Geology for Global Development


GfGD National Conference – Conference Reading

Conference Banner Website cIn preparing for our first National Conference, we have spent some time collating a selection of reading material. We believe that this material and the accompanying discussion questions will help enable those attending the conference to engage with our work, get the most out of the conference and enhance the conference experience for those attending.

For many undergraduate students, this will be the first conference that they attend outside of their own university setting. Conferences can be highly valuable experiences. They are a great opportunity to consider new ideas, network with people across academia and industry, and share your own research (such as via our poster session). The value of a conference, however, is dependent on the individual participant and the preparation you put in beforehand.

Throughout the day a number of core themes will be running through our conversations on ‘Fighting Global Poverty – Can Geologists Help?’. One of these themes will be the importance of how we undertake development work. In the afternoon session we will be exploring in detail the importance of effective communication for ensuring effective development. Effective communication involves many factors – good spoken communication, writing with clarity, communicating via images and diagrams, communicating to other cultures and to a range of stakeholders (social scientists, media, politicians, policy makers, NGOs, local communities…). Good and effective communication also involves crucial elements such as listening, diplomacy, patience and flexibility. The debate we will be having (with an expert panel from government & policy, academia and practitioner communities) will explore these topics – with participants given the opportunity to ask questions and share their own points of view.

Preparing for the Debate/Discussion

On our website you can find the details of six papers and policy briefings that outline factors relating to effective communication. Each of these have a series of discussion questions associated with them. A number of these papers are open access and available online, others should be available in your University libraries. We would encourage students coming to the conference to read some of these and think about the discussion questions.

Once you’ve read through some of these papers, think about any questions that you may have – things that relate to effective communication and development. The expert panel that you will have the chance to question have a wealth of experience on all aspects of communication and its importance in the fight against global poverty. Questions should be sent to anytime from now until the start of October. There will also be an opportunity to ask questions on the day itself.

PAPER OVERVIEW – Lost in Translation

brucemalamudOne key paper on our suggested reading list is Lost in Translation, written by Prof Bruce D. Malamud (on the expert panel at our conference) and Prof Dave Petley. This paper reflects on the key communications issues that physical scientists working on natural hazards face. The authors discuss the challenge of communication between natural and social scientists, the importance of interdisciplinary approaches to research, the importance of transferring knowledge to practice and the importance of uncertainty.

In this paper, Malamud and Petley helpfully outline the transition in NGOs from disaster risk reduction (DRR) that focuses on natural science to DRR focusing on social science. Whilst welcoming this transition as being, in many cases positive, they also highlight the frustration in the natural science community about the lack of evidence to support this. Representing a disaster as the complex interaction of both physical and human systems, they discuss the importance of both physical and human science in disaster risk reduction. This approach requires an ability to do truly interdisciplinary research.

Some possible discussion questions to consider…
i) Given the transition in NGOs from hard engineering to addressing vulnerability, what role is there for earth scientists?
ii) Whose job is it to improve communication skills? Is too much emphasis put on the importance of natural scientists learning to speak the language of social scientists?
iii) The article discusses the role that more ‘short courses’ could play in fostering true interdisciplinary work. What short courses would you advocate for to help support your study and general understanding, what content should they include?

Why not take this short, clear paper (or one of the others) and get together with a small group of people coming to the conference. Read the paper together and see what you agree with, disagree with or would like to know more about. You can then have a think about the questions we’ve put together and come up with your ideas and thoughts on the topic.

‘Fighting Global Poverty – Can Geologists Help?’ is the first GfGD National Conference, kindly supported and hosted by the Geological Society of London. For information on the day and registration please visit our website –

Fighting Global Poverty – Can Geologists Help? – Conference Launch

Conference Banner Website c

Registration is now open for GfGD’s first National Conference – ‘Fighting Global Poverty – Can Geologists Help?’ – taking place on Wednesday 23rd October 2013, at the Geological Society of London. Across the world millions of people lack access to clean water, are exposed to multiple natural hazards, or suffer as a result of severe environmental degradation. Is this inevitable, or can we as a scientific and skilled community do something about this? In 16 weeks we hope to gather 150 students and recent graduates from across the UK (and perhaps beyond) to consider the ways in which we can use our knowledge effectively to fight global poverty.

Every Wednesday from now until the conference itself we will be devoting a blog post to different aspects of the conference, introducing the speakers, debating some of the reading material, or advertising an opportunity for YOU to get involved.

Today we give you a taste of what is planned and some of the ways you can get involved…

We have put together a number of sessions with speakers exploring the different ways that geoscientists are contributing to international development and the skills required to make an effective and sustainable contribution throughout your careers. The conference will also be an excellent opportunity for you to learn more about GfGD and the work we are doing, network with other geoscientists from across the country who are eager to help fight global poverty, and hear from a range of enthusiastic and inspiring individuals, many from geoscience backgrounds, who are involved in sustainable development.

Our first session will take a look at the work of those in fields such as disaster risk reduction, water and sanitation and engineering geology. Speakers will share from their experiences, including the challenges they face applying geology to development projects, the skills they have needed to develop and ideas of possible career routes. It will be a practical, informative and hopefully inspiring session, giving ideas of how geology has made a real difference in community development – and the ways in which this is done.

Subject to possible overseas travel commitments we are delighted to welcome Professor Richard Carter (Visiting Professor of International Water Development at Cranfield University, Former Head of Technical Support at WaterAid), Dr Kate Crowley (Disaster Risk Reduction Advisor at CAFOD) and Dr Gareth Hearn (Engineering Geologist at URS Scott Wilson).

Effective Communication for Effective Development

In the afternoon we will be exploring the key theme of effective communication and the impact that this can have on development projects. Learning how to communicate our geological knowledge to stakeholders such as the local community, policy makers, NGOs and the media can help achieve sustainability and increase effectiveness. Communication is also a two-way process, and we must learn to listen to other stakeholders and utilise their knowledge and insights.

Run in the style of a BBC Question Time, this session is an opportunity for you to put questions to a panel of experts and join in what we hope will be a lively and interesting discussion. Panel members will be drawn from academia, NGOs, the UK Government and other relevant communities to ensure an energetic and balanced debate. To help you contribute, we’ve suggested some reading and noted possible discussion questions to help you engage with the material. We’ll be exploring some of these papers over the next few weeks on our blog, and encourage you to join in the discussion prior to the conference.

Keynote Address

1661The conference will include a keynote address by Dr Martin Smith (Science Director for the British Geological Survey’s Global Geoscience Programme). BGS Global Geoscience is a leading provider of applied geoscience services, with an extensive programme of international research, surveying and monitoring, including major institutional strengthening programmes in the developing world. Their work is directed towards development issues such as, (i) the sustainable benefits from natural resources, (ii) improving quality of life, (iii) protection of people and of the natural environment, (iv) poverty alleviation. These core aims are ones that GfGD closely align themselves with, and we very much look forward to Martin sharing more about their work, and lessons they have learned during their many active years.

Get Involved

There will be a number of opportunities for students to get involved, including presenting posters of relevant undergraduate and postgraduate work, GfGD University Group activities or ideas from the discussion group material. We’ll be awarding prizes throughout the day for the best posters. We will also be giving two winners from this years GfGD Blog Competition (launched soon, watch this space) the opportunity to share their posts as mini-presentations at the conference, a great opportunity for the CV.

Register Now

Tickets for the conference are limited, and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. Tickets for students and unwaged are £5 and tickets for those in employment are £10. You can purchase tickets and register for the conference here. All available details will be published online at and circulated to those who have registered prior to the event.  

— Please note that the conference material is aimed at students and recent graduates, but we would be happy to hear from experienced professionals who are interested in attending – particularly if they would be willing to share their experiences with students through the poster session and informal networking (please contact —

New Opportunity – Hazard Factsheets

Geology for Global DevelopmentJane Robb, GfGD Communication Officer, writes about a new and exciting opportunity for GfGD members…

For many of our followers the opportunity to get involved in international development as a geologist, or at all, is difficult. One of GfGD’s core purposes is to help change this at a UK level, to make sure that good geoscience – and geoscientists – can contribute to good development. But for those of us who can’t manage to undertake one of the great placements GfGD offers, there is now the opportunity to contribute to global development using your own knowledge of good geoscience – but from the comfort of your own university/home.

In association with the non-governmental organisation (NGO) CAFOD and the disaster risk reduction working group of bond (the UK network of development NGOs), we are inviting GfGD University Groups and individuals to produce a two page factsheet on natural hazards in a specific developing country, all of which have been identified by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as important areas.

The best bit about the opportunity to develop these factsheets is that they will be given to NGOs to use on the ground where they are needed. This is a real opportunity to inform and help people and programmes in developing countries – and any GfGD University Group, or keen individual can get involved!

This is the perfect chance to do something for the development sector – even if you can’t get direct experience in an organisation. The experience of developing these can be used on your CV to show that you have contributed to real organisations on the ground in mitigating natural disasters.

You will also get experience in communicating science, a key skill for any scientist, especially in the development sector where those working there have to engage with communities, governments, aid workers and policymakers on a daily basis – many of whom will not have any background in geoscience. You will also gain crucial skills in critical analysis of sources to develop these sheets – a skill that any scientist has to rely on throughout their career.

DJMFull details of this opportunity are now available on our website – including details of how to set about getting involved. Once you’ve had a read of the information sheet, you or your GfGD University Group Ambassador should contact our Publications Officer Donald John MacAllister (publications[at] to register your interest and select the country you would like to write about.

GfGD Recommends: Other Good Blogs!

A new generation of scientists are embracing the chance to interact with each other and the public through social media (twitter, facebook pages and blogs). We’ve looked around and picked out some of our favourite geoscience blogs. Why not consider starting a blog for yourself or your research group? You could write about your own research, the best bits from your lectures or items in the news that you think could benefit from some analysis from a geoscientist. A good starting point can be to guest blog for somebody with an established blog. We accept guest posts on relevant topics, as do many other blogs.


Here’s a few of our favourites:

Climate and Geohazards Services

Climate and Geohazards Services, based at the University of Leeds, aim to raise awareness of current research and developments in the fields of climate science and natural hazards and help translate these into real benefits for people and organisations. The blog was established earlier this year and posts so far have covered flooding in Bangladesh, earthquakes in Istanbul and melting glaciers. This blog is managed by PhD student, Ekbal Hussain, and he welcomes guest submissions on relevant topics (email cgsleeds[at]

Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction

The government Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction (IRDR), is a rapidly growing group of PhD students, post-docs, lecturers and professors  based at University College London (UCL) researching various topics in risk and disaster reduction. They maintain a group blog, where the various members contribute pieces on their field work and research. Recent posts cover Arctic field training in Svalbard, a visit to Tohuku University and field work in Abruzzo, Italy.

Disaster Planning and emergency Management

Professor David Alexander, a member of the IRDR at UCL, has his own blog where he writes about managing disasters from ship wrecks to nightclub fires. Some of David’s own research centres around L’Aquila, and this is evident in his blog posts. The blog is available in both English and Italian.

The Landslide Blog

The Landslide Blog is an old favourite of ours, and it is run by Dave Petley, the Wilson Professor of Hazard and Risk in the Department of Geography at Durham University. His blog provides a commentary on landslide events occurring worldwide, including the landslides themselves, the latest research, and the outcomes of conferences and meetings.



We are also fans of the other blogs on the EGU blog network; geolog, green tea and velociraptors and Geosphere. Between them they cover a very wide range of topics!