Society benefits greatly from scientific research and the subsequent communication of results without concern by the scientist for censorship, intimidation, or political interference. Speakers with a variety of expertises and backgrounds will debate which policies, roles, and responsibilities they view to be most effective to ensure the integrity of science, including freedom to disseminate results and scientific remarks.

The session will be an opportunity to focus on the role of - and challenges for - scientific communication, scientific integrity and scientific freedom during the current global crisis triggered by the pandemic. Future perspectives will also be discussed.

Public information:

16:15–16:25: Introduction.
Alberto Montanari

16:25–16:40: EGU2020-9796: Earth and Space Science in the 21st Century: A Call for Action.
Chris McEntee

16:40–16:55: EGU2020-22689: Scientific freedom and integrity in the 21st century: roles and power of scientists.
Claudia Jesus-Rydin

16:55–17:10: EGU2020-22692: Geoscientists as social and political actors.
Silvia Peppoloni

17:10-17:25: EGU2020-3093: Impact of the current sociopolitical crisis on research and education in Nicaragua. The role of scientific societies.
Jorge A. Huete-Perez and Graziella Devoli

17:25–17:40: EGU2020-22690: Scientific integrity, personal responsibility, public trust and the role of professional societies.
Jonathan Bamber

17:40-18:00: Discussion

Co-sponsored by AGU, JpGU, AGI, AOGS, GSA, and GSL
Convener: Alberto Montanari | Co-conveners: Robin Bell, Hodaka Kawahata, J. Douglas Walker
| Mon, 04 May, 16:15–18:00 (CEST)

Files for download

Session summary

Monday, 4 May 2020 | Room E1

Chairperson: Alberto Montanari, Robin Bell, Hodaka Kawahata and Walker Douglas
16:25–16:40 |
Chris McEntee

Earth and space science are critically important so that society can benefit from effective solutions to address global environmental conditions, mitigate the impact of climate change, and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. For that benefit, society needs evidence and facts on which to develop effective policies.  External forces such as growing populism, the rise of social media and “fake news”, along with what Oxford calls the Post Truth World,  are countervailing forces to societal acceptance and acknowledgement of evidence and facts. In addition, the reward and recognition system in science undervalues societal engagement and science graduate programs offer little training in effective ways to communicate and collaborate with external stakeholders.  This talk will explore these dynamics and suggest actions that the science community can undertake to position Earth and space science as the science for society in the 21st century.

How to cite: McEntee, C.: Earth and Space Science in the 21st Century: A Call for Action, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-9796, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-9796, 2020.

16:40–16:55 |
Claudia Jesus-Rydin

Science is rooted in basic values. Freedom is one of them. History is rich in examples of struggles by scientists for freedom. They often had to struggle to find patrons and avoid persecution. Religious authority, often associated with political power, was a permanent challenge to freedom of thought and freedom of movement, which is a major requirement for scientific cooperation and dissemination.

We live in worrying times, where some politicians are tempted to deglobalise economies and trade by closing borders and even building walls. Letting scientific collaboration be affected and reshaped by these vision is concerning. Especially when we know that the challenges we face are global. Nationalism conditions the impact research and science can have.

The power of hierarchical structures can also lead to limitations to freedom. Scientists themselves are part of a system that makes decisions about people. There is the peer review system, making decisions on who, what and when is published. Another example of power in the hands of the scientific communities is promotion, nomination and awards. However, this power is also a remarkable opportunity for scientists to stand above political flows. Remaining loyal to principles of integrity is the only way for scientists to safeguard freedom for their own sake.

Scientific freedom from funders is crucial but impactful only if supported by independent and forward-looking decisions by scientific communities. Reviewers, promotion and award committees need a wide and integral understanding of scientific development and the vital conditions that favour this.

Freedom and integrity lies at the heart of the scientific endeavour and its ability to develop new knowledge and challenge beliefs. Scientific communities have great responsibilities and roles to play.

How to cite: Jesus-Rydin, C.: Scientific freedom and integrity in the 21st century: roles and power of scientists, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-22689, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-22689, 2020.

16:55–17:10 |
Silvia Peppoloni

Geoscientists are at the fare front of informing on and supporting society to face global anthropogenic changes, at all levels. This requires making excellent science, in the full awareness of one's role towards society.

Research integrity and professionalism are the bedrock on which the individual geoscientist can develop a deep sense of responsibility and build a functional science-society relationship, being conscious of the ethical obligations that this implies.

It is precisely within the dyad individual-society that the utmost ethical and social value of the activity of geoscientists is achieved, as in this context they assume at the same time the dual role of moral subjects and social actors, and consequently can realize the meaning of being active and responsible subjects in the service of the human beings.

In order to achieve this goal, each geoscientist should individually strengthen the perception of being: (a) a moral subject, therefore an agent consciously responsible for the own conduct and the ethical and social implications of own actions; (b) a social and political subject, who actively contributes to the construction of the idea of society, to the vision of its future, to its cultural and economic development, including the creation of a knowledge society based on the democratic value of shared responsibility.

Within the ethical framework of reference in which geoscientists are called to act, there is an indispensable prerequisite, that makes possible the responsible action and allows behaving ethically: individual freedom.

A cohesive, motivated, and responsible international geoscience community can assure a safe operating space to geoscientists and encourage them to follow best practices and ethical behaviours while conducting their activities, to qualify their work and recognize the value of a responsible action to counter abuses, intimidations and political pressures.

This cannot simply be entrusted to codes of ethics and/or conduct, but demands an intense ethical training for the geoscientists, that shows them the numerous circumstances and difficulties that each one might be called upon to face during the scientific and professional career.

How to cite: Peppoloni, S.: Geoscientists as social and political actors, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-22692, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-22692, 2020.

17:10–17:25 |
| Highlight
Jorge A. Huete-Perez and Graziella Devoli

Nicaragua is a Central American country historically affected by catastrophes that have caused thousands of deaths and significant economic damages. Natural disasters are usually intertwined with repeated political crises (foreign interventions, dictatorships, armed conflicts and political unrest), which in turn hamper it´s economy and make the country even more vulnerable, suffering from severe institutional and geographic vulnerability, further aggravated by the effects of global warming.

Against this adverse background, local scientists have made significant strides in education and science. Serving a highly vulnerable society, in the past 25 years geoscientists and other professionals have been building a more resilient Nicaragua by creating and operating seismic, volcanic, meteorological and hydrological networks, mapping multi-hazards in the most susceptible municipalities, organizing emergency response institutions and developing higher education programs for disaster risk management. In spite of the limited economical resources, geoscientists have embraced a strong commitment and ethical values, working with honesty and a sense of responsibility.

Over the past 12 years the country was submitted to a political regime change that ended up devastating the nascent democratic system and the rule of law, and has led to human right abuses.  These long-term problems along with the latest socio political crisis (April 2018) have had disastrous repercussions for the whole society, especially in the educational and scientific sectors.

The government has imposed censorship, intimidation and political interference. Scientists working at state institutions have been replaced by loyal political officials lacking reputable technical background. This has conditioned the scientific research and suppressed the freedom of expression of public servants with devastating consequences on disaster mitigation and response, and the undermining of the credibility of institutions and geoscientists. The negative impacts of these decisions is observed in the limitations of their services and the quality of their scientific results.

The experiences of the Academy of Sciences of Nicaragua will be discussed in its advisory role and impact on Nicaraguan society. Considering the systematic destruction of the rule of law and of human rights, the Academy focused on addressing the issues faced by university students, professors and scientists, including censorship, harassment, coercion and prosecution.

We will address (1) the Academy´s advisory work regarding the environmental risks posed by the Interoceanic Canal Project (considered as the largest engineering project in the world) and (2) the Academy´s role in contributing to solving the current sociopolitical crisis.

Used as best practices, these topics may be of relevance to the EGU audience and the scientific community at large. They could be relevant for scientists working under precarious political conditions and where political environments are hostile to scientists and scientific unions, making science advising extremely complicated.

There is an urgent need for the international community to lend their support to finding a peaceful resolution to this desperate situation in Nicaragua. Moreover, the support of global scientific societies will be decisive in the aftermath of the crisis to rebuild institutions and infrastructure for education and science, with specific training programs on geosciences. 

How to cite: Huete-Perez, J. A. and Devoli, G.: Impact of the current sociopolitical crisis on research and education in Nicaragua. The role of scientific societies. , EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-3093, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-3093, 2020.

17:25–17:40 |
Jonathan Bamber

There is a perception that trust in science and scientists has been eroded by, amongst other forces, populist ideologies that have rapidly gained traction in Europe, the Americas and elsewhere in recent years. Apparent scepticism about climate change, efficacy of vaccines and an ideology that promotes self-interest over the greater good has the potential to erode trust in scientists who are often painted as disconnected, intellectual elite. As a highly educated, UK government minister and Justice Secretary recently and famously stated “people in this country have had enough of experts”. If that is true, then who are the public listening to and who do they trust? Have we really entered a post-truth world? Is this picture a true reflection of public attitudes? Where do these narratives come from and what can scientists do to counteract a potentially destructive portrayal of our community? In this presentation, I aim to tackle these questions alongside the role that organisations such as EGU can play and the importance of transparency, honesty and openness to dispel the myths promulgated by some of the negative forces acting in society today. I will do this with examples drawn from my own experiences as an academic and former president of EGU. I will reflect on some of the challenges we faced, how we responded to them and the lessons learned.

How to cite: Bamber, J.: Scientific integrity, personal responsibility, public trust and the role of professional societies, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-22690, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-22690, 2020.

17:40–17:55 |
David Higgitt

The world’s scientific research hub has been steadily shifting eastwards over the past two decades. Annual R&D spending for the so called Asia-8 economies (China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand) overtook the EU in the mid-2000s. In the 13th five-year plan (2016-20), China committed to increase R&D spending by 35% by 2020.  In a demographic shift, the number of students from Asian countries in postgraduate education in science and engineering (both domestically and overseas) has grown rapidly.  Other metrics of research productivity, such as journal publication output, show very rapid growth from Asia and from China in particular.  While the big picture is encouraging, the burgeoning growth of science output from Asia imposes constraints on governance systems such as peer review and ethical oversight.  Asia is also a continent of diversity with a variety of national guidelines on scientific integrity, uneven access to resources between and within countries and keen competition to raise the profile of universities within league tables.  Within this context, Asia Oceania Geosciences Society was founded in 2003 to promote the application of geosciences for the benefit of humanity. In a region where natural hazards are prevalent, encouraging the sharing of understanding of risk management through scientific, social and technological means is important.  The challenges of scientific integrity are manifest in this diverse and rapidly growing sector but so too are the opportunities for harnessing research to benefit society.

How to cite: Higgitt, D.: The Rise of Geosciences in Asia: Challenges and Opportunities for Scientific Integrity, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-22694, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu2020-22694, 2020.