GeoTalk: Meet the EGU’s next president, Helen Glaves

GeoTalk: Meet the EGU’s next president, Helen Glaves

GeoTalk interviews usually feature the work of early career researchers, but this month we deviate from the standard format to speak to Helen Glaves, the incoming president of the EGU. Helen has been involved with the Union for many years, also serving as Earth and Space Science Informatics Division President. Following a year as President-elect, Helen will become President at the 2021 General Assembly in Vienna. Here we talk to her about her plans for the Union during her term as President, the importance of addressing diversity issues, her support for multi-disciplinary research and the value in EGU being a community-led organisation.


Thank you Helen for taking the time to speak with us today! For those in our community who may not know you, could you introduce yourself and tell us about your involvement with EGU over the years?

I am Senior Data Scientist at the British Geological Survey based in Nottingham in the UK with a background in both marine geoscience and geoinformatics. My work is currently focused on establishing and developing European environmental research infrastructures such as the European Plate Observing System.  I am also actively involved in promoting open science through a number of initiatives including as a member of the Research Data Alliance Technical Advisory Board, and a supporter of groups such as the Coalition for Publishing Data in the Earth and Space Sciences. Previously I was the coordinator of two phases of the Ocean Data Interoperability Platform, and received the EGU Ian McHarg Medal 2016 in recognition of my contribution to ocean informatics as part of this international project.


My ongoing involvement with the international geoinformatics community also led to my election as the EGU Earth and Space Science Informatics (ESSI) Division President, a position that I have held since 2017.  But my role in EGU is not limited to supporting the ESSI Division – I am also a member of the Outreach Committee that promotes the aims and objectives of EGU among the membership, as well as the wider geoscience community. In addition, I have also recently assumed responsibility for the EGU Mentoring Programme that aims to support those attending the General Assembly for the first time, especially early career researchers (or Early Career Scientists as EGU calls them).


How did you first become interested in the geosciences?

My interest in geology began when I was at school. It was a relatively new subject on the curriculum, and it complemented the other subjects I had chosen to study (physics and geography). However, despite my interest in geology, I initially applied to university to study for a first degree in geography because a school careers tutor told me that the geosciences was not really a career for women. It was only at the end of the first term at university that I realized I wanted to study geology and decided to change courses.  It was also around this time that I attended an open day at the British Geological Survey, which made me even more convinced that a career in geology was for me!



During the 2019 EGU Autumn Elections you were elected to serve as the next EGU President. What was your motivation for running for this position?

In recent years there have been a lot of questions about the diversity of EGU and the geosciences in general, and it seemed the right time for the organization to have its second female president because this sends a clear message about the commitment of EGU to promoting equality and diversity in the geosciences. But gender is only one aspect of diversity, I would also like to work towards improving the equality, accessibility and inclusivity of both EGU and the wider Earth and planetary science community.


Another driver for my candidacy was the role that EGU can potentially play in promoting multi-disciplinary research, which is critical for addressing the challenges facing society today and in the future. I would like to encourage better integration of the different EGU divisions to support cross-disciplinary research, but also position EGU as an organization that leads the way in promoting cross-domain research.


You’ll be joining the EGU Executive Board first as the President-Elect for one year, starting with the General Assembly 2020; then you’ll serve your time as EGU President from 2021 to 2023. What do you hope to achieve during your term?

As I mentioned before I feel very strongly that EGU needs to take a leading role in addressing the inclusivity and diversity of the geoscience community. During my tenure as President-elect/President I hope that I can promote EGU as being an organization that is open and accessible to everyone who is either working within the geosciences or has an interest in this area of research. In turn, I would like to see more members from underrepresented minorities become part of EGU and benefitting from what the organization has to offer.


The EGU is a member-led organization, and our community’s input, ideas and feedback only strengthen our activities. Why is this bottom-up structure important to the Union’s success? What is your advice for someone who is interested in being involved with EGU?

Being a community-led organization ensures that every member has a sense of ownership and a vested interest in maintaining EGU for the future. Our members are also close to the latest developments in the geosciences, which allows the organization to benefit from a wide pool of knowledge and expertise that can potentially inform the strategy for the organization going forward.


For anyone interested in being involved in EGU I would suggest looking at the range of opportunities there are to be part of the organization irrespective of their career stage. EGU is striving to be as inclusive as possible and I would encourage anyone who wants to be involved to look at how they might contribute their own skills to the organization. There are various committees supporting different aspects of the organization such as Outreach and Education that are made up of EGU members. For those people with an interested in being part of the EGU governance there are also opportunities to stand for election for different roles including Division Presidents or even President of the Union!

Interview by Olivia Trani, former EGU Communications Officer

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Hazel Gibson is Head of Communications at the European Geosciences Union. She is responsible for the management of the Union's social media presence and the EGU blogs, where she writes regularly for the EGU's official blog, GeoLog. She has a PhD in Geoscience Communication and Cognition from the University of Plymouth in the UK. Hazel tweets @iamhazelgibson.

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