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Global Geoscience Professionalism Task Group

New IUGS Task Group: Global Geoscience Professionalism

The IUGS has formed a new task group on Global Geoscience Professionalism. AIG is a founding member of the new group which is chaired by Ruth Allington, President of the European Federation of Geologists, who has penned the following summary of the group’s role and objectives.

The new Task Group is being driven and co-ordinated by a group of Professional Geoscience Organisations concerned with supporting and promoting professionalism so as to ensure excellence and best practice in the application of geoscience for the protection of the public and towards a better informed society. These organisations, some of which concentrate solely on professional matters and some of which combine this with the roles of a more traditional scientific geological society or institution, interpret the ‘professions’ of geology/geoscience as widely as possible, and our definition includes applied practitioners as well as educators and researchers (who do not always see themselves as ‘professional geoscientists’ – reserving the word ‘professional’ for those who work in industry or applied fields generally). One of our key objectives (as you may know if you attended the symposium we jointly ran in Brisbane) is to improve communications between the applied and academic/research communities in geoscience. We are inter-dependent (educators cannot prepare students adequately for the workplace if they do not understand the skills and expertise needed by ‘industry’, researchers cannot design programmes that are truly relevant to societal needs without knowing what those needs are, and applied geoscientists depend on high quality graduates and excellent underpinning research for the delivery of their expertise). The dislocation and separation of the communities is striking and is clearly not in the interests of anyone – least of all the public!

Some in this group of Professional Geoscience Organisations offer professional qualifications to our members who are judged by their peers to have sufficient qualifications, experience and competence to meet the criteria. All of the Professional Geoscience Organisations have a code of professional conduct/professional ethics and a disciplinary code which is binding on all members (not just those holding a professional title). The criteria for the award of professional titles and the codes of professional conduct/profession ethics and disciplinary codes are all slightly different from each other to reflect particular organisational needs and cultural/regulatory settings but they all cover similar ground and are absolutely central to the mission and vision of all of the Professional Geoscience Organisations. If you visit any of our websites (which I have listed at the end of this note) you will find examples of our codes of conduct and ethics, criteria for award of professional titles, and disciplinary codes, as well as mission statements which explain how we seek to support excellence in professional practice in geoscience and why.

Against this background, we are especially keen that the TGGGP represents a bridge between the academic study of geoethics and ethical professional practice in all areas of professional geoscience as well as an opportunity for a discussion forum that exposes applied practitioners to the wider subject of geoethics beyond basic adherence to a professional code of conduct, and exposes those concerned with the academic study of geoethics to its practical applications and meaning to individual practitioners. As you will see in the report, you are all cordially invited to participate with the TGGGP as collaborating organisations (or interested individuals) to help us achieve those aims. Please note that the fact that one group has already expressed firm interest in such an association is absolutely not a barrier to other groups’ participation – our TGGGP ‘umbrella’ is a big one and we want to involve as wide a cross section of the geoscience community as we can to meet our remit and in the best interests of the whole geoscience community.

I am aware that there are some current interpersonal difficulties within the geoethics community and that strong personal opinions have been expressed as to the validity of different, recently formed, international organisations and the motivations and expertise of individuals promoting or involved in one or the other. It is absolutely not TGGGP’s place or intention to intervene or take sides in any way in this regard (or, indeed to interfere with the work of the respective autonomous organisations and individuals who find themselves in this difficult situation or to promote one organisation or group of individuals over any other). All I would like to say here is that you all have my sincerest good wishes for a speedy resolution to your differences in some mutually acceptable way – as a commercial mediator, I know only too well the emotional toll that these kinds of disputes exact on everyone involved in them.

I hope that providing input to the TGGGP might help to diffuse this difficult situation – or at least you will feel able to contribute separately to the work of the TGGGP even if the other parties are also contributing. In the meantime, I echo Ian Lambert’s plea not to be copied into critical correspondence between you, and make a suggestion that perhaps a halt (or at least a pause) in this rather acrimonious correspondence could be called to enable your expertise and energies to be expended on your important areas of scientific activity. Sometimes the role of a neutral facilitator can help parties to reach a resolution to their differences and I would be pleased to explore with you the possibility of assisting your community in this way if that would be of interest.

Kind regards to all of you

Ruth Allington
(President EFG; Chair TGGGS)

Web addresses of the Professional Geoscience Organisations who are founder members of the TGGGS:

European Federation of Geologists (EFG) – www.eurogeologists.eu
Geoscientists Canada – www.ccpg.ca
American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) – www.aipg.org
Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG) – www.aig.org.au
Colegio de Geólogos de Bolivia (CGB) – www.cgb.org.bo
Geological Society of South Africa (GSSA) – www.gssa.org.za

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