GeoLog

#shareEGU20: A welcome to the first virtual EGU General Assembly from EGU President Alberto Montanari

#shareEGU20: A welcome to the first virtual EGU General Assembly from EGU President Alberto Montanari

I am enjoying a positive feeling while I am writing these words to open the EGU2020 General Assembly #shareEGU20. In my opinion, a positive attitude is the best way to pay a tribute to the persons – including some colleagues and friends – who lost their lives due to COVID19. It is in their memory that we are looking to the future and making an effort to transform this crisis into an opportunity. Indeed, the pandemic is a formidable lesson to geoscientists to improve our understanding and management of global threats. I learned a lot by critically observing what worked well in the different countries. It was definitely exciting to see the development of a solid public trust in science, under conditions that I found very instructive.

 

It was particularly significant to me to see the importance of open information to manage the crisis: sharing data allows humanity to efficiently achieve scientific advances. On the other hand, open educational material allowed us to quickly adopt remote teaching. Openness and transparency – concepts that have always been championed by the EGU – turned out to be essential ingredients.

Openness and transparency – concepts that have always been championed by the EGU – turned out to be essential ingredients.

Another key factor was a quick reaction to the emergency, which needed to be supported by the above mentioned public trust in science. In Italy reliable information was generally well taken, fake news did not receive significant attention and, as a result, people were ready to follow guidelines and accept restrictions and lockdown. We had exceptions, of course, in particular where restrictions appeared not to be based on a solid scientific rationale.

 

The role of scientists was essential in providing people with a trustful picture of the situation. Key ingredients to success included: avoiding ambiguity in information; requiring scientifically motivated restrictions (and those that were not scientifically motivated were in fact less well taken); and providing a perspective of success with a positive attitude. In fact, providing accurate, balanced and not exaggerated information was key to stimulate the public confidence and succeeded in policy making as well in epidemic control. To me this was excellent guidance that I can use to improve my contribution as a scientist, to help prevent and manage future global crises. It is for these reasons that I would like to focus on this mindset and this approach as my first inaugural consideration for the EGU2020 General Assembly – Sharing Geoscience Online.

 

EGU President Alberto Montanari working whilst in lockdown in Italy.

Second, I would like to say that it is essential more than ever to keep up with our research. During a crisis it is imperative to do our best to avoid a cascade of unwanted consequences. Therefore, the contribution of geoscientists to mitigate the risk of global threats should be more proactive than ever. We all know that an illness might lead to being more exposed to other – possibly unrelated – difficulties. We absolutely need to avoid that this epidemic make us more vulnerable to other global threats like climate and water crises, geological and planetary risks, and other geoscientific risks. To this end we need to help promote a clear message, with diversity, equality and inclusivity as central concepts, something that I hope will be discussed during EGU 2020 Sharing Geoscience Online.

 

My final inaugural consideration is related to the virtual character – for the first time – of the EGU General Assembly, a solution that give us the opportunity to mitigate its environmental impact. We are successfully discovering that virtual meetings are an exciting opportunity, provided we are keen to change our habit and are ready to embrace a new vision with bright eyes.

However, I must say that I am missing a lot my colleagues, the students and all of you EGU members and fellow researchers. So yes, let’s go virtual, but don’t forget the great value and inspiration of a physical meeting.

However, I must say that I am missing a lot my colleagues, the students and all of you EGU members and fellow researchers. So yes, let’s go virtual, but don’t forget the great value and inspiration of a physical meeting. For certain activities, science needs the ability to read non-verbal language, face to face interaction and smiles. We need to be forward thinkers and adjust while developing new smart forms of networking, without forgetting our past habits and values, to converge to a better world.

 

Thank you for your attendance and your support, I can really feel it. Enjoy EGU 2020!

Hazel Gibson
Hazel Gibson is the Communications Officer 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 is also the point of contact for early career scientists (ECS) at the EGU Office. She has a PhD in Geoscience Communication and Cognition from the University of Plymouth in the UK. Hazel tweets @iamhazelgibson.

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