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Changing perceptions

27 February 2024

Dear Editors,

I found the articles on declining geoscience student enrolment numbers in the winter 2023 edition of Geoscientist very interesting and agree something needs to be done to improve matters.  There seems to be a belief among many people that geoscientists are only involved in oil and gas exploration and are therefore evil!

We must raise awareness of the diverse nature of the subject and the varied ways in which geoscientists are important, such as mineral exploration for resources (including those required for the energy transition) and large infrastructure projects (such as the siting of wind farms).

I don’t think that it should necessarily be at the top of the agenda to get geology taught in schools as a specific GCSE or A-Level course. The academics I’ve known were most interested in students who had a thorough grounding in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Geology can be incorporated in other school courses, including geography. The Society’s Earth Science Ambassadors can also help raise the profile of the fundamentals of geology (rather than focusing only on environmental issues and climate change), though the scheme should be expanded beyond London.

Government needs to be better educated too.  There are too few scientists in positions of power and influence in both local and national government.  I was shocked to discover that there is no longer an All-Party Parliamentary Group for geoscience. While the latest register lists a few environmental groups, there is nothing akin to Earth science or geology.

It’s particularly important now, while the Society’s tenure at Burlington House is questioned, that Government understands the importance of geoscience and what we do as a Society. We were lucky back in Victorian Britain to have parliamentarians on our side – the Geological Society (along with the Royal Society, Linnaean Society, Royal Society of Chemistry, Royal Astronomical Society, and Society of Antiquaries) had accommodation specifically built for us alongside the Royal Academy in Burlington House. It is a shame that the Royal Society is no longer in Burlington House as they may have had more influence on government than the combined courtyard societies.

Wendy Rees (née Cawthorne)

Ex-Geological Society Library staff

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