Geology for Global Development


EGU15 Discussion: Geology and International Development

EGUGfGDMeetingYesterday, the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly in Vienna played host to an informal discussion on ‘best practice’ when working in the global South. Organised by Geology for Global Development, the event gave people an opportunity to reflect on the skills and practices that could be integrated into our geoscience work to promote sustainability and support development work.

Here are some of the themes and ideas… we’ll be publishing a full report on our website in due course.

Prepare Effectively Before Travelling
– Don’t go unless you have expertise to provide that is not available locally or you will build local capacity.
– Listen to stakeholders early enough (before you write the plan and budget), build agreement on realistic goals and outputs.
– Invest time in relationships.
– Research, so that you understand culture and pre-existing social structures to reach the target audience.
– Consider how to move from humanitarian response to sustainable development throughout the project.
– People orientated goal setting – put compassion at the heart of what you do!

Engage all Stakeholders
– Take the time needed to engage the full spectrum of stakeholders openly (e.g., survey, universities, industry and local community representatives).
– Link with local universities and integrate them into your budget. Couple teaching with the development project.
– At all times – RESPECT, for people, for their knowledge about the environment. Just because information is not in the published literature does not mean the knowledge doesn’t exist in other ways and forms.
– Avoid ‘rich-visitor treatment’ and try to meet real local people and stakeholders.

End Well
– Share your results locally and translate them.
– Communicate on a level that the audience understands.
– Produce clear, appropriate maps or figures – and share them!!
– Ensure the results and implications of the work are clearly addressed.

Thanks to all those who participated in the event, and shared their perspectives.

EGU15 Photos: Natural Hazards Demonstrations Short Course

EGU15 Photos: Natural Hazards Demonstrations Short Course

These photographs were taking during the European Geoscience Union (EGU) General Assembly in Vienna, at a short course on Natural Hazard Teaching Demonstrations
(Photo Credits: Bruce D. Malamud, Faith Taylor, Joel Gill):


Bruce demonstrates the classic ‘slinky spring’ demonstration of P and S Waves.


A simple tornado tube can be used to connect two plastic bottles and demonstrate a tornado.


Bruce introduces the stick-slip model for earthquake generation, using slinky springs.



Faith Taylor (KCL) gives a range of online and hands-on demos relating to landslides and triggered landslide events.



Solmaz Mohadjer gives an in-depth outline of the stick-slip model for earthquake generation, using wood, sandpaper, screws and an elastic band.


Audience volunteers help ‘generate an earthquake’ using the stick-slip model.


In the coming weeks we will start collating photographed examples of teaching demonstrations with teaching guidlines in captions. We hope to use the EGU Imaggeo Site to present these. 

Further information can be found:


Did you attend the session and take any photographs? Please email them to joel.gill[at]

EGU15 Session Overview: Putting Geoethics at the Heart of Geoscience

Silvia Peppoloni (IAPG) introduces the Geoethics session at EGU 2015

Silvia Peppoloni (IAPG) introduces the Geoethics session at EGU 2015

This week we’re reporting live from the European Geoscience Union (EGU) General Assembly in Vienna. Yesterday afternoon was the turn of the Geoethics session, which has become something of a regular feature in my EGU diary over the past four years. Organised by the International Association for Promoting Geoethics (IAPG), the session began by looking at ‘Geoethics at the Heart of Geoscience’ and progressed to a series of themed talks on ‘Geoethics and Geohazards’.

Geoethics, as described by the SERC ‘Teaching Geoethics’ website is: ‘encompassing the values and professional standards required of geoscientists to responsibly work in the profession and in service to society. The training of scientists in ethics has traditionally been focused on the Responsible Conduct of Research. However, Geoethics encompasses many more dimensions, including personal and professional behaviors as well as responsibilities to society and to stewardship of Earth.’ Geoethics, therefore, is about ensuring we have the skills, knowledge and understanding to (i) recognise ethical issues within the geosciences, (ii) make well informed, reasoned and transparent decisions which act to the benefit of society.

Geoethics for all

A core message coming through the many excellent presentations yesterday was that geoethics is not a specialist discipline for those interested in philosophy and the academic study of ethics. It is instead a core area of professional development applicable and relevant to all geoscientists. Ruth Allington, Past-President of the European Federation of Geologists, argued very effectively that all geoscientists means all geoscientists. There can sometimes be a barrier placed between academics and practitioners, with geoethical codes suggested to be more relevant to the latter. Ruth reminded us that we are all practitioners, either in the private/public sector, or in academia as practitioners of research or professional educators. It is positive to see that this EGU session has grown in both quality and quantity of presentations over the past few years, and with a growing number of people attending and engaging with session. There is much more to do though to mainstream the subject and bring it to the attention of the broad geoscience profession, but recent initiatives by the Geological Society of London, European Federation of Geologists, National Science Foundation are helping, as is the hard work or organisations such as IAPG and IAGETH.

Demonstrating Geoethics

In talks by both Edmund Nickless (Executive Secretary of the Geological Society of London) and Ruth Allington, the importance of demonstrating geoethics not just talking about it were emphasised. The geoscience teachers (at all levels) that we remember and most influence us are often those who are committed to high quality, considerate, inclusive education. When thinking about diversity, the best bosses are those who model inclusiveness and an organisation where all are welcome – not just talk about it.

For Geology for Global Development, promoting issues relating to ethics, professionalism, diversity, inclusion and sustainability are at the heart of our work. The best way we can communicate the importance of these (both in heart, the right thing to do, and in head, the sensible thing to do) is to model them. Through all aspects of our work we hope to help train young scientists particularly in these aspects of professional development. We will continue to bring them into the blogs we write, the conferences we host and the resources we develop – but ultimately we have to be demonstrating them by the way we operate as an organisation.

From Conceptual to Practical

Mainstreaming geoethics into the normal training and ongoing professional development of geoscientists will require multiple tools, each bringing it from the conceptual or philosophical – to the practical. There is an important role for professional societies and institutions which often facilitate peer-to-peer accountability, for universities to include courses in ethics as part of professional skills modules, and for organisations such as Geology for Global Development to promote practical case studies from the perspective of the global south and development contexts.

Ultimately, it is about being individuals who are pro-active in understanding this important area of professional skills development, taking personal responsibility ensuring ethics is at the heart of our geoscience.

(*There were many other excellent talks and posters within this session, particularly the PhD work by Marie Charriere on real-time evaluation of risk communication).

EGU15 Opinion: Space Science and International Development

EGU Press Conference on the latest results from the ESA Rosetta Mission

EGU Press Conference on the latest results from the ESA Rosetta Mission

Evidence for water on Mars is growing, with new research presented at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly demonstrating novel ways we can evaluate the presence of groundwater and surface water on Mars by looking at key geomorphic features and using Earth and laboratory analogues. Also at the General Assembly, the latest results from the landing of Philae on Comet 67P//Churyumov–Gerasimenko have revealed new information about the processes involved in the formation of such masses.

It’s an exciting time for space and planetary science, which can have an important role in global development.

Space and planetary science are some of the most fascinating areas of science that rarely fail to capture the public interest. In the UK it is regularly used, alongside dinosaurs to encourage young people to engage with science and inspire them to consider careers in the STEM subjects. There is, perhaps, an innate desire to explore, to go beyond frontiers and better understand our place in the bigger picture of the solar system. The visualisation of ‘extreme scales’, such as remarkable pictures of stars and galaxies shows us things that are so radically different to the centimetres, metres and kilometres we come across on Earth.

One of the reasons people tell me they object to space and planetary research is in the context of financial resource allocation, and how we can justify expenditure on extra-terrestrial missions when there are hundreds of millions lacking access to clean water, food, education, adequate shelter and healthcare. The subject of the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly Great Debate yesterday was the ‘Thirsty 10 Billion’ – looking at the challenges of water security in a growing population. If universal access to water is going to have maximum positive impact, it must go alongside universal access to sanitation and hygiene training. It will be costly, and require individual, local, national and international commitment to investing finances in such work. How can the billions of pounds spent globally on space exploration and research be justified, in a context where hundreds of millions still lack access to a basic need such as water and a toilet?

Is a passion for international development compatible with support for projects such as those presented yesterday on Mars and the Rosetta Orbiter/Philae Lander? There are people within and working with Geology for Global Development who would answer this question in different ways. Here I offer my personal perspective, but invite you to join the discussion and share your thoughts.

1) Education and Inspiration: We’ve noted above the importance of space in engaging children (and others) with science. It’s exciting, dynamic and pioneering – and captivates interest. Many significant ‘firsts’ do – first person to fly around the world, first person to climb Everest, first group to land a probe on a comet, as the Philae team did last year! The opportunities we have through space to introduce other ideas (e.g., earth observation, remote sensing of natural hazards) are plentiful. Educating and inspiring individuals to pursue STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is very important for development – technological revolutions in-country, scientific capacity and an enhanced ability to integrate science into decision making has important, positive implications. Throughout history we have seen scientists and inventors at the heart of social and economic development, and throughout the future there is no reason why this not should continue to be the case.

2) Diplomacy: Space and planetary science require international teams and international cooperation. When political tensions are high between two countries, you can often find scientists from each working together and collaborating in a constructive way. As publication and dissemination, sharing new research with as many people as possible, is so key in modern science, teams work together to achieve remarkable objectives. The international nature of the Rosetta/Philae team is an excellent example of this, and was commented upon by Karl-Heinz Glassmeier (Principal Investigator of one of the magnetometer instruments on board) as being a reason why this project has succeeded.

3) Aspiration: As space can science can inspire, it also encourages aspiration. It shows people what can be achieved when there is political unity. It gives hope. It motivates collaboration, cohesion and geodiplomacy, as noted above, through the unified pursuit of truly ambitious goals.

4) Investment in Skilled Jobs: The decision by a country to engage in space and planetary research, investing time in understanding environments beyond Earth, opens up a new branch of livelihoods and skills training. New businesses and supply chains emerge. Many of these are highly-skilled and technical positions – reinforcing the need for investment in higher education, new academic courses and new research facilities and departments. Skilled labour is another facet of many patterns of social and economic development. The money invested in space science is not spent in space, it’s spent on Earth – in materials, wages, technologies. It’s spent on research facilities (the construction and technology industries) and research studentships (strengthening higher education).

5) Research and Development: Like all science, there are areas of space science with known additional benefits to humanity and areas where we don’t know. Technologies developed may be scaled and used for many reasons and purposes. Until the work is undertaken, we just don’t know the full potential of the research.

Over the coming years we’ll hear more about plans to send new instruments to the Moon (e.g., Lunar Mission One), manned trips to Mars (where do I sign up?) and more and more ambitious projects to explore and understand our solar system and beyond. These will go in parallel with debates on water security, sustainable development, energy, climate change. The two are not in conflict, nor are they separate debates. Like almost any other discipline, with some careful thought space and planetary science can strengthen international development.

The views expressed in this piece are the personal opinion of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of everyone at Geology for Global Development. We’d love to hear your views and welcome different opinions.