Hello again all. It’s Rochelle here. I recently attended, and presented at, the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly. I presented in the session: Geo-infrastructure monitoring: complex data analysis and instrument application. My talk was titled: Creating a spatially explicit road-river infrastructure dataset to benefit people and nature (paper forthcoming in Journal of Environmental Management (accepted w/ revision)). This EGU General Assembly was their first attempt at a fully hybrid approach, with attendees capable of attending in person or virtually. There was also an option for presenters to submit a pre-recorded video to accommodate for the different time zones of the presenters.
I attended the conference virtually and was impressed with the smoothness in which the online and in-person presentations were integrated into the sessions. There were very few technical issues with the virtual elements of the conference within the sessions I attended, and the in-person presentations were shared virtually with microphones given to the presenters to ensure we were able to hear these presentations while online. The hosts made use of the chat box to ensure virtual attendees were able to ask questions to those in-person and allowed virtual attendees to have discussions online. The session hosts were good at time keeping ensuring the talks were kept within their time limits, which varied depending on the session, and tried to start discussions with attendees. I feel for a first attempt at a hybrid approach to the EGU meeting, it was very well run. According to the EGU website the conference was a success with 7,315 attendees in-person and 7,002 virtual attendees.
I attended various sessions throughout the week due to my flexibility in entering sessions being a virtual attendee. One talk that was of interest to me was about KlimaatHelpdesk.org by Daan Reijnders (et al.). In his talk, Dan discussed the ease with which the public can access climate misinformation. It was also discussed how searching for climate change in non-English languages on the web can result in finding misinformation. Dan demonstrated this with a search result from Google (in English) showing the NASA website as the top results, comparing this to the same search in Dutch that resulted in top-hits with climate misinformation or denialism.
Enter The Klimaat Help Desk, which Dan introduced as a platform designed for Dutch-speaking citizens to use when they have questions about climate change. The Klimaat Help Desk engages scientists to answer questions submitted by members of the public about climate change. The idea is for scientists to address the posed questions in an easily digestible format. The Klimaat Help Desk ensures the answers given to members of the public are up-to-date and factually correct, following a three-step process. First, sources such as academic journals and papers are gathered. Second, an expert is then asked to respond to the question using such sources. Third, a second expert is then asked to review the answer of the first expert to reduce bias and hopefully maintain high level of accuracy before a response is written.
I found The Klimaat Help Desk and the talk interesting, because it has not occurred to me that differences in language could present a barrier in accessing credible information regarding climate change. Equally, I had not considered how inaccessible credible expert knowledge about climate change could be with regards to jargon and in knowing where to go to find more information. The Klimaat Help Desk has seen success, with 30+ volunteers and 280+ experts across multiple disciplines. In the future they aim to make the help desk open source and portable while expanding the number of disciplines and countries that it covers.
Another interesting talk I attended was by Nanna Bjørnholt Karlsson (et al.) about gender inequality of publishing in the Danish Geosciences. Nanna presented evidence of disparity in the progression of women in an academic career in geosciences in three Danish institutions. The research looked at the number of publications per researcher, number of female authors on papers, paper impact factor etc., as well as graduation of students at undergraduate, masters, and PhD level. Nanna’s research highlighted the disparity between genders in the number of co-authorships at PhD level despite on average the number of men and women being awarded a geoscience PhD being the same.
Researchers argue there are mechanisms in place that exclude women from contributing to studies. Citations are an important part of PhD student’s academic career progression potentially impacting their ability to secure a job and funding awards. Therefore, it is important for us to be aware of the inequalities that exist with academic publications, and as Nanna explained, the issues with placing such great emphasis on the number of publications alone.
I enjoyed Nanna’s talk because she used data to highlight the disparity in opportunities between men and women as well as the implications of the disparity in the early stages of career progression for PhD candidates. I also appreciated that there are people within geosciences taking steps to highlight this inequality within and across institutions and to offer-up viable solutions on how to deal with these problems. It gave me confidence as an early career scientist that there is a growing awareness of the inequality in the field and hope that we may move towards eradicating this.
Overall, the EGU conference was a great experience to share ideas and research between peers. I’m glad I was able to present my work and attend talks and discussions about topics of interest to me within geosciences. I thoroughly enjoyed the flexibility of the hybrid approach and while I missed out on some of the onsite networking opportunities, I still feel I was able to make the most of the experience and take a lot from it.