Virtual Public Lecture Geological Society London October

Oct 12, 2020 · London, United Kingdom

Lost in Translation: why talking about geoscience is so difficult

Hazel Gibson, Sustainable Earth Institute

For many, geology is an unfamiliar and intimidating subject. Most people don’t think about geology until they have to, such as when they see it represented in dramatically destructive movies or think about the lurking threat of hazards, both natural and human-caused. When members of the public are asked about geology, they often say that they don’t know anything about it; so, when geoscientists need to talk about new geological technologies, geological resources or risk preparedness, they can at first find themselves facing a barrier of disengagement or fear. Even talking about the less controversial parts of our science can be a struggle, as non-geologists often seem to switch off just as you launch into your explanation of why ice is actually a mineral.

The problem is that conversations between geologists and the public aren’t just necessary – they are essential. Combating the rise of misinformation around science subjects is a constant challenge and it’s not one that can be solved by throwing more facts into the ring. The good thing is that there are ways to address these difficulties in translating our science, and geoscientists themselves are part of the solution. Geologists are more than a stereotype and our diverse community holds the key to creating meaningful discussions between geoscientists and the public, by communicating values with the facts. But in order for this to work, we as geoscientists need to understand how ‘the gap’ between experts and non-experts doesn’t just come from a lack of public knowledge, but also from the way geoscientists think and talk about their subject. By acknowledging the role that all experts have in making our subject accessible and looking for the places where our own biases enable disconnection with the people we are speaking to, we can draw geoscience into the public, where it belongs.

Dr Hazel Gibson is the Communications Officer for the European Geosciences Union. She has previously worked extensively around public perceptions of geoscience and science communication, including studying geothermal power, subsurface visualisations and the influence of regional geological heritage. Combining experience in industry and science communication with an interdisciplinary research approach, Hazel has developed a whole new understanding of how expert and non-expert geoscientists conceptualise the geological subsurface and how that understanding can be used to improve the effectiveness of our communications.

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Evening lecture

17.30 Tea and coffee served in the lower library

18.00 Lecture begins

18.45 Questions and answers

19.00 Lecture ends and guests depart

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