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

Session programme


GDB – Great Debates

Programme group chairs: Peter van der Beek, Chloe Hill


Over the past few years, criticism on the singularly focused metrics evaluation of scientists has grown, making it clear that a cultural shift is needed to modernise our assessment system. Many universities and funding agencies worldwide have already signed the San Francisco Declaration of Research Assessment (DORA), thereby committing to a broader and more overarching assessment of researchers and their research proposals.

For the last several decades, quantitative indices such as the number of publications, the h-index or the journal impact factor have served as near-singular measures of scientific success. Other key areas, such as education, leadership, and institutional and societal engagement have been undervalued. While being a good educator, having strong leadership skills and serving the scientific community are appreciated, these parameters have become a requirement in addition to an impressive publication record. This means scientists need to excel in all academic activities (research, teaching, service) in order to be considered successful, which places unrealistic expectations on individuals and significantly increases their workload.

By allowing for more diversity in academic career paths and a broader definition of what constitutes scientific excellence, there would be more options for honoring and nurturing individual talents and motivations. This could lead to a more balanced academic system that is better equipped to tackle today’s scientific challenges, including a stronger focus on team performance. Many opponents of a revised assessment system, however, fear that moving away from quantitative measures will make it more difficult to objectively assess and compare academics, leading to a loss of quality. Qualitative characterizations are more difficult to compare and rely on the make-up of the evaluating team, but that is not reason to dismiss them as part of the evaluation process.

In this great debate, we query: (1) Is there a mechanism to integrate qualitative assessment with quantitative metrics when evaluating academics, (2) how could a revised assessment system be organised and implemented universally, as adoption by all is needed for it to be effective, and (3) how will broader assessment criteria strengthen scientific leadership in the future?

Invited panelists:
Olivier Pourret, Caroline Slomp, Fabio Crameri and Catherine McCammon

Convener: Elenora van RijsingenECSECS | Co-conveners: Holly Stein, Alberto Montanari, Claudia Jesus-Rydin, Helen Glaves
Mon, 23 May, 10:20–11:50 (CEST)
Room E1

The IPCC’s sixth assessment report could not be clearer that climate change is both extreme and accelerating, that human activity is unequivocally to blame, that the impacts will be severe, and that we must act swiftly and dramatically, both collectively and as individuals.
As earth scientists, our community will have a vital role to play in assessing impacts, informing actions and helping to shape both public understanding, and political action.
This Great Debate examines the role of the earth science community at this pivotal moment for human society and the overall health of our planet.
An invited panel representing a broad cross-section of scientists, policy-makers and influencers will address the following questions:
• What is the role for earth scientists in solving the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced?
• Do we have the skills, the agility and the resources we need?
• Are we creating the science and information we need, and are we doing it fast enough?
• Are our academic and research institutions fit for purpose, and focused on the right challenges?
• Do we have the necessary communications skills and channels, and the confidence to deliver sometimes difficult messaging with clarity and impact?
• Can we strengthen evidential links between continued harmful activities and impacts, and will we be ready to demonstrate the benefits of positive actions?
• Can our messaging help tip societal values and behaviour towards positive action?
To quote UN Secretary General António Guterres, ‘The alarm bells are deafening (and) there is no time for delay and no room for excuses.’

Public information:


  • Daniel Parsons: Professor in Sedimentology and Director, Energy and Environment Institute at the University of Hull. President of EGU’s Geomorphology Division.
  • Sir Peter Gluckman: President of the International Science Council, Director of, Koi Tū: the Centre for Informed Futures, and former Chief Science Advisor to the New Zealand Prime Minister.
  • Simon Clark: Climate Scientist, Video Producer, and Online Educator.
  • Jenny Turton: Senior Advisor for Arctic Frontiers, Early Career Scientists representative of the European Geosciences Union.
Convener: Nick Everard | Co-conveners: Rolf Hut, Hayley Fowler, Hannah Cloke, Chloe Hill
Fri, 27 May, 08:30–10:00 (CEST)
Room E1

Open Science represents research that is collaborative, transparent, and accessible. This includes providing open access to all scientific outputs, such as publications, data, methods, software, and more. Open Science practices are intended to improve transparency, reproducibility, and dissemination of new knowledge. By enabling greater usability of data and methods, it has the potential to improve the productivity of the research community.

Despite best intentions by the scientific community, several barriers often prevent making data, software, and publications fully open and accessible to all. For example, sharing of data may be constrained by confidentiality issues or protective data policies by private and public organisations. Furthermore, storing and sharing large datasets comes with technical challenges and costs that may be difficult to face for individuals and organisations. Similarly, sharing methods and software in a format accessible to others may require additional effort, for instance the application of software engineering best practices, that researchers may be reluctant to undertake due to lack of adequate reward, incentives, or recognition. The drive towards Open Science may also be met with reticence or resistance by individuals or organisations that are currently well-served by the status quo.

In this Great Debate we invite our panel members and the audience from all geosciences to reflect on the following questions:

* How can universities, funding bodies, and publishers promote Open Science?
* What more can structural initiatives such as Plan S or DORA do to support Open Science?
* What are some successful examples and barriers yet to be overcome?
* How can researchers and administration help remove those barriers?
* Are individual researchers primarily responsible for advancing Open Science, or should institutions, publishers and funding agencies take main responsibility?
* How can we align the goals of individual researchers (i.e. careers/publishing) and the scientific community (i.e. gaining knowledge but also avoiding duplication of efforts)?
* What are the priorities to bring Open Science into practice (e.g. open access to articles, data, code, workflows)?
* How does commitment to Open Science impact science-industry collaborations and translation of science into practice?
* What are pitfalls in Open Science? Are there disadvantages?

More information about our panel members and ways to engage before and after the General Assembly can be found here:

Convener: Francesca Pianosi | Co-conveners: Leonardo UiedaECSECS, Jamie FarquharsonECSECS
Wed, 25 May, 10:20–11:50 (CEST)
Room E1

Data is at the backbone of our research discussions, conclusions and solutions to problems nature presents us with. Did the apple fall to the ground, once or twice? It always does.

In today’s age with use of the most advanced laboratory capability the (geo)science community produces data at an ever increasing level of precision, resolution and volume. E.g. 1000 geochronology dates a day using laser ablation ICP mass spectrometry systems at a 30 µm resolution with <5% precision, that is <1Gb. Large Hadron Collider (LHC) detectors generate about one petabyte of collision data per second (~1Mb per collision). Most of this analytical data is highly variable and lacking standardised community-agreed metadata.

The greatest challenge pertaining to laboratory analytical research is to collate, store and make these data publicly available in standardised and machine-accessible form. But do we have to? Do we want to?

This great debate puts the questions, problems, challenges and opportunities around geoanalytical research data to the center stage at EGU, a topic researchers from almost every scientific division are concerned with. Short opening statements, from a panel representing the Earth, Environmental, Planetary and Space sciences, are followed with a discussion on how to improve the situation for EGU members who work with and on laboratory analytical data.

Discussions can be around:
Community development of systems to facilitate easy and efficient research data management, and need for more user buy-in.
The push from publishers and journals who increasingly require access to the supporting data from a trusted repository prior to publication of manuscripts.
When should data, initially collected in a researcher’s private domain, become public?
The need for and lack of global standards, best practices and protocols for analytical data management and exchange in order for scientists to better share their data in a global network of distributed databases.
When to capture analytical data, raw (lab), reduced (private/collaborative), polished (publicised).

To ensure long-term impact of these data, they need to be efficiently managed and losslessly transferred from laboratory instruments in “Private” domains to a “Collaboration” domain, to the “Public” domain, complete with all relevant information about the analytical process and uncertainty, and cross-references to originating samples and publications.

Public information:

Steven L Goldstein is Higgins Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University in New York City and at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Goldstein is a geochemist who utilizes the products of natural radioactive decay in rocks and waters, as process tracers and to determine absolute ages in a wide range of research from magmatic processes to chemical oceanography, from the history of the early Earth to recent climate changes. Goldstein has actively promoted best practices for the reporting of geochemical data in the literature such as the Editors Roundtable that he helped to establish.

Olivier Pourret is associate professor at UniLaSalle, Beauvais (France). He is a hydrogeochemist with particular interest in trace metal fractionation in low-temperature aqueous systems. He is also an advocate for open and inclusive science, spanning the full range from data to publications to recognition of scientific achievements.

Katy Chamberlain is a lecturer at the University of Derby (United Kingdom). She is an igneous petrologist and field volcanologist specialising in the use of in situ microanalytical techniques. Katy is also passionate about changing the data culture in geochemistry and making geochemical data FAIR.

Simon Marshall is currently global chief geochemist for Newmont based in Australia. He has over 20 years of experience in applied exploration geochemistry across multiple continents in data rich and data poor environments. Simon will provide an industry perspective on the opportunities and challenges with managing and accessing data in exploration.

Shaunna Morrison is Research Scientist at the Earth and Planets Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Morrison is a mineralogist and planetary scientist with expertise in crystallography, crystal chemistry, and the application of data-driven techniques exploring and employing advanced analytics and machine learning techniques to better understand the complex relationships among Earth and planetary materials, their formational environments through deep time, and their coevolution with the biosphere.

The moderator will be Kerstin Lehnert who is Doherty Senior Research Scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and Director of the Geoinformatics Research Group. Kerstin's work centres on the development and operation of community-driven data infrastructure for the Earth and space sciences and, in particular, on using cyberinfrastructure to improve access and sharing of data generated by the study of physical samples. Kerstin leads the EarthChem data facility for geochemistry, petrology and volcanology (NSF funded); the Astromaterials Data System (NASA funded); and the System for Earth Sample Registration (NSF funded). Kerstin is currently member of the NASEM Division Committee for the Gulf Research Program; member of the NOAA Science Advisory Board's Data Archive & Access Requirements Working Group; chair of the EarthCube Council of Data Facilities; and President of the IGSN e.V.

Co-sponsored by AGU
Convener: Alexander Prent | Co-conveners: Marthe Klöcking, Geertje ter Maat, Lucia ProfetaECSECS
Tue, 24 May, 08:30–10:00 (CEST)
Room E1

The journey of water on planet Earth is long and timeless. The study of the water cycle, hydrology, is a broad field of geosciences as water travels from the atmosphere to the deep soil and from rivers to oceans. Hydrology includes a diverse range of observations, theories, models and predictions for the coupled human-natural systems. Fundamental & applied research in hydrology has direct implications for the monitoring, modelling & management of water in glaciers, lakes, reservoirs, ponds, rivers, streams, wetlands, and aquifers. Central to the climate-environment-society interactions, hydrology offers invaluable knowledge & tools for informing policy-relevant decisions as well as driving sustainable climate resilience & disaster preparedness for compound & multiple hazards.
Despite being traditionally rooted in engineering, research progress in hydrology has lately benefited from the perspective shift towards Earth System (ES) Science. The IAHS Unsolved Problems in Hydrology (UPH) highlights the need for improved research collaboration across diverse systems, scales & processes of geosciences. The efforts of the World Meteorological Organization in developing a research strategy for hydrology is rooted in bringing hydrology forward in the implementation of weather & climate research programs for seamless ES prediction. However, translation of research into delivery of national hydrological & meteorological services remains low and ineffective. This is ever more needed as the Earth’s disturbed hydrological cycle manifests more frequent & intense weather-water-climate extremes with far reaching consequences for the safety of citizens & economies.
In this Great Debate, we bring the following questions forward to catalyze the future evolution of hydrology in support of integrated (geo)science-practice-policy-education development: * What are geoscientists missing about the water cycle? * What is the role of hydrology in modelling the dynamic interactions & feedbacks of the different ES components? * Are we doing enough to represent coupled social–economic–natural complex ecosystems hydrologically right in ES models? * Do we need higher resolution/more accurate hydrological models or better linkages to society/policy? * How can improved (hydrological) process knowledge make its way to hydromet services & water policy? * Can hydrology provide ESS the critical leverage to foster impact-based services, citizen engagement & environmental policy agendas?

Public information:

We are glad to announce the confirmed panelists who will join us at the Great Debate 5:

  • Dr. Newsha Ajami, Chief Research Strategy and Development Officer for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area (EESA) at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
  • Dr. Anca Brookshaw, Lead of the seasonal forecast team of ECMWF's Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S)
  • Dr. Kornelia Radics, President of the Hungarian Meteorological Service
  • Dr. Gil Mahe, Research Director at Institute of Research for Development, HydroSciences Montpellier Laboratory, in host at the National Marine Institute of Tunis, Tunisia 
  • Dr. Martyn Clark, Professor of Hydrology at the University of Saskatchewan, Associate Director of the University of Saskatchewan's Centre for Hydrology
Co-sponsored by IAHS and WMO
Convener: Nilay Dogulu | Co-conveners: Louise Arnal, Johannes Cullmann, Ilias Pechlivanidis, Micha Werner
Thu, 26 May, 17:00–18:30 (CEST)
Room E1

A lack of permanent positions and predominantly temporary contracts in academia is challenging for early and mid-career scientists. Recent estimates in Germany suggest that 78% of scientists are on fixed-term contracts (German Trade Union Confederation, 2020). Their life is heavily impacted by job options which in turn also influences their future career choices. Often, the initial idea behind fixed-term contracts was to enhance scientific exchange, collaborations, and innovation. However, many scientists experience the disadvantages associated with them, such as regularly moving city/country, uprooting families, and regular pressure to find a new job. Many scientists attribute short-term contracts to their desire to move away from academic careers. The distribution of fixed-term and permanent contracts is not equal across gender, ethnicity, or age. Whilst recent studies in the U.K. found 28% of white male scientists were employed on a fixed-term basis, this number was 45% for Asian female scientists (Higher Education Statistics Agency, U.K., 2019). Would science benefit from more permanent contracts? Or do short-term contracts provide opportunities to work with a range of groups and institutes?

Recently, there has been a surge in the discussion on fixed-term contracts and the academic careers system in general. In this panel discussion (if the GA is online) or round-table discussion (if the GA is in-person), invited speakers will share their opinions and provide suggestions on how to move forward or revise the career system. This debate will give the opportunity to discuss a timely and controversial topic that is relevant for all career stages.

Convener: Jenny Turton | Co-conveners: Janina NettECSECS, Meriel J. BittnerECSECS, Aayush Srivastava
Mon, 23 May, 17:00–18:30 (CEST)
Room E1