Friday, April 7, 2017

Geoethics, professionalism and me – 
social and ethical responsibilities of the 21st century geoscientist

Nic Bilham gives a talk at the GSL (Geological Society of London) - Western Regional Group on 18th April 2017 entitled "Geoethics, professionalism and me – social and ethical responsibilities of the 21st century geoscientist".

Geoethics is an increasingly visible topic. Sessions explicitly addressing ethical dilemmas and ethical practice in a range of geological specialisms and sectors now regularly feature in international meetings. Learned and professional bodies including the Geological Society, American Geosciences Institute (AGI) and American Geophysical Union (AGU) are increasingly addressing a wide range of ethical challenges in our science, and explicitly linking ethical and professional behaviours. 
Why is this happening – and does it matter? The work of geoscientists has always had ethical, social and political drivers and consequences, whether or not we have recognised these linkages, from understanding and living with natural hazards to infrastructure development and the provision of energy, water and mineral resources.  Geoscientists now have more important roles than ever to play in addressing urgent new (or newly recognised) challenges faced by humanity, as we seek to live sustainably and equitably on our crowded planet. But these challenges are complex, interdisciplinary and politically and publicly contested.  We are therefore likely to find ourselves thrust into (sometimes fraught) ethical battles, whether we like it or not.
In this talk I will highlight some of the geoethical challenges we now face, explore the link between ethical and professional behaviours, and consider the role of learned and professional bodies like the Geological Society in supporting geoscientists as they seek to play their rightful part in society.  I will outline the work of the International Association for Promoting Geoethics (IAPG) to put geoethics at the heart of all geoscience, rather than treat it as a fringe interest for a few specialists. I will also discuss the opportunity this 'ethical turn' in geoscientific thinking presents to demonstrate the huge benefits our science provides to society, and its potential to help to deliver global social justice.

Nic Bilham is Director of Policy and Communications at the Geological Society, where he has worked since 1997 in a variety of roles. With his team he is responsible for the Society's education activities, engagement with policy-makers, communications through social and traditional media, links with other organisations in the UK and internationally, and development of the Society's science programme. He also leads on strategy development, working with Council and staff colleagues.
Nic's first degree was in History and Philosophy of Science (University of Cambridge), and has an MSc in Science and Technology Policy (University of Sussex). He is European Coordinator and an Executive Committee member of the International Association for Promoting Geoethics (IAPG), and a trustee of Geology for Global Development (GfGD).

IAPG - International Association for Promoting Geoethics: