Inter- and Transdisciplinary Sessions
Disciplinary sessions

GDB – Great Debates


Space exploration has enabled humanity to unlock and discover amazing things about the Earth we inhabit. It has pushed our scientific boundaries and transformed the way in which we communicate, navigate, predict the weather, monitor climate, and investigate the rest of the Solar System and the Universe. With humanity’s ever growing greenhouse gas emissions and resource exploitation driving us closer to tipping points that threaten our existence, could it also be a solution to our planetary boundaries? Could we reduce our impact on Earth by exploiting the resources and energy sources of other planets? Or is extending humanity’s exploitation to nearby planets an unethical option that will cause more problems than it solves?

This Great Debate will outline the benefits and opportunities that we may be able to achieve through space exploration while debating the ethical dilemmas and potential risks that it comes with. It will discuss the impacts of private investment into space exploration and the potential for its regulation. Not only is this an ethical issue, but unregulated access to space exploration and a surge in activity has the potential to result in collisions and space debris that, could in an extreme circumstance, limit our access to space in the future. The panelists will also debate if humanity can ethically exploit the resources on other planets and objects in space and how we can limit our impact beyond our planetary boundaries.

Public information:

We are very excited to welcome the following panellists to this great debate: 

- Dr Alfredo Carpineti: Astrophysicist and Science Journalist

- Dr Michaela Musilova: Astrobiologist and Analog Astronaut

- Dr Anna Maria Trofaier: Cryosphere Scientist, European Space Agency 

- Dr Andrew Williams: External Relations, Executive Office of the Director General, European Southern Observatory 

The session will be moderated by Jonathan Bamber, Professor at the University of Bristol and Guest Professor at the Technical University of Munich.

Convener: Enrique Sanchez | Co-conveners: Noel Baker, Chloe Hill
Thu, 27 Apr, 14:00–15:45 (CEST)
Room E1
Thu, 14:00

The sheer number and ferocity of extreme weather events causing major impacts in recent years have shocked and surprised many, including those working in the earth science community. We are seeing temperature records smashed by large margins, unprecedented wildfires, and floods with huge destructive power and massive impacts.

Despite widespread media coverage of these devastating events, policy and public opinion still lag a long way behind what is required to address the climate crisis effectively and rapidly.

This Great Debate asks why this might be the case, and critically examines the role of the earth science community in driving public opinion and policy making. It will examine the messaging, the tone and the science that shapes how climate change is presented to the public and policymakers, and look at how our community can help to drive climate action before it is too late.

The session will ask:
• Climate change impacts appear to be worse than we thought, and have come sooner than we thought. Is this the case?
• Are the traditional methods of describing climate change, in terms of 1.5 oC of warming, 7% more precipitation etc. hindering more than helping, since it is the terrifying extreme events way outside of these narrow margins that have such catastrophic impacts?
• Is the term ‘warming’ in itself problematic? Warmth is generally perceived as a good thing, a nice thing. 50 oC heat and raging wildfires however are anything but good or nice.
• How can we effectively forecast and express the extremes, and communicate the potential impact of major tipping points?
• Has the policy of putting an optimistic spin on the climate crisis failed? Does the conversation now need to pivot toward the terrifying consequences of inaction?
• How do we ensure messaging from the earth science community is impactful and effective…?

Public information:

We are very excited to welcome the following contributors to this great debate: 

•    Dr. Philippe Tulkens: Head of Unit, European Commission, DG Research & Innovation, Healthy Planet Directorate – Climate and Planetary Boundaries Unit
•    Prof. Ed Hawkins: Climate scientist, National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading. Creator of Warming Stripes: https://showyourstripes.info/s/europe/austria/vienna
•    Dr. Noel Baker: Project Manager at the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy, Climate Scientist, and Activist
•    Prof. Dr. Maartin van Aalst: Director-General and Chief Science Officer of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute
•    Dr. Elena López Gunn: Founder and Director of ICATALIST

Questions from the audience will form a significant part of this session, so come prepared, but please, please, please, be succinct..! Time is limited, so we will allow no question to take longer than 1 minute to ask....!

Convener: Nick Everard | Co-conveners: Hayley Fowler, Rolf Hut
Mon, 24 Apr, 16:15–18:00 (CEST)
Room E1
Mon, 16:15

Proponents of collaboration between scientific experts with advocacy and activist groups point towards the inextricable bonds between science and politics, where neither exist in a vacuum and silence only perpetuates the problems research seeks to resolve. Opponents cite the threat to integrity: scientists associated with or engaging in activism risk producing an image of science as a political group rather than a dispassionate process of knowledge generation. Such an image may erode public trust and risk political retaliation through funding cuts. Identifying the threshold between maintaining scientific integrity and motivating change is therefore critical, as it strikes the balance between preserving the academy and positioning science to have real impact. As many researchers are driven to science by their own passions, a considerable intersect exists between the desire to do science and to see beneficial, just change in real terms. This makes for a suitable debate where the lines scientists walk can be discussed, such as the balance between scientists actively engaging advocates and activists, and the scientist’s positions as a neutral broker of information. This debate will be driven questions seeking to demarcate this boundary, asking: Is there an ethical imperative for geoscientists to engage with climate-advocacy groups? How can scientists best support advocates for evidence-based societal and environmental change? How political should science be, and is there a line which, when crossed, may threaten scientific integrity? Is there space for both knowledge brokers and science advocates when pursuing change? Should scientist look towards grass-root movements or engage with governmental institutions? What does scientific activism look like, and can it be implemented across a range of actions?

Public information:
  • Dr Katharine Hayhoe: Paul Whitfield Horn Distinguished Professor, Texas Tech University, and Chief Scientist, The Nature Conservancy
  • Anna Maddrick, Legal Analyst, Stop Ecocide International
  • Pratik Patil: Cooperation and Transformative Governance Research Group, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
  • Laura Smillie: Policy Analyst, Science for Democracy and Evidence-Informed Policymaking, European Commission
Convener: Kirsten v. Elverfeldt | Co-conveners: Viktor J. Bruckman, Simon Clark, Christina West
Tue, 25 Apr, 10:45–12:30 (CEST)
Room E1
Tue, 10:45

Following on from the success of the 2022 EGU EDI Union Symposium 'Scientific Neocolonialism: What is it and why should you care?', the EGU would like to expand the conversation surrounding this important topic. In particular, the aim of this Great Debate is to hear from people that have experienced neocolonialism in science, acknowledge the issues, explore solutions that our scientific community and the EGU can implement to raise awareness, and discuss examples to eliminate neocolonialism from our geoscience ecosystem. In particular, we will continue conversations on the following questions:
- Why is it vital that local communities participate in geoscientific research?
- Which barriers are preventing inclusion of local communities within the geoscience research ecosystem (this will include personal testimonials from geoscientists from under-represented countries)?
- What are the tools and mechanisms to advocate and amplify the voices and recognition of local knowledge in geoscience research?
- How can research funding help geoscientists construct meaningful and fair scientific exchange with local communities where international science is conducted?
- How can institutions help geoscientists to conduct science including local communities?

Public information:

We are very excited to welcome the following contributors to this Great Debate: 

  • Dr Helen Glaves, outgoing EGU President, British Geological Survey data scientist.
  • Dr Rebecca Haacker, Director National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Education & Outreach, Program Director for Integrated Activities, Geosciences Directorate, National Science Foundation.
  • Ms Wendy Khumalo, Palaeoclimatology PhD candidate, The National Laboratory of Age Determination, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
  • Dr Tim Rawling, Chief Executive Officer, AuScope Limited, committee member Geoscience Indigenous Collaboration and Engagement Specialist Group.
  • Dr Anouk Beniest, Department of Geology and Geochemistry, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Bring your questions, opinions and voices to come and debate scientific neo-colonialism in geosciences!

Convener: Robyn Pickering | Co-conveners: Anouk Beniest, Barbara Ervens, Giuliana Panieri, Loyuá Costa
Thu, 27 Apr, 10:45–12:30 (CEST)
Room E1
Thu, 10:45

Is social media a worthwhile vector for communicating science and reaching non-expert audiences? Proponents of social media highlight its ability for bringing otherwise inaccessible research to a global network, spreading research to new audiences whilst cultivating a following. The public can be updated with discoveries in real-time, without the potentially modifying lens of traditional media. And with content under the control of individuals or small groups communicators can flex and nurture their creativity. But communicating through social media often requires sacrificing nuance and accuracy for the extremely short time-frames of attention and engagement. Critics also state that it requires a considerable time-investment and money, which may otherwise distract from core research activities. Amongst this is also the fear that social media exposes communicators to the possibility of derision and hateful conduct. In this Great Debate, our panellists will be asking if effective communication on social media is possible or whether scientists are better investing their efforts elsewhere.

Public information:

We are thrilled to welcome the below panellists to this great debate: 

-Dr Bethan Davies, Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography, Newcastle University.

-Dr Solmaz Mohadjer, Interdisciplinary Geoscientist, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems.

-Prof Stuart Lane, Professor in Geomorphology, University of Lausanne.

Convener: Jenny Turton | Co-conveners: Simon Clark, Nazimul Islam
Mon, 24 Apr, 14:00–15:45 (CEST)
Room E1
Mon, 14:00

The global scientific community agrees that science, knowledge and publications should be open and accessible to everyone. Within the international science landscape, however, different strategies are applied to reach this goal within the near future. Various global or national initiatives are pursued to introduce transformative agreements between publishers and research institutions or libraries to accelerate the transformation from subscription-based to open access publishing. An increasing number of funders/research institutions set up institutional agreement with publishers to cover publication costs for their researchers. The pace and nature of establishing such agreements greatly varies between research institutions in various countries which leads to disadvantages for researchers across the world.

More than 20 years ago, EGU pioneered its publication model of open access publishing with open peer review for transparency and high quality in publishing. In this tradition of these values, this plenary discussion is aimed at bringing together representatives of European research institutions and funding agencies. The discussion will be focused on how and why different approaches towards fully open access publishing are pursued and on possible steps to achieve jointly and efficiently the common goal of open access publishing and open science on European and wider levels.

Public information:

Access to science, knowledge and publications should be open to everyone!

How can we reach this common goal? What are current challenges?

In pursuit of this goal, the Great Debate brings together four experts in various aspects of Open Access Publishing to discuss current challenges and potential solutions:

  • Françoise Rousseau-Hans, Coordinator of the French Unified Consortium of Higher Education and Research Organizations for Access to Digital Publications (COUPERIN)
  • Nicola Spaldin, Chair of the Working Group of Open Science, European Research Council
  • Colleen Campbell, Strategic Advisor for Max Planck Digital Library, Coordinator of the Open Access 2020 Initiative (OA2020)
  • Johan Rooryck, Executive Director cOAlition S, the international initiative to make full and immediate Open Access to research publications

The Great Debate will cover specific topics, including:

  • the advantages and disadvantages of agreements between publishers and institutions
  • reasons why fully open access publishers, like Copernicus, are not prioritized in negotiations of such agreements
  • recommendations for improving national guidelines on open access publishing, 
  • the costs that are associated with the publication of scientific papers.

The insights gained from the Great Debate will help scientists to make informed decisions on the choice of journals for publishing their work. In addition, it will contribute to recommendations for improving guidelines on open access publishing at national and international levels.


Convener: Barbara Ervens | Co-convener: Denis-Didier Rousseau
Thu, 27 Apr, 08:30–10:15 (CEST)
Room E1
Thu, 08:30