Our EGU session died, what went wrong?

Our EGU session died, what went wrong?

Have you ever had this experience? You develop a session which you think could be such a great platform or a subject that definitely interests a lot of people and then only a few people register…this happened to Jan, me, and several others this year and our proposed sessions (GM1.2 Emerging research fields in geomorphology and GM 1.4 Data wealth versus data poverty – new strategies for geomorphic research in a disparate world) died before they really came to life.

Andreas Lang (EGU Geomorphology President) offered advice when he told us the news and we wanted to share his ideas and comments with you and sincerely hope that they will help everyone to kick off his or her session ideas in the future! THANK you Andreas for the interview!!!

1. Our sessions died! What did we do wrong?

Well – probably the only thing that you really did wrong is that you allowed yourself to be too disappointed… sorry – but this is part of the game. Please do continue to come up with great ideas, promote exciting new topics and stimulate high quality contributions. GM runs in a bottom up mode – no pre-set themes but open for any great geomorphology.

There are multiple reasons why this may have happened; some are:
– Authors already committed to other events (see below);
– Not yet the right time: if you are involved in discussing a new idea you may find many people that are happy to engage with the debate but only a handful of which will already have produced presentable material. It may take many years from planting a new idea to seeing the topic in fruition;
– too narrow choice of topic. If you are too specific you may find it difficult to obtain a significant number of abstracts. EGU is for all Geomorphology – not limited by sub-discipline, region, timescale, … (but if you are too generic you may also run in trouble and provide too broad a roof for people to identify). In addition, you need to compete with sessions in other divisions where GM topics are finding increasing attention (this year the ratio of sessions lead organised in GM to session only co-organised in GM is 1 to 2.)
– you didn’t work hard enough…. New sessions can only be successful if you promote abstract submissions. Just sitting and waiting for abstracts to come in will usually not be enough.

2. Why do general topics, like concepts and emerging fields in geomorphology, have such a hard time receiving contributions?

Geomorphology in much of Europe is still treating theory with a lot of respect – as was nicely encapsulated by Chorley (1978) “Whenever anyone mentions theory to a geomorphologist, he instinctively reaches for his soil auger”. So, compared to sessions with an empirical or technical focus you will always find it difficult to stimulate a large volume of abstracts. Also, the majority of geomorphological research is carried out in PGR projects, often set up such that a handful of papers can be published from the work and submitted as a thesis. This is of course is encouraging rather focussed empirical, technological and case study work.

I discussed with Peter van der Beek, my successor at the helm of GM, how we may treat ‘theory’ differently. Probably this will trigger reinstating sessions with a dedicated theory focus and with high-level invited contributions. They would not be constraint by the threshold number of abstracts but will be guaranteed an oral slot. It really is for Peter to decide how he wants to take this forward but I guess he is open to suggestions.

3. What do you think is a good strategy for future session proposals to come to life?

In general: Be prepared to work hard – write directly to people that you want to get involved as advertising via the usual listservers will not always be sufficient. It also seems to help to enrol one or two invited speakers that will act as light-house for your session – but aim at a balance: too many solicited talks and you run out of oral time slots for the other contributors.

4. What would be a good advertisement strategy?

Personal invites to researchers active in that field in addition to wider distributed listserver emails. Have one email early after the call for abstracts has been issued and send a reminder a week or so before the deadline.

5. What current trends do you see in GM session development and what are the future developments to be expected?

There are two things I would like to mention – most importantly, GM is benefiting from a large and growing cohort of very active early career researchers! Thank you all! It has been a great pleasure to see so you all so active with scientific contributions, session organisation and workshop participation. The growing activity is great sign for a discipline and makes me confident that GM will continue to flourish. The second is that more and more co-organisation is happening with other divisions. The Earth surface is a most important interface and is getting attention from a wide range of disciplines. Thanks to the hard work of GM contributors over the past years other disciplines increasingly value what geomorphology has to offer and can contribute to solving their questions.

6. Why, in your opinion, did GM receive less abstracts than during the last years?

In general this is not a bad thing. GM has reached a good size – the largest annual geomorphology event globally. We can now work on further increasing the quality of the contributions – it may not be detrimental to be more selective.

For the reduction in submissions this year a number of reasons have been mentioned: An unfortunate choice of submission deadline that arose from the early meeting date this year that necessitated an early submission deadline. Usual contributors to GM have also mentioned that due to limited resources they needed to give other events priority this year: INQUA, Goldschmidt and the IAG regional conference in Siberia.



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Sabine Kraushaar works as postdoc in the ENGAGE Group at the University of Vienna (Geomorphological Systems and Risk Research). Her research until now included soil erosion studies, geochemical sediment fingerprinting and sediment transport modelling in northern Jordan.


  1. Great post! 🙂
    And also very useful for the people from the ERE Division, so I re-blogged it on our site:

    • Avatar photo

      Thanks! Jan, Andreas and me are happy when it is useful to anybody!
      Cheers Sabine


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