Jen Roberts StrathclydeUse of virtual sphere boosts numbers at annual geosciences event

Dr Jen Roberts, Lecturer - Chancellor’s Fellow in Energy, University of Strathclyde

Every year in early May, tens of thousands of geoscientists descend on Vienna for the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly. Not this year. In March, EGU took the laudable decision to move the conference online, rebranding it EGU: Sharing Geoscience Online 2020 and delivering a programme of activities to foster scientific communication during the coronavirus pandemic.

A number of SCCS members and partners participated in the live activities for EGU2020, which took place last week; convening scientific sessions, showcasing their research via displays (materials in place of oral talks or posters), participating in scheduled live online chats, and engaging in webinar-style debates and symposia.

Highlights for SCCS partners include:

Versatile subsurface storage for future energy systems  Niklas Heinemann (University of Edinburgh) co-convened this enormously engaged session, which highlights new developments in CCS and subsurface energy storage such as hydrogen and heat storage. Several SCCS geoscientists presented their work including new data on flue gas hydrate formation for CCS, the HyStorPor project, and analogues for hydrogen storage and hydrogen seepage, as well as hydrogen storage capacity estimates.

Emission pathways, carbon budgets, and climate-carbon response   This featured new work from Vivian Scott (University of Edinburgh) and his colleagues on the reversibility of climate change impacts,  the session also includes several BECCS displays.

Social science meets geoscience   I co-convened this popular session, which showcased research tackling topics at the interplay between social and geoscience, and featuring outputs from the EU ACTOM project.

Exploration, utilisation and monitoring of conventional and unconventional geothermal resources  The largest session under the Energy, Resources and the Environment theme featured work from SCCS members on the carbon footprint of low temperature geothermal heat.

Modelling the potential for soil carbon storage using biochar   This session showcased new research from the UK Biochar Research Centre.

Great Debate: Are forests a solution to climate change?   Exploring the role of forests in the climate system, this webinar touched on issues around carbon dioxide (CO2) removal and challenges relevant to BECCS.

Union Symposia: Communicating A Global Climate Crisis and Values versus Fact were very relevant for understanding challenges in communicating climate action in our current politicised environment fuelled by fake news, populism and misinformation.

Displays were also presented on several SCCS affiliated projects, including ECCSEL (Svelvik CO2 lab experiments here and here; IFE geochemistry labs here).

Moving the activities online, free of charge, via a range of involvement routes widened participation immensely. Around 18,000 abstracts formed a programme of 701 scientific sessions; 11,380 presentation materials accompanied the abstracts and received 6,297 comments.

While around 16,000 people typically attend EGU each year in person, last week saw over 26,200 individual users join 721 live text chats and post 200,400 messages. For many attendees juggling childcare responsibilities, EGU2020 integrated into home schools.

While the live activities are over, there are plenty of ways to get newly engaged, or to take forward the discussions. The display materials and associated online comments forums are open until the end of May.

So, if you want to learn more about the research presented, check out the display materials and ask any questions you have via comments. The debates and symposia (and associated presentation materials) are available on YouTube.

Participation was critical to the success of EGU2020. Many thanks to EGU, the session convenors, and to all those who have contributed to the online conference in whatever way they could.

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