On Wednesday 23rd October the Geology for Global Development (GfGD) organisation held its first National Conference at the Geological Society headquarters in Burlington House, London. The general theme of the meeting was: Fighting Global Poverty – Can Geologists Help?
20 undergraduate and postgraduate students from the School of Earth and Environment attended the conference.
Geology for Global Development (GfGD)
GfGD recognises the role good geoscience can play in international development and the fight against global poverty. The organisation aims to encourage and support young geoscientists in the growth of appropriate skills and knowledge they will need in order to make a positive, effective and lasting contribution to global development.
Part of this work is done through their university groups set up throughout the country. The Climate and Geohazard Services (CGS) is proud to support the work of GfGD though the GfGD Leeds student chapter.
The conference day for the Leeds group started at the rather early time of 5am. Despite the early start and 5 hour coach journey down to London the group were keen (after a coffee) and enthusiastic to learn more about how geoscience students can get more involved in global development.
The day of talks started off by Jeremy Lefroy MP who is the MP for Stafford and a member of the International Development Select Committee. Jeremy started by expressing his firm support for the work GfGD is doing. He highlighted the need for increased involvement by the geoscience community in global development, particularly in countries such as Afghanistan and the sub-Saharan states. He encouraged students to be more aware and question where and how natural resources are used and whether the source countries are benefiting appropriately from the sale of their resources.
Following Jeremy’s talk was a series of presentations given by people working directly/indirectly in the development sector. These included talks by Dr Kate Crowley on disaster risk reduction, Dr Alison Parker on water and sanitation, Dr Gareth Hearn on engineering geology and Jane Joughin on mining geology. Each of these were fantastic talks highlighting a few of the various areas geoscience knowledge is used in a positive and sustainable way.
Lunch time provided an opportunity for everyone to do some all important networking. It was great to see students from different universities coming together to discuss and share their own ideas.
Effective Communication for Effective Development
After a post-lunch award ceremony for the GfGD blog competition, was a panel debate on the theme of ‘Effective Communication for Effective Development’. On the panel were Professor Bruce Malamud from Kings College, Dr Aaron Goater from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology and Jane Robb from the European Geosciences Union. Scientists are generally only used to communicating their science to other experts within their field. The panel debate highlighted the need for effective communication skills training for scientists to communicate to non-specialists without altering the message of the science itself. Good science communication is not always about speaking or writing but also about listening and learning from others. The panel encouraged more integration of the social scientists with the natural scientists, not just at the final communication stage but throughout the research process.
Keynote Address – Geoscience and International Development
The keynote address for the conference was given by Dr Martin Smith from the British Geological Survey (BGS). The theme of Martin’s talk was the use of new smart technologies and as a means for effective geoscience communication. He used the iGeology mobile phone app created by the BGS as an example. This app was created by digitising the vast archives of geological maps of the UK and making a 3D model over which the geology of the UK can be seen via the app. This has enabled a better understanding of the subsurface geology beneath our cities and aided in improved planning for urbanisation projects.
The closing remarks for the day were given by the GfGD Director Joel Gill who reiterated the need for more young geoscientists to be involved in global development. He expressed his support for the GfGD University groups and encouraged more to be set up in other universities throughout the UK and Ireland. He finished with an answer to the simple question posed by the conference:
“Fighting Global Poverty – Can Geologists Help? YES WE CAN!”
A massive thank you to the GfGD National team who organised this conference and to the Geological Society for hosting it at their headquarters. Also, big thanks to the GfGD Leeds team who woke up very early in the morning for the long journey down to London. I hope you learnt much from it. I certainly did.
You can read all the tweets from the event here.