people? We have been running this blog for 2 years! What a milestone! Time to celebrate and look back at a year of great blogging.

Who are the champions?

We are the champions, my friends!

That’s right! We actually won a prize this year: we won best blog post of 2018 by public vote for a post by one of our editors, Luca Dal Zilio, about a conference he attended in Singapore. So we are now an award-winning blog. Hell yeah!
Technically this post was written during our first blog year, but hey, we only got the prize in January, so I think we’re totally within our rights to mention it now. Since we won by public vote, we would like to thank all of you – our readers – for your support! It really means a lot to us and strengthens the idea that some people actually read this blog!

And talking about our readers…

Who are you?

Contrary to popular belief, there are actually people who read this blog! Although I don’t have any data to back this up, I think most of our readers are actually scientists from the geodynamics, tectonics and structural geology, and seismology divisions of EGU. So much for trying to do outreach. If I’m wrong, please let me know!
I do have some data on how many people visit our blog. On average, we have 37 unique visitors per day (and that’s quite something if you remember that we only post on Wednesdays and now Fridays). Our 100 most viewed pages (and this includes the homepage, author profiles, tags, etc. as well as individual posts) each have seen 150 unique visitors on average with some posts having over 2000 unique visitors in the past year! These popular posts are usually commissioned and promoted on social media by our editor Grace Shephard. Little gems of blog posts with many views from her hand include The Rainbow Colour Map (repeatedly) considered harmful, Thirteen planets and counting, and How good were the old forecasts of sea level rise?

We have a global readership! Most of our readers are accessing the website from the US, the United Kingdom, Germany, China, and Spain. Interesting list of countries, right? Apart from that, we also have some geodynamicists in Turkmenistan, Rwanda, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Mozambique. Or maybe that is just a result of geodynamicists being on holiday in exotic places who are dying to read geodynamics news to distract themselves from their amazing holiday destination. Who knows?

Who are we?

We have a lovely blog team and it’s quite a big team as well! Currently, there are 7 regular editors, one mysterious, anonymous editor under the name of ‘The Sassy Scientist’ and one Editor-in-Chief (yours truly). Who would’ve ever thought there would be 9 people in the blog team? Last year, we were 5, so we have grown a lot. If you have already forgotten who we are, you can check out our recent introduction post.

But, these 9 amazing editors don’t have the time (or the expertise) to write all these blog posts themselves. Therefore, we heavily rely on the most amazing guest authors. During the past year, we had 20 guest authors who contributed one or more posts. So here is a big shout out to all the guest authors of the past year:

• Manar Alsaif
• Marie Bocher
• Daniel Bowden
• Kiran Chotalia
• Robert Citron
• Lorenzo Colli
• João Duarte
• Rene Gassmöller
• Lars Gebraad
• Antoniette Greta Grima
• Charitra Jain
• Kirster Karlsen
• Maria Koroni
• Laurent Montesi
• Andrea Piccolo
• Adina Pusok
• Nico Schliffke
• Paul Tackley
• Katy Willis
• Jonny Wu

Thank you so much. We couldn’t do it without you!

Behind the scenes

During our first 1.5 years of blogging we had a system in place where we had regular types of posts, such as Geodynamics 101, Remarkable Regions, Peculiar Planets, and Wit & Wisdom posts. Additional content that did not fit in any of these categories, would go into our News & Views or Conferences. This meant that all the editors were encouraged to find posts that fitted into a certain topic and then we hoped for the best. In practice, most of the responsibility lay with yours truly: the Editor-in-Chief. I was in charge of keeping an eye on the schedule and asking the editors to contribute. In the end, I wrote and commissioned most of the posts myself.

That was clearly unsustainable.

Whenever I had a lapse of vigilance, holes were more likely to appear in the schedule, because no one else in the blog team felt responsible for posting (and rightfully so). This lead to the infamous gaps in content around February (which seems to be a recurring yearly theme).

Again: clearly unsustainable.

So. This year, I got inspired at the EGU Blog Editor meeting a few days before the General Assembly and I thought of a complete new blog strategy during EGU. I know: I spent my time at EGU wisely…

We recruited a bunch of new editors and we have now successfully implemented a new schedule: all 7 regular editors are responsible for a blog post for 1 week in a 7 week cycle. They can commission blog posts, write them, give their slot to another editor who might have more blog posts lined up, or whatever they want to do, but they are – in the end – responsible for uploading a blog post on Wednesday. I still keep an eye on the schedule and fill gaps where necessary, but at least now I have someone to address whenever there seems to be an empty slot. We also added some extra repercussions to increase the responsibility of our regular editors: if they fail to upload a Wednesday blog post on time in their scheduled weeks twice within one year, they will automatically stop being editors. Of course, we want to keep everyone in the team, so everyone is encouraged to help each other out, if a gap in the schedule threatens to appear.
The Sassy Scientist is responsible for weekly Friday Q&As, which is a lot of work actually: 52 blog posts in a year is a lot. So for these posts, we are working with a backlog of at least 5 blog posts at all times to ensure that our Sassy Scientist can sometimes take a holiday. Currently, I am editing all the Sassy Scientist blog posts, but I’m hoping they can fly solo soon! One of the most difficult things is getting questions for the Sassy Scientist to answer. So far most of the questions have been asked by editors, although some wished to remain anonymous, so their names were changed. Therefore, we ask everyone to just e-mail the Sassy Scientist a question, leave a comment to one of the blog posts or on social media. You will remain anonymous, if you so desire, and we will make sure that your question gets answered soon (i.e., we will adapt the schedule accordingly).
The new system works well so far. Let’s see if we can keep it up!

So now what?

Well, onwards and upwards, don’t you think? We will try to keep providing you with geodynamics news on Wednesdays and Sassy Scientist Q&As on Fridays for another year. That’s twice as much content as in our first year! Theoretically. We have lots of great posts lined up as well as some very impressive, new guest authors who are dying to pen down their thoughts. If you would like to contribute to the blog, don’t hesitate to contact us by sending us an e-mail. Until then: enjoy the read!

The Sassy Scientist – Time Trials

The Sassy Scientist – Time Trials

Every week, The Sassy Scientist answers a question on geodynamics, related topics, academic life, the universe or anything in between with a healthy dose of sarcasm. Do you have a question for The Sassy Scientist? Submit your question here.

Sylvie asks:


What would you say is the main problem you encountered during your research career?


Dear Sylvie,

Easy: time management and focus. Doing scientific research is hard enough without dealing with deadlines, waiting for collaborators to provide their contribution… —

*ping* *ping* *ping*
ahem… sorry, just needed to check these emails

—…and adjusting paper manuscripts due to nitpicky comments from reviewers that took their sweet time to reply. Meanwhile, students constantly ask numerous “clearly defined” and ambitious questions… —

*knock* *knock*
Just a minute! I’ll be right out to talk to you about that hand-in assignment…

— …and I still need to finish those abstracts for AGU. I should first check the rules about authorship. Oh, only one first-author abstract this year. How am I going to handle this? I hope my co-conveners can take up some of the abstract checking — the list of abstracts is getting quite long… Did I already book my flight and hotel? I am getting sick of those hostels. Can I use my presentation from this year’s EGU?

*ping* *knock*
Just one more minute
*ping*

What was I saying?

Right: time management and focus. Initially, you wouldn’t say this could become a problem. However, after a while you’ll find that decent planning is critical: issues will snowball and reach a tipping point if you are not careful. This also concerns planning your future: designate some time in your busy schedule to evaluate the current status of your projects and assess your priorities for the next months.

Now, where did that student go…

Yours truly,

The Sassy Scientist

Ps: This post was written in the last weeks before my extensive summer holiday (I promised a real one this year) and the final weeks of the academic year: my favourite time of the year for answering your questions… 

The Sassy Scientist – Research Relevance

The Sassy Scientist – Research Relevance

Every week, The Sassy Scientist answers a question on geodynamics, related topics, academic life, the universe or anything in between with a healthy dose of sarcasm. Do you have a question for The Sassy Scientist? Submit your question here.

Meghan asks:


Why is your research relevant?


Dear Meghan,

Because I like it. My supervisor is in my office every day to talk about my results. I talk to people outside my department and they say it all looks very promising. Who cares I did not produce a Nature or Science paper? I’m having fun… *cough*

But seriously: this is a frequently asked question and a particularly difficult question to answer when you’re a young scientist. It also depends on the goal: should your research be applicable to society (most funding agencies seem to head in that direction), or is fundamental research in trying to understand the present-day state and history of our (and other) planet(s) also relevant? Oftentimes geodynamics research is only indirectly related in terms of societal impact. Does this mean that our research is irrelevant? I doubt it.

To be clear, when you design a research project or scroll through research job postings, the only thing you should be thinking of is if this is interesting enough to work on for a couple of years. Then, when you are doing this research, the answer to your question is an easy one: because it’s interesting enough for you to work on it.

Yours truly,

The Sassy Scientist

PS: This post was written after seeing the umpteenth ‘exciting observation’ for some space thingy a gazillion miles away on a national news program.

How the EGU works: Experiences as GD Division President

How the EGU works: Experiences as GD Division President

In a new regular feature, Paul Tackley,  president of the EGU geodynamics division, writes about his role as a president, and gives us an insider’s view on how EGU works and is preparing for the future. 

Paul Tackley. Professor at ETH Zürich and EGU geodynamics division president. Pictured here giving an important scientific talk, or maybe at karaoke. Your pick.

Stepping into the role of GD Division President has given me a big learning experience about how the European Geosciences Union is run and about how members are represented and can participate. Here I convey some impressions, give a quick overview of how EGU functions and the role of division presidents, and mention a few other activities you may not be aware of.

Firstly, I was impressed just how much a bottom-up organisation the EGU is – how it is run by members for the benefit of members. EGU employs only 7 full-time staff – very few compared to the 140+ employed by the American Geophysical Union! Thus, most of the organisation is run my volunteers, including the big jobs of President, Vice-President, Treasurer and General Secretary, and also the presidents of the 22 scientific divisions and members of eight committees. Of course, the fact that so few staff are needed is helped by the fact that Copernicus (the company) deals with publishing all the journals and organising the General Assembly (GA), and Copernicus has 54 employees.

Secondly, I now appreciate that EGU does a lot more beyond organising the General Assembly and publishing 18 open access journals. In particular, EGU is active in the areas of Education and Outreach, and supports various Topical Events, with each area coordinated by a committee. Additionally, a Diversity and Equality working group was recently set up. I encourage you to read more about these various activities on EGU’s web site.

What must a division president do?  The main tasks are to organise the division’s scientific programme at the General Assembly, and to attend three EGU Council + Programme Committee meetings per year: short ones at the General Assembly, and longer (2-3 days) ones in October near Munich, and in January somewhere warm (such as Nice or Cascais). Practically, this involves sitting in a darkened room for 2-3 days with a lot of other people (there are many other members in addition to the division presidents, including early career scientists) listening to information of variable interest level and discussing and making decisions (voting) when necessary. The EGU Council discusses the full range of EGU activities, so meetings consist of a series of reports: from the president, the treasurer, the various committees, the ECS representative, etc., often with much time spent discussing and voting on new points and developments that arise. Programme Committee meetings are focussed on the General Assembly, both discussing general issues and accomplishing the specific tasks of finalising the list of sessions (October meeting) and the session schedule (January meeting). Throughout all these meetings, I have found the council members to be very collegial and constructive in trying to do what is best for improving EGU activities and making optimal arrangements for the General Assembly (although of course, opinions about what is best can vary). Additionally, Copernicus is continually improving their online tools to make scheduling easier.

The President Alberto Montanari, Programme Committee Chair Susanne Buiter and Copernicus Managing Director Martin Rasmussen, celebrating the EGU General Assembly.

I am happy that there are several other people actively taking care of various tasks in the GD Division. Division officers stimulate sessions in their respective areas of the GA programme and judge the Outstanding Early Career Scientist Award nominations, while judging of the OSPP (Outstanding Student Poster and Pico) awards is organised by an Early Career Scientist (now Maelis Arnould). Our Early Career Scientists are incredibly active, maintaining this blog and the Facebook page, and organising social events at the GA. Finally, the Medal committee decides the winner of the Augustus Love Medal.

Changes are ongoing at EGU! In a multi-year process the finances are being moved from France to Germany, a complicated process as described by our Treasurer at the GA Plenary session. Moving the EGU office (where the 7 people work) from a confined space on the campus of Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich to a much larger modern office premises is happening around now and will allow some expansion of the staff and a suitable space to greet visitors. In the longer term, it may be necessary to move the location of the General Assembly from Vienna due to the ever-increasing number of attendees!

To conclude, EGU is our organisation and we can contribute to the running of it and the decision-making process, so I encourage you to get involved and to make your views about possible future improvements or other issues known to your representative (i.e. me, or our Early Career Scientist representative Nicholas Schliffke). And if anyone wants to take over as the next GD Division President, (self-)nominations can be submitted starting in September with the vote coming in November!

Programme Committee of EGU, which includes its chair, all the division presidents, the executive board, key people from Copernicus and Programme Committee Officers including the ECS representative and OSPP coordinator.