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“Getting hands-on experience is vital”

Kathryn Goodenough is a Principal Geologist with the British Geological Survey (BGS) in Edinburgh. A member of the Geological Society’s Council, she is Chief Editor of the Society’s new Open Access journal, Earth Science, Systems and Society (ES3).

1 March 2021

Kathryn is a great believer in gaining practical knowledge from fieldwork

What’s a typical day for you?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I had no such thing as a typical day. I might be in a meeting room in Brussels, a conference hall in Vancouver, an office in Freetown, or a mine in Zimbabwe – or, occasionally, at my desk in Edinburgh. The pandemic has changed all that, and now a typical day is spent at my laptop on the dining table at home, with an excursion out to walk, run or cycle in the Pentland Hills most days. My work is still very varied though! My research focuses on the critical raw materials that are essential for low-carbon technology, and although field and analytical work aren’t possible right now, we have a lot of data already collected, so I’m spending plenty of time writing science papers and proposals, and preparing talks for a range of audiences. We’ve just started a new NERC-funded project (LiFT: Lithium for Future Technology) on lithium resources in the crust, and I’m working with the team to get that up and running. Within BGS, I also have a role in developing international projects, and working with partners in geological surveys around the world. All of this, along with a range of external roles, project and people management, and an enormous number of Zoom meetings and emails, keeps me very busy indeed!

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

In the past, it has been the opportunity to travel, to work all over the world and work with an incredibly wide range of people. Even though I can’t travel at the moment, online communication means that I can keep up collaboration with people worldwide, which is pretty amazing.

Tell us more about ES3

ES3 is a new Geological Society journal, for which I am Chief Editor. It’s Gold Open Access, which means that authors do have to pay an Article Processing Charge (APC), but the APCs are being kept as low as possible and the Society is making absolutely no profit. The APCs cover the costs of the editorial system, paper production and online hosting, plus other journal costs such as waivers for authors in lower income countries. The journal will cover the broad range of the Earth sciences, but in particular it will be a home for interdisciplinary papers, especially on subjects where Earth science has a role to play in addressing major societal challenges, such as geohazards and the race to net zero.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone hoping to work in your field?

I am still a great believer in the importance of building up practical knowledge. For me, that has been particularly focused around fieldwork, but fieldwork isn’t accessible to everyone, and there are plenty of other ways for geoscientists to acquire practical knowledge – logging core, working in labs, investigating microscopic features through a scanning electron microscope, building 3D models… Whatever approach you take, getting hands-on experience is vital. Collecting and working with your own data will help you to understand the uncertainty associated with those data, and how they could have been interpreted differently. Every bit of practical experience we gain as Earth scientists helps us to understand the incredible complexity of the Earth system, and, indeed, how it impacts on wider society!

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