Communicating Contested Geoscience: New Strategies for Public Engagement

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Event Dates: 
June 20, 2014
The Geological Society, Burlington House, London, UK


A one-day conference on how to communicate key geoscience challenges to the public

Geological issues are increasingly intruding on the everyday lives of people across the UK. Whether it be onshore exploration and extraction of oil and gas, subsurface injection of waters for geothermal power or deep storage of carbon and radioactive waste, many communities across the country are being confronted with controversial geo-engineering interventions under their backyard.
Alongside the complex scientific and technical challenges, an additional problem is that, to most people, the geological subsurface is an unknown realm. That combination presents particular difficulties for professional geoscientists communicating what they do and what they know to the lay public. Developing public participation strategies that effectively engage with citizens, communities, and stakeholder groups, requires geoscientists to better appreciate what the public knows and what they have concerns about.

This conference will be a forum to bring together geoscientists from universities, industry and government alongside specialists in communication and public engagement to explore the challenges of communicating contested geological issues to the wider public.

The meeting, which is aimed at emerging geoscience professionals and experienced practitioners who wish to better engage with the public, will focus principally on three current and pressing societal concerns in the UK:
Radioactive Waste Disposal
Shale Gas / Fracking
Carbon Capture and Storage

These themes will be explored through a mix of keynote talks and expert panel discussions, alongside active Q & A from an audience of geoscience and communication practitioners.
Confirmed speakers include:

Shale Gas

Mark Lappin, Director of Subsurface, Centrica Energy
David Mackay, Chief Scientist, DECC / University of Cambridge
Brigitte Nerlich, Professor of Science, Language & Society, Institute of Science and Society, Nottingham University
Mike Stephenson, Director of Science, British Geological Survey

Carbon Capture & Storage

Kirsty Anderson, Public Engagement Manager, Global CCS Institute
Andrew Chadwick, Head of CO2 Storage Research, British Geological Survey
Jon Gluyas, Professor in CCS and Geo-energy, Durham University
Clair Gough, University of Manchester

Nuclear Waste

Bruce Cairns, Office of Nuclear Development, DECC
Rebecca Lunn, Professor of Engineering Geosciences, University of Strathclyde / CoRWM
Phil Richardson, Senior Consultant, Galson Sciences  Ltd
Bruce Yardley, Chief Geologist, NDA RWM

Public Engagement

Patrick Devine-Wright, Professor of Human Geography, University of Exeter
David Manning, Professor of Soil Science, Newcastle University / incoming President of The Geological Society
Nick Pidgeon, Professor of Environmental Psychology, Cardiff University
David Reiner, Judge Business School, University of Cambridge
Paul Younger, Rankine Chair of Engineering, University of Glasgow


Iain Stewart (Plymouth)
Zoe Shipton (Strathclyde)
Clare Bond (Aberdeen)
Nick Smith (Manchester)