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Global Geoscience Initiative

Meeting Summaries

2009: London meeting
GSA Town Hall meeting
AGU Town Hall meeting
2010: EGU Town Hall meeting
AGU Meeting of the Americas Town Hall meeting
2012: IGC Town Hall meeting

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Summary of the London meeting

An informal group comprising John Ludden (chair) (BGS), Tom Beer (IUGG), Nic Bilham (GSL), Ed de Mulder (IYPE) (first part of the meeting), David Dent (IYPE Board), Wolfgang Eder (IYPE Board), Manual Grande (EGU), Jack Hess (GSA), Pat Leahy (AGI), Robert Missotten (UNESCO), Edmund Nickless (GSL) and Roland Oberhaensli (ILP) met on 16 July 2009 at the Geological Society of London, Burlington House, London   

  • to establish whether the concept of a global geoscience initiative is viable,
  • to discuss institutional arrangements, and the roles and relationships of key organisations (including IYPE, whose activities will draw to a close in June 2010),
  • to discuss how working science communities might be engaged, and
  • to agree on next steps in the process.

In seeking to establish a global geoscience initiative, no new structures or institutions were identified as there are already suitable vehicles (UNESCO, the International Unions, etc).  Support of these institutions will be invaluable.   The continuing success of International Years depends on their being seen to have a distinct end, and a clear legacy, so IYPE (and the other years) should be used to lever support for the current initiative among existing institutions.

Institutional support from the International Unions and UNESCO is likely to be a key determinant of success.  A repurposed IGCP was suggested as a possible institutional vehicle for the programme.

It was agreed that the theme(s) of the programme should be associated with clear societal goals.  A useful starting point would be to consider the role of geoscience in delivering the ‘Millennium Goals’, at a global, national and regional level.  Some broad trends in societal drivers for science are common to many countries, such as stimulating economic competitiveness, and living with environmental change – recognising these broader social agendas will help attract funding.  A clear link between the science programme and societal goals will also help to sustain continuing outreach projects, and will help to show to those outside the community the vital role of Earth scientists in addressing the great challenges of the future.

While institutional support and some joined up international effort to give the project identity, stimulate new funding, etc, are essential, it was agreed that excellence in the science itself depends on allowing a more organic, ‘bottom up’ approach.  A key challenge is to engage scientific communities, as well as funding bodies and other institutions, and to knit together these ‘bottom up’ and ‘top down’ elements.  A programme which enables access to (possibly new) international infrastructure might be attractive in this respect.

The Earth sciences tend to be fragmented, and relatively restricted to disciplinary silos.  The project must therefore be seen to be genuinely interdisciplinary, and will add real value if it is seen to help counter institutional as well as disciplinary fragmentation, so that there are fewer but stronger and more cohesive voices talking to outside audiences.  In order to engage a truly global community, the project must not be seen as Euro-centric or colonialist.

It was suggested that the programme should not be ‘global’ simply in the sense of involving activity in many countries, and being globally organised, but should also involve global processes – this has been a strength of the oceanography community.

Although it was recognised that it was not the purpose of the meeting (or of the group) to fix on a theme (or themes) for an global science programme and pre-empt discussions later in the year, it was agreed that it would be helpful to generate some ideas, which might be a useful starting point for those discussions.  A number of possible themes, often inter-related, were identified and discussed. 

A possible model is to identify a broad overarching theme, such as landscape, which would span the ten year lifetime, say, of the programme, with three distinct successive three-year phases (an attractive timeframe for many funding bodies) addressing more focused topics, e.g. deltas.  It was noted that most of the suggested themes inevitably involve climate change/environmental change, but as a driver rather than a research topic in its own right – which clearly locates them in a societal context.  It was agreed that in the end, attractive and focused themes must be identified, rather than very diffuse subject areas such as energy or water.

The need to raise political support and awareness among funding bodies was recognised, but it was agreed that this should be left until after the third Town Hall Meeting at EGU, capitalising on the process which will have taken place at Town Hall Meetings at GSA and AGU, in gathering support raised in the global geoscience community.

The aims of the Town Hall Meetings are:

  • to establish whether the concept of a global geoscience initiative is viable,
  • to discuss institutional arrangements, and the roles and relationships of key organisations (including IYPE, whose activities will draw to a close in June 2010),
  • to discuss how working science communities might be engaged, and
  • to agree next steps in the process.

TOWARDS A GLOBAL GEOSCIENCE INITIATIVE –TOWN HALLS
Sponsors: American Geological Institute (AGI), British Geological Survey (BGS), Geological Society of America (GSA) and Geological Society of London (GSL)

Background: The activities associated with the International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE) will shortly come to an end. Looking back over the three years of IYPE, there have been many notable successes, particularly in its Outreach program.

Several members of the IYPE board, along with representatives of some other Earth science institutions, have started to explore whether there is scope to launch a global geoscience initiative, in response to the ‘call to arms’ embodied in the Tsukuba Declaration put forward by participants in IYPE and three other International Years — the International Polar Year, the Electronic Geophysical Year, and the International Heliophysical Year.
Such an initiative, while independent of IYPE and the other International Years, would constitute a fitting legacy, contributing to global scientific understanding and international capacity building, and complementing the outreach achievements of IYPE.

The vision of the group developing this proposal is that it should:

  • be inclusive, and involve a geoscience community which is broad both in terms of discipline and nationality,
  • have a clear socio-economic context, and global societal relevance,
  • focus on a globally significant science theme, and preferably involve global processes, and
  • attract the support of scientific communities, funding agencies, governments and other institutions in many countries, under the umbrella of UNESCO and the geoscientific International Unions.

While some initial thought has been given to how such an initiative might work, and to possible science themes, it will only be a success if it has the support and involvement of a broader community of Earth scientists. ‘Town hall’ meetings are therefore being held at the GSA Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon (October 2009), at the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, California (December 2009), and at the EGU Meeting in Vienna (May 2010). The proposal will also be discussed at the closing IYPE event in Lisbon (November 2009), and at events in other parts of the world over the coming months. Discussion Summary

Edmund Nickless and P. Patrick Leahy
06 January 2010

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GSA Town Hall Meeting:  Tuesday 20 October 2009 at 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm, Oregon Convention Center, Room B116, Portland, Oregon
Chairs: Edmund Nickless (Geological Society of London) and Jack Hess (Geological Society of America)
Speakers:

  • Suzette Kimball (Acting Director, US Geological Survey) — There Be DRAGONs:  Delta Science in the 21st Century
  • Murray Hitzman (Charles F. Fogarty Professor of Economic Geology, Colorado School of Mines) — Critical Research Challenges in Natural Resource Geosciences for the Early 21st Century
  • John Ludden (Executive Director, British Geological Survey) — Applied Geosciences for Planet Earth

Presentation can be viewed at:
http://www.agiweb.org/members/presentations/index.html

In an hour long discussion following the three presentations, during which approximately 20 people were present representing a cross section of employment sectors and age, no one said that we should not be pursuing this initiative. 

Points made include:

  • Globally the challenge is the interface of food, water, and energy security.
  • Is there a global geoscientific project which would command public interest?
  • The challenge is adapting to and mitigating environmental change in a resource poor future coupled with sustainability.
  • How can the geosciences be brought into the development of policy and to the attention of government?
  • Prediction depends on integrated science.
  • We will need to work with social scientists in communicating the message and in identifying socially acceptable action.
  • Hazards attract attention but what is the excitement in earth observation?  3-D modelling of the Earth through time provides a challenge of scale – kilometres to nanometres. 
  • Remote sensing techniques can be linked to monitoring and sustainability. 
  • Can this initiative be grouped around ‘spaceship earth’ – a journey or ‘mission earth’ – make the earth a better place to live on.  What are the indicators of quality?  Reference this and say for example – “This is the best place for this desired human activity”.
  • In terms of status how do we move away from conspicuous consumption as an indicator?  What is the role of the citizen – can we identify a topic which is engaging – citizen science as an observer, reporter of change? 
  • On oceans and atmosphere, what has been done and what remains to do?  Food, water and energy security will be pressing topics over the next forty years.  What do the public understand about long-term sustainability?
  • Potential focus of an initiative might be fluids in the subsurface or the use of the geosphere.

Specific issues are:

  • Population growth,
  • Communication,
  • Difficulties of getting academics aligned in their priorities,
  • Initiating measures of public engagement, and
  • Involving the public in observational experiments – citizen science.

Edmund Nickless and P. Patrick Leahy
06 January 2010

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AGU Town Hall Meeting:  Thursday 17 December 2009 at 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm, Moscone West, Room 2004, San Francisco, Ca.
Chairs: Edmund Nickless (Geological Society of London) and Pat Leahy (American Geological Institute)
Speakers:

  • Donald J. Depaolo, (Director, Earth Sciences Division, University of California/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) -  The Grand Research Questions in the Solid-Earth Science
  • Mark D. Zoback, (Benjamin M. Page Professor of Earth Science and Professor of Geophysics, Stanford University) - Scientific Challenges Related to Energy and the Environment.
  • Marcia K. McNutt, (Director, US Geological Survey) - Challenges and Opportunities for Research in the Oceans. 

Dr. Depaolo summarized a report from a review group of the US National Research Council which he had chaired.  His presentation discussed ten research questions that need to be addressed by the geoscience community and covered topics as diverse as the origin of Earth to climate dynamics.  The presentation provided an outstanding overview of major research questions all of which are certainly global in nature.

The major thrust of Dr. Zoback’s presentation dealt with maintaining the demand for energy while at the same time reducing climate change specifically carbon emissions.  He presented an analysis of what could be expected if the energy mix changed relative to carbon capture and storage, the migration to an increase in natural gas and nuclear power, and practical view of the geologic, societal and economic constraints to these changes.

Dr. McNutt highlighted some the issues and challenges associated with developing infrastructure and the stability in near-shore environments, sea-level rise associated with both climate change and other causes, the potential impacts of ocean acidification, and the opportunities for scientific breakthroughs associated with microbial communities in the oceans.

Presentation can be viewed at:
http://www.agiweb.org/members/presentations/index.html

The presentations were followed by an open discussion of potential global geoscience initiatives that included topical areas as well as issues associated with the conduct of global research efforts.  A concern was that the geoscience community is fractured but what we understand about Earth history and processes is highly relevant to the resolution of a number of issues facing society.  The challenge was to identify a topic or topics that would command the broad support of the geoscience community, be multidisciplinary and link with other scientific disciplines.  The audience of about two dozen individuals represented an array of interests and included a number of individuals representing the international perspective.

In a wide ranging discussion the following main points were made:

  • Should a global initiative should be promoted along outstanding scientific questions or aligned with major societal issues? 
  •  Does the initiative need to be global in scope of observation or can global teams of scientists work together in an appropriate setting?  A topical subject is carbon sequestration.  Currently research efforts are thought to be fragmented.  Perhaps a global effort would be desirable given the magnitude of the effort that is needed and given the diversity of geologic environments globally?
  • Open data access was identified as an impediment that must be overcome to ensure global cooperation.
  • One commentator identified the pace of change relative to research agendas as a concern.  Global geoscience institutions may not be nimble enough to set priorities quickly and to implement and encourage global cooperation.
  • The engagement of younger geoscientists was identified as a challenge.  The recent Young-Earth Scientists Congress was seen as a fledging effort to address this concern. 
  • There was concern that we are not using technology (e.g. Web 2, Web3, etc.) effectively to encourage global allegiances or to broaden the dialogue concerning geoscience initiatives.
  • One individual noted that the quality of leadership dialogue at the Copenhagen Climate Summit demonstrated the need for greater effort by geoscientists to educate and inform the public more effectively.  Given this continuing challenge, the prospects of developing a robust global geoscience initiative may be in doubt or at best difficult.  Another suggestion was that a global information portal for the geosciences is needed.  Such an effort would enhance a better dialogue between the geoscience community and the public.
  • In moving forward there was an urgent need to improve dialogue with the public, identifying issues of concern with the geoscientific community providing perspective.

As a final discussion point, the audience was asked if anyone thought the idea of a global geoscience initiative was a bad idea. All thought the concept worthy of further and broader exploration though the issue of how to bring this initiative to closure is problematic.

Edmund Nickless and P. Patrick Leahy
06 January 2010

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EGU Town Hall Meeting:  Tuesday 4 May 2010 at 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm, Austria Center Vienna, Room D, Vienna, Austria.
Speakers:

  • Maarten de Wit (University of Cape Town) — Africa Alive Corrridors
  • Slides prepared by Rui Pinho (GEM) — The GEM Project: Towards a Global Earthquake Model
  • Robert Missotten (UNESCO) —The UNESCO Earth science initiatives
Presentation can be viewed at:
http://www.agiweb.org/members/presentations/index.html

The Global Geoscience initiative
at the European Geoscience Union (EGU) Vienna, 4th May 2010

The third in a series on Townhall meetings was held at the European Geoscience Union’s (EGU) AGM in Vienna on the 4th May 2010. The focus of the meeting was to discuss the topic that has been framed in various ways over the past year at GSA 2009, Fall AGU, 2009.

“Do we need? How can we create? What should be a global geosciences initiative?”

This followed on from a movement spawned from the International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE) in which the board felt that the final year of IYPE could provide an opportunity for Earth scientists to crystallise the concept of “Global Geosciences Initiatives”.  Such initiatives would offer an opportunity across the planet for Earth scientists to address challenging pressing problems and would build a sense of community behind science initiatives that could then be funded through national international agencies.

The EGU meeting focussed on three presentations

Africa Alive Corridors,
presented by
Maarten de Wit (University of Cape Town)
http://www.aeon.uct.ac.za/activities/programme.php?programmeId=18s
A network of 21 selected corridors across the length and breadth of Africa spell out its autobiography. Each, a belt of territory some 1-3,000 km in length and 50km in width, tells a chapter in the epic 4-billion-year story, and each draws the people of the region into co-curatorship.

The project invites all 900,000 Africans into interpreting and promoting the story of their continent. It is about the synergy between Africa and her people, past, present and future. In merging with the story of their continent and her people, all her people, gain dignity from the soul of the land—as they incorporate the prodigious diversity of all other species of life.

These corridors cover geological, economical and social issues of Africa and are focused on key targets. They offer an outstanding opportunity to focus science initiatives on world-class problems, to include the broader aspects of science and to reach out to young earth scientists in schools.

This project has considerable momentum in Africa and globally including through UNESCO and IYPE, and given the need to underpin the development of Africa science this was seen as a prime opportunity for global Earth science.

The GEM Project “Towards a Global Earthquake Model
Slides provided by Rui Pinho (Secretary General, GEM)
http://www.globalquakemodel.org/
GEM is a public/private partnership initiated and approved by the Global Science Forum of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD-GSF). GEM aims to establish a uniform, independent standard to calculate and communicate earthquake risk worldwide. With committed backing from academia, governments, and industry, GEM will contribute to achieving profound, lasting reductions in earthquake risk worldwide.

GEM will be a critical instrument to support decisions and actions that help to reduce earthquake losses worldwide. All who face risk, from homeowners to governments, need accurate and transparent risk information before they will take mitigating action. By providing the information in a manner that is understandable to all users, GEM aims to raise awareness, lead to adoption and enforcement of building codes, promote seismic mitigation, and stimulate insurance use.

GEM will be the first global, open and dynamic model for seismic risk assessment at a national and regional scale, and aims to achieve broad scientific participation and independence. It will be conducted in three integrated modules: Hazard, Risk, and Socio-Economic Impact.

The UNESCO Earth science initiatives
presented by Robert Missotten (Chief of Earth Observation Section, UNESCO)

This involved a presentation of how UNESCO was focusing its science delivery through a more effective organisation and prioritisation of its science programme and the general evolution towards an international platform for development of global Earth sciences.

The talk from UNESCO provided an important focus for the discussion on what should be the next steps in the preparation and delivery of a Global Earth Science Initiative.

Discussion points

Those attending the meeting included working Earth scientists, funding organisations, national associations and a large group from the YES (Young Earth Scientists ) network.

  • All think that the concept is worth pursuing
  • The YES network intend to focus their attention on pushing this initiative within their structure
  • Specifically the Africa Alive Corridor initiative was strongly supported and the thought was that this could be extended to other corridors on other continents or to continuations of the African Corridors to the adjacent continents
  • UNESCO proposes to ensure that the development of the next generation of Earth scientists in Africa who are equipped with the necessary tools, networks and perspectives to apply sound science to solving and benefiting from the challenges and opportunities of   sustainable development
  • The underlying question at this and all other Townhall meetings has been:
    • How do we take this to the next step?
    • How do we find funding?
    • How do we continue to build momentum?
  • The fact that UNESCO was represented was important as they have been instrumental in encouraging the fora to discuss a global initiative. UNESCO specifically asked those involved in the initiative to summarise that current level of support and define the scope and deliverable of a Global Geoscience Initiative. It was agreed that a draft paper summarising the steps taken, views expressed and identifying a number of possible themes which had attracted support at the various Townhall meetings would be prepared and widely circulated before being presented to UNESCO by the fall 2010.

John Ludden, Director of the British Geological Survey
16 July 2010

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Venue: AGU Meeting of the Americas: Wednesday 11 August 2010, Iguassu Falls, Brazil.
Speakers:

  • Michael McPhaden (American Geophysical Union) — Communicating the Science of Climatic Change
  • Alberto Riccardi (International Union of the Geological Sciences) — Global Research Initiatives and Something Else
  • Jaime Urrutia Fucugauchi (The World Academy of Science (TWAS), Mexico Chapter) —Latin American and Caribbean S & T Cooperation Agency: A Proposal
Presentation can be viewed at:
http://www.agiweb.org/members/presentations/index.html

The fourth and final town hall meeting to discuss the desirability of a Global Geoscience Initiative was held at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Meeting of the Americas, Foz do Iguassu, Brazil, on August 11, 2010. This meeting was sponsored by The Geological Society of America (GSA), The American Geological Institute (AGI), The Geological Society of London (GSL), and The British Geological Survey (BGS). The four town hall meetings were conducted under the auspices of the International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE) with support from UNESCO and the International Union of the Geological Sciences. The AGU meeting focused on three invited presentations on key global scale geoscience challenges.

Michael McPhaden, President of the American Geophysical Union presented “Communicating the Science of Climatic Change.” Dr. McPhaden pointed out that there are several grand challenges facing society in the 21st century that include not only climate change but also issues such as energy availability, sustainability, food security, infrastructure needs, division of wealth, and biodiversity. He emphasized that the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stating that the warming of the climate are unequivocal. He reiterated the findings that the warming is carbon dioxide driven, pointed out a 2-5 degree Celsius warming is expected in the next century, recognized that sensitivity and the many feedback mechanisms are poorly understood but research is focused on reducing this uncertainty. Dr. McPhaden pointed out that although the scientific community is almost universally (96%)in agreement with the findings, only about 60 percent of the general public are in agreement with the findings. Recent polls show that this percentage is declining. 

Dr. McPhaden identified several barriers to acceptance of the IPCC results including for example, complexity and uncertainty, economic costs of social change, and media portrayals. The challenge before the geoscience community is to communicate with the public more effectively in light of the various barriers. He mentioned the importance of the communication role of various professional and scientific societies in educating the public and policymakers especially in the context of climate change. He also pointed out that the use of scientists in the media, such as weatherman may be a key aspect of any communication effort. These individuals enjoy public trust but often are not fully informed concerning the science and in fact, about 27 percent of weathermen don’t believe that there is global warming and 1/3 of those polled don’t think there is consensus among the scientific community. Dr. McPhaden clearly made the case for the need for stronger science leadership in societal issues and the need to communicate the reality of situations and potential consequences of human actions or non-action.

The second presentation was by Prof. Alberto Riccardi, President, International Union of the Geological Sciences (IUGS). His presentation was entitled “Global Research Initiatives and Something Else.” Prof. Riccardi discussed the legacy of IYPE and its numerous accomplishments. He pointed out that in addition to IYPE, the Electronic Geophysical Year (eGY), the International Heliophysical Year, and the International Polar Year (IPY) also took place providing the geosciences an opportunity to collaborate. These international years led to the World Geosciences Forum held in Japan and resulted in the development of the Tsukuba Declaration encouraging a continuation of geoscience efforts in the both research and outreach. Prof. Riccardi emphasized the importance of the geoscience community eliciting interest in it efforts, the need to define a limited number of world-class projects that would have significant societal impact. Certainly, climate change and its impacts would be of significance. However, Prof. Riccardi also pointed out that water issues should also be considered and that these efforts should include issues associated with water development as well as education and capacity building internationally.

He encouraged the geoscience community to consider the both long-term aspects, such as political, social, and economic commitment to solution and short-term aspects such as effective collaboration mechanisms to the long term success of the geosciences contributing to societal issues. He also pointed out needs for success such as stronger development of interdisciplinary capacity and international cooperation. Prof. Riccardi also identified some tools that can be used to affect change including the various geounions of the International Council of Science (ICSU). He pointed out that professional and scientific societies like AGU, GSA, AGI and many others have a role to play though their memberships and influence on the geounions.

Prof. Riccardi stated that some potential solutions to the geoscience community working in concert may be strategic mergers, improved coordination and structural alignments, and a unified strategic plan for the geounions.  The scope of coordination should include research initiatives, priorities and agendas, geoinformation and education (the OneGeology project, and the Earth Science Education Initiative in Africa were given as good examples), and the global geoscience workforce (such as the UNESCO, IUGS, and AGI workforce project).    

The third presentation was made by Dr. Jaime Urrutia Fucugauchi, representing The World Academy of Science (TWAS), Mexico Chapter.  His presentation was entitled “Latin American and Caribbean S & T Cooperation Agency: A Proposal.”  Dr. Fucugauchi argued that a science and technology agency should be formed to increase investment in science, especially the geosciences. He referred to the UNESCO science report which stated that investment in research and development (R&D) in Latin America and the Caribbean is very small relative to the GDP of the region. Furthermore, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina account for more than 85 percent of the investment in R&D. There are many challenges facing the region including limited numbers of scientists, ‘south-south’ collaboration and the need for funding.

Dr. Fucugauchi noted that a Latin American and Caribbean government cooperating agency has been proposed in the past but it has never been implemented but the opportunity for change may be present.  There are a number of models that have merit for consideration including some of the S&T organizations formed in the European Union (all Europe research councils and funding agencies). He cited the formation of the Sao Paulo Research Foundation as a vehicle for increased funding in R&D with an accompanying improvement in economic growth.

The discussion that followed the presentations focused on enhancing the credibility of science. The question posed was “How does geoscience address ideological challenges and outright lies in an effective manner?”. Dr. McPhaden said the recent AGU editorial in the Wall Street Journal that addressed concerns raised about bias in the peer review systems is a good example of proactive approaches the geoscience community must use to inform the public.  Effective, clear, concise, and accurate communication of geoscience must be a critical element of any global geoscience initiatives. 

Dr. Fucugauchi was asked why he thought the Latin American and Caribbean S&T was appropriate at this time. He pointed out that several countries are already working collaboratively. Dr. Fucugauchi believes that the political desire to establish more effective mechanisms for S&T currently exists and that there is now recognition of need for an independent S&T agency among political leaders in the region. 

Prof. Riccardi was asked to prioritize the next steps he outlined for the global geoscience community. He replied that a common strategy for the geounions that are part of ICSU is critical in defining a clear path forward.     

P. Patrick Leahy and John Hess
1 September 2010

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Venue: 34th International Geological Congress: Wednesday 8 August 2012, Brisbane, Australia, Major Forum F.2.

(PDF of Meeting Summary)

Global Geoscience Initiative – Towards Developing a Geoscience Roadmap to the Belmont Forum
Plaza Room 1, 1-4 pm, Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Convenors — IUGS, ICSU
Organizers — Edmund Nickless, John Ludden, Pat Leahy and Jack Hess
Discussants — Provided by Young Earth Scientists (YES) Network

Schedule
1.00 pm: Pat Leahy Introduction (GGI history and synopsis; goals of session)
1.05 pm: John Ludden Belmont Forum Goals, Objectives and Priorities
1.20 pm: Suzette Kimball Priorities for the Geosciences in the United States
1.35 pm: Chris Pigram Priorities in geosciences for Australia
1.50 pm: Yao Yupeng Geosciences in Asia — goals and priorities

2.05 pm: Mike Sandford Geoscience priorities with the Social Science Community
2.20 pm: Edmund Nickless — Assignment of task to breakout groups
2.25 pm. Facilitated Breakout groups (25 minutes) — Discussants provided by Young Earth Scientists (YES) Network
2.50 pm: Jack Hess Report of Breakout groups and General Discussion (30 minutes)
3.20 pm: John Ludden — Summary and Closing remarks
3.30 pm: Reception (30 minutes)
Total Time - 3 hours

Potential Question for breakout groups
What are three critical geoscience topical priorities that should be included in the GGI and Belmont Forum agenda and given the strategy developed by the Forum, how can the social sciences be integrated effectively into the research design to ensure relevance to decision makers?

Presentations of the five speakers are available on the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) website http://www.agiweb.org/members/ggi/:

Speaker: Dr. John Ludden
Affiliation: Executive Director, British Geological Survey
Talk Title: Future Earth: Research for Global Sustainability
File Download: 2 MB PDF document (.pdf)

Speaker: Dr. Suzette Kimball
Affiliation: Deputy Director, U.S. Geological Survey
Talk Title: A Geosciences Vision for the United States
File Download: 3.5 MB PDF document (.pdf)

Speaker: Dr. Chris Pigram
Affiliation: CEO Geoscience Australia
Talk Title: Priorities for Geoscience in Australia
File Download: 3 MB PDF document (.pdf)

Speaker: Dr. Yao Yupeng
Affiliation: National Natural Science Foundation of China
Talk Title: Tethys Belt: ROAD OF GEOLOGY AND LIFE -- a proposal for GGI
File Download: 18 MB PDF document (.pdf)

Speaker: Dr. Mike Sandiford
Affiliation: School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne
Talk Title: Geoscience and Society
File Download: 2 MB PDF document (.pdf)

John Ludden’s presentation discussed the Belmont Forum and the Future Earth initiative. 

Suzette Kimball presented USA activities that we can take on as a global community including

  • ecosystem resilience,
  • climate variability and long term weather patterns,
  • ecosystem services,
  • critical materials where and how they are distributed,
  • water issues on a global scale,
  • global assessment Earthquakes
  • global perspective of risk multidisciplinary efforts Primo
  • pacific islands resilience
  • vulnerability of coastal environments
  • mega deltas  and deltas
  • workforce next generation of science African focus.

Chris Pigram discussed global geoscience issues from the Australian perspective including:

  • megathrust earthquakes
  • disaster risk reduction
  • palaeo tsunami – 10 Year International paleotsumami program
  • Intraplate continental deformation.

Yao Yupeng proposed a GGI program focused on the Tethys Belt:  Road of Geology and Life.  The program could involve 50 Countries.  Scientific Themes include:

  • Continental Dynamics
  • Environment
  • Biodiversity
  • Civilization and Society
  • Natural Hazards
  • Resources

Mike Sandiford discussed geoscience and society and the geophysical scale of the planet.

  • Humans as geophysical agenda
  • The idea of crustal services
  • The story of our planet as foundation myth

Breakout Groups:
Each group’s responses to the Belmont Forum Question:
“What are the three critical geosciences topical priorities that should be included in the GGI and Belmont Forum agenda and given the strategy developed by the Forum, how can social science be integrated effectively into the research design to ensure relevance to decision makers?”

Group 1 (Led by Michelle Cooper YES network member)
1) Water
Water with a particular focus on groundwater, the most neglected aspect of the water cycle. It is important to understand more about the connectivity of groundwater and other water cycle components as until recently they have been looked at as separate systems. Groundwater can have a significant impact on ecosystems. The goal should be to increase the focus on groundwater and develop a detailed integrated model.

The role of geology in the water cycle is less recognised and there is scope to improve research and increase community understanding. There is a lot of potential to progress knowledge through research projects and collaboration.

It is possible for example to apply ‘new’ techniques such as those used in mineral exploration to better map and understand groundwater and water systems. A good understanding of the system is needed in order to recognise changes.

Water relates to communities, economics and is vital for all life. It will be important to work with social scientists to communicate the science and to consider the psychology behind implementation/communication. The question of human need versus ecosystem need will have to be addressed.

2) Coastal Vulnerability
Although the Belmont Forum is already investigating this topic, this group felt that there is a role for geoscientists to bring together and communicate the role of geology/geoscience in the area of coastal vulnerability. The Belmont Forum would have the ability to draw together researchers, organizations and communities to make research into this topic more global and less ‘individual study area’ focused. Social science would need to be incorporated into the program to ensure community ‘buy-in’.

3) Energy
Geoscientists should play a bigger role in communicating the geoscience and ‘background’ of climate science. Geoscience has a large role to play in the area of developing and promoting alternate energy sources and pollution mitigation (e.g. carbon capture and storage).

The group also discussed:
- Urban Development and the Subsurface: Particular emphasis could be placed on the subsurface, ‘the invisible element’.
- Intraplate Deformation: The group discussed this topic but felt it might be better suited to collaboration between geosurveys.
- Geohazards: The group felt that this topic was already receiving a lot of attention and that there is already substantial international cooperation

Group 2 (Led by Gabriela Perlingeiro YES Network member)
1) Mining Waste Contamination 
How mining has been affecting humans health in regards to its wastes? For example, how do mining wastes cause cancer in people that live nearby mines? How are the soils in these regions affected? Does it also contaminate food production in such areas?

2) Cities on Deltas
Seventy percent of the world's population lives around or on deltas. We do not fully understand how they work. Perhaps we could focus on research in the Asia region (as pointed out in the last talk given by the Chinese).

3) Regional Small Hazards
Rather than paying attention to global scale events, there is the necessity of studying small-scale disasters that affect small communities.

Group 3 (Led by Amel Barich Yes Network member)
1)Natural hazards:
The group posed the following question: How can geologists be more effective in spreading awareness and help government mitigate natural hazards consequences?  It is known that geologists tend to be reached for by the public and governments almost exclusively when natural disasters occur; they're then asked for explanations and also responsibility of spreading awareness and assessing risks.  Geological hazards are usually unpredictible. However, geologists play a key role to help governments mitigate their risks.

The idea suggested is to create a "field" organization (e.g. under the name of "Geologists of the World", analogically to "Médecins sans frontières") whose aim is to be active in the zones with potential risk and whose activities will be centered on spreading awareness among populations about geological hazards in their regions, help governments setting mitigation plans and be present in disastered areas to explain the geological aspects and assess future risks.

2) Geologists and Society:
The role of social sciences in the geologists work is crutial sometimes when it comes to dealing with topics like natural disasters.  Although it can seem a difficult match, but geologists can work with social scientists in order to get closer to the public and spread the maximum of awareness about the geological aspects that surround them in their area of living, and which can affect them directly or indirectly.

It would even more ideal, if geologists could be formed to have a social scientist profile, through special formations and trainings. This would not only help them to reach directly the society, but also to be more effective and powerful in the decision making area.  
To improve also the image of geologists, there is a need of more positivity when dealing with geological implications in societal aspects; as Earth gives "services" to the humanity, there are some side effects for these services, and  geologists need to use this balance to incorporate this science with all its aspects into sustainable development.

P. Patrick Leahy and Jack Hess
14 December 2012

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