Inter- and Transdisciplinary Sessions
Disciplinary sessions AS–GM
Disciplinary sessions GMPV–TS

Session programme


US – Union Symposia

Programme group chairs: Peter van der Beek, Chloe Hill


The European Green Deal, first announced in December 2019, sets ambitious targets, including reaching climate neutrality in Europe by 2050; addressing the drivers of biodiversity loss in Europe; restoring degraded ecosystems; and adopting a zero-pollution action plan for air, water and soils. Achieving these bold targets will require scientific expertise from many different geoscience areas.

This Union Symposium will provide participants with an introduction to the European Green Deal, highlighting aspects that require geoscience expertise and discussing how scientists can engage with, and effectively support, the Deal’s ambitious targets. The session will also discuss the different stages of development and implementation of the Green Deal’s targets, what’s coming next and where science can be integrated. As a European scientific union focusing on many aspects relating to the Green Deal, the EGU is well positioned to highlight these areas through this session and beyond.

The panel will include scientists working in areas related to the Green Deal and policymakers who either initially proposed the Green Deal roadmap or who are currently working on its implementation. The session will include presentations from these speakers as well as a moderated discussion on how geoscientists can best support the Green Deal’s targets and a Q&A with the audience. Despite being a European specific initiative, the Green Deal also outlines missions working with neighbouring countries to the EU and some countries in Africa. In addition, many countries outside of the EU have discussed similar strategies. This session will therefore be of interest to a broader international audience.

Public information:
Moderator: Chloe Hill, EGU Policy Officer

- Claire Chenu: Research Director at INRAE and Professor of soil science at Agroparistech.
- Jaroslav Mysiak: Director of the Risk Assessment and Adaptation Strategies division at the Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Climate Change. Member of the European Commission’s Mission Board for Adaptation to Climate Change Including Societal Transformation
- Joe Eisen, Executive Director, Rainforest Foundation UK)
- Diederik Samsom: Head of Cabinet, Europe Commission Executive Vice-President.

The EGU's 'How Geoscience can support the European Green Deal' publication provides specific examples of how geoscience is related to Green Deal policy areas ahead of this session and is available online here: https://egu.eu/7WFEBL/
Convener: Ned Staniland | Co-conveners: Chloe Hill, Maria-Helena Ramos, Claudio Zaccone
| Fri, 23 Apr, 09:00–11:00 (CEST)

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a major trauma for humanity and naturally calls for multiple scientifically-based responses to mitigate the risks and build resilience to it and its potential successors. It should be stressed that the geosciences communities have already strived to respond to it, drawing on their expertise, even if they have also had to face various upheavals as a result of the pandemic.
The solicited talks of this Union Session will highlight these contributions but, more importantly, will seek to identify new developments. These include a better understanding of zoonotic spillovers, anomalous mechanisms and pathways of multi-scale transmission, the role of natural and man-made environmental complexity.
These developments are expected to greatly improve monitoring and governance of the epidemic at different scales and strengthen community engagement. Overall, they put geosciences into a post-Covid perspective.

Public information:
Related to US2:
- Town Hall meeting TM10 "Covid-19 and other epidemics: engagement of the geoscience communities", Wednesday 28 April 17:30–19:00
ZOOM data will be displayed in the programme 15 min prior to the meeting. please suggest short presentations on https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5KZ3NYV
- Inter-Transdisciplinary Session ITS1 "Covid-19 pandemic: health, urban systems and geosciences", Thursday 29 April 14:15-15:00 15:30-17:00
- a special issue of Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics is foreseen
Convener: Daniel Schertzer | Co-conveners: Alexander Baklanov, Paul Bourgine, Stefano Tinti, Benjamin F. Zaitchik
| Fri, 23 Apr, 15:00–17:00 (CEST)

In 2020, humanity faced up to an urgent and deadly challenge. The COVID-19 severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spread rapidly and with shocking impacts, tragically claiming (at the time of writing) hundreds of thousands of lives.

Rapid and dramatic action was called for and – thankfully – was largely forthcoming, from governments, businesses and individuals.

Across the globe, drastic lifestyle changes were imposed, with freedoms curtailed and life for many stripped back to the necessities, and yet these changes were generally accepted. Welcomed even. They were to keep us safe. To protect us now and into the future.

The contrast with the Climate Emergency is fascinating. It too is an urgent and deadly existential challenge, and yet the consensus is that actions are too little, too slow, the urgency is lacking, the public buy-in largely absent.

Despite growing awareness over many decades, there is no effective, concerted programme to address this largest of all global problems.

It appears likely that any reduction in carbon emissions as a result of lifestyle changes to contain the spread of the Coronavirus will be only temporary. Furthermore, financial initiatives to help economies restart and other initiatives to prevent the spread of the disease, such as reduced use of public transport and a huge escalation in the use of single use plastics, are likely to bring increased environmental harm.

This Union session looks at the Climate and Ecological Emergency through the lens of the COVID-19 crisis, and asks, what lessons can we learn? How can some of that urgency be brought to this greatest existential challenge? Can lifestyle changes implemented during the crisis which bring positive outcomes for our future sustainability be maintained and enhanced? And can those which are increasing harm be turned around? In short, can this terrible global crisis serve as a wakeup call for action to protect all our futures?

This Union Symposium invites a broad range of thinkers and influencers, ranging from leading climate scientists to broadcasters, policymakers and influencers to provide their perspectives on how the COVID-19 crisis can help inform actions to address our generation’s greatest challenge.

As geoscientists, we watch over the health of our planet, we see the changes, we understand the impacts. We know the likely consequences of inaction. Our community has a vital role to play.

Public information:
- Rolf Hut, Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geoscience
- Alberto Montanari, EGU Vice-President

- Katharine Hayhoe: Professor of political science at Texas Tech University, Director of the Climate Science Center. CEO of the consulting firm ATMOS Research and Consulting
- Andrea Hinwood: Chief Scientist, UN Environment Programme
- Mike Barry: Director of Mikebarryeco, Strategic Advisor for Instinctif Partners and Clim8 Invest, and Board Trustee of A Blueprint for Better Business
- David Mair: Head of Unit, Knowledge for Policy: Concepts and Methods, European Commission Joint Research Center
Convener: Nick Everard | Co-conveners: Hayley Fowler, Chloe Hill, Iain Stewart, Rolf Hut
| Tue, 20 Apr, 15:00–17:00 (CEST)

The terrestrial biosphere exerts disproportionate influence on Earth's climate, making improvements in its representation key to reducing climate uncertainty. After 50 years of development, land surface models contain detailed processes of energy fluxes, photosynthesis, hydrology, C-N-P cycles, and land-use within coarse non-interacting grid cells. Remaining discrepancies in fidelity to observed carbon and water cycles appear primarily related to deficiencies in the representation of forests and human activity. These include the omission of spatial processes of disturbance, migration, adaptation, and management. Also missing is the generative process of life, evolution, which gives rise to life history strategies, trophic-metabolic networks, leaf economics, local adaptation (i.e., optimality, acclimation), and plant behaviour. Despite improvements in representing vegetation demography by utilizing emergent properties of allometric scaling, canopy geometric realism remains low. This may bias carbon and water cycles per radiative transfer and coupled processes of photosynthesis, regeneration, evapotranspiration, heterotrophic respiration, and disturbance.

We believe that physics-based botanical models, forest landscape models, and terrestrial biosphere models may soon merge into new multi-scale models. While low-dimensional representations of forests are often used to improve computational efficiency and cope with a dearth of 4-D forest observatories, deep learning may be combined with new autonomous scanning systems - proximal and/or remote - such as our proposed global tower-based '5DNet' to infer evolvable 4-D physics-based models. This includes learning multi-generation tree models with 4-D traits from image and/or laser scanning time-series. To date, 4-D ontogeny has been inferred from individual scans of mature trees, multi-plant phenological events have been tracked in real-time, and the self-similar and -organizing nature of plants has been used to efficiently compress tree models down to their generating parameters. Achieving leaf-to-global scaling may require co-processor acceleration and fusing deep learning with 3-D radiative transfer modeling to infer global surface properties. An additional focus on evolution and human activity comes as 21st century land surface models mature into general simulations of life on Earth.

This Union Symposium presents exciting work toward achieving this moonshot in Earth observation and systems modeling.

Convener: Adam Erickson | Co-conveners: Rico Fischer, Sujay Kumar, Annikki Mäkelä, Nikolay Strigul
| Mon, 19 Apr, 15:00–17:00 (CEST)

Patience Cowie revolutionised our understanding of the growth and interaction of faults, and the impact these have on the topography of extensional settings. Through her tenacious focus on the science, infectious enthusiasm, wonderful sense of humour and commitment to women in science, she inspired a generation of young researchers, many of whom are presenting in this Union Symposium.
Patience’s early research began with the growth and interaction of faults and their length/displacement scaling. She studied faults at different scales, from small scale, linking damage zone to displacement, to whole fault systems, demonstrating how the development of complex fault networks impacts fault slip rate. She built numerical models of fault interactions that integrated the response of river systems to the changing topography. The predictions of these models challenged geomorphological and stratigraphic understanding of extensional settings, and resulted in a wealth of research on the extraction of tectonic signals from river profiles, and the sedimentological record of these processes.
This Union Symposium aims to sustain the momentum of Patience Cowie’s multidisciplinary approach to tackling fundamental questions concerning the interactions between the brittle upper crust and the surface processes that govern much of Earth’s topography. We are now addressing the physical mechanisms that can lead to the variety of slip styles and frictional behaviour on faults; this is critical to forecasting seismic hazard. As faults propagate, they determine the geometry of river networks, the distribution of erosion and the response time of river channels. These interactions govern sediment routing systems and the stratigraphic record of these processes. This symposium seeks to explore a future vision for the science underpinned by the fundamental processes linking faults and topography, balanced by an awareness of the societal challenges of risk management to natural hazards in these settings.

Convener: Hugh Sinclair | Co-conveners: Mikaël Attal, Anneleen Geurts, Laura Gregory
| Wed, 21 Apr, 15:00–17:00 (CEST)

GDB – Great Debates

Programme group chairs: Peter van der Beek, Chloe Hill


Different forms of systemic discrimination are experienced by underrepresented minorities throughout society, and the geoscience community is not immune to this often overlooked or unrecognised problem. Recent events and research have highlighted the systematic problem of racism in geoscience, but even beyond race-based discrimination many geoscientists experience some form of discrimination on a daily basis both within their professional and personal life.
EGU has made a commitment to highlighting these challenges, and are seeking to improve our efforts to make discrimination unacceptable, especially within the geoscience community. Through a series of actions including blogs, publications and public events, EGU will continue to work to raise awareness of discrimination in all its forms.
This Great Debate will build on EGU’s stated ambition to promote equality, inclusivity and diversity in geoscience at all levels, and draw influence from how discrimination in the geosciences is experienced by our members from a personal perspective. This panel discussion aims to raise awareness of these issues and try to understand what concrete actions EGU and other scientific societies can take to effect real change for everyone affected by some form of discrimination.

Convener: Helen Glaves | Co-conveners: Hazel Gibson, Claudia Jesus-Rydin
Mon, 26 Apr, 15:00–16:30 (CEST)

At the beginning of the General Assembly 2020 EGU has published a declaration on the significance of geoscience expertise to meet global societal challenges. At the same time, a global public health crisis was happening due to COVID-19. During any public crisis including this public health crisis or any emerging environmental crisis, authorities often seek advice from experts to take the best possible actions. In many countries systems are in place for several potential environmental disasters such as floods and storms. However, for less frequent or new issues there is no established protocol. As sometimes fast reaction is key to save lives, experts may find themselves in the situation that a statement has to be issued under strong time constraints and without peer-review. In this great debate we would like to discuss different aspects of the requirement for fast information and how to address it, especially how to deal with the related lack of quality assessments and uncertainties. We will also discuss how this COVID-19 public health crisis could draw on the experience gained during other disasters that happen more frequently and which lessons we can learn from that.

Public information:
Vasiti Soko (Director of the National Disaster Management Office, Fiji)
Matthew Hort (Head of Atmospheric Dispersion and Air Quality Research, Met Office, UK)
Nadejda Komendantova (Research Group Leader, Cooperation and Transformative Governance Research Group, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria)
William Pan (Assoc. Prof., Global Environmental Health, Duke Global Health Institute, USA)
Convener: Oksana Tarasova | Co-convener: Claudia Volosciuk
Wed, 21 Apr, 09:00–10:30 (CEST)

Conducting geoscientific research today is unthinkable without research software. However, there are different views on the importance of research software and its role in science.

The proposals to improve research software touch on all aspects of academia, such as funding, credit and reward systems, job descriptions and career paths, or evaluation schemes (of papers, people, projects). A growing community of researchers and software developers gather under the umbrella of Research Software Engineering (RSEng) and argue that research software is not merely a by-product of science, but effective and sustainable development of research software needs a skillset and resources beyond current academic education or management plans.

This great debate puts the questions, problems, challenges, and opportunities around research software in geosciences to the center of EGU, as it is a topic that concerns every researcher who uses computers. It features short opening statements by a panel representing the full breadth of stakeholders in science, and continues with a discussion on how to improve the situation for EGU members who work with and on research software:

- Does research software get the attention it deserves in Geosciences?
- How can we better support research software in Geosciences? How does it differ from other tools/equipment we use?
- Does a lack of support for research software lead to bad science in Geosciences?
- What failures can we learn from where research software played a critical role?
- How can (and should?) research software become a first class output across all Geosciences? How can credit be given to it’s authors and contributors?
- What skills and mindset set people who identify as research software engineers apart from “regular researchers”?
- How should the education of researchers include research software?
- What makes research software in Geosciences “good”, “FAIR”, useful, or user friendly? Who is responsible for that?
- What tasks can individual researchers or leaders in scientific communities undertake if they want to positively influence research software?
- Research software and open source - how do these meet? How can communities be built and can they mitigate issues around research software?

Co-sponsored by AGU
Convener: Daniel Nüst | Co-conveners: Niels Drost, David Topping, Lesley Wyborn
Thu, 22 Apr, 15:00–16:30 (CEST)

"Publish or perish" is the motto for Fast Science. All Early Career Scientists (ECS) are well aware that the scientific landscape has become a publication factory. Fast Science prefers quantity over quality, thereby creating a proliferation of articles that overwhelm readers and publishers and threaten the effectiveness of the peer-review system. The widespread three-year turnover of project grants causes a lack of longer-term, comprehensively monitored data-sets, contributing to incremental, not fundamental, discoveries. Researchers are challenged to publish at a high frequency, gain international experience, receive outstanding teaching evaluations and acquire multiple scholarships and grants, all of which has to be balanced with their private life. It is no surprise that the 2019 ECS debate addressed mental health problems. In contrast, the Slow Science Movement (http://slow-science.org/) believes that science should be a slow, steady, methodical process and that scientists should not be expected to provide "quick solutions" to society's problems. Slow Science supports curious scientific research and opposes performance targets.

During this Great Debate, we will discuss the alternatives to Fast Science. Is Slow Science a realistic movement? What can we learn from it and what are the disadvantages compared to Fast Science? Would it be possible to integrate this concept of Slow Science into the current scientific landscape and create more sustainable science? Should we aim to publish coherent stories instead of splitting them up, thereby focusing on the real knowledge gain and scientific advances?

The attendees will share their opinions in small groups discussing one of the following topics, each revolving around the themes raised above. After the group-internal discussion phase, the main points from each group will be shared among the groups to continue further discussion and debate.

Convener: Andrea Madella | Co-conveners: Michael Dietze, Annegret Larsen
Tue, 20 Apr, 09:00–10:30 (CEST)

Being bullied or harassed at your workspace has a tremendous impact on both the professional and the personal wellbeing of the person subjected to such treatment.
Which acts and behaviours classify as bullying and harassment? How can you recognize if you or a co-worker/friend are the target of bullying and harassment? How can you protect yourself and others from bullying and harassment? What can we all together do to stop harmful behaviours from individuals or overarching structures? What do institutions need to do in order to create a healthy and safe work environment?

These questions and more will be addressed during this ECS Great Debate, which shall raise awareness for the harmful effects of bullying and harassment in academia, provide clarity around this complex matter, and encourage people to speak up and take action against it. Through round-table discussions we will talk about what is needed to create a healthy, safe and inclusive work environment for everyone, where bullying, any form of harassment and intimidation have no place.

Convener: Anouk Beniest | Co-conveners: Derya Gürer, Simone M. Pieber, Elenora van Rijsingen
Thu, 22 Apr, 09:00–10:30 (CEST)