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Articles

Bruce Yardley appointed Chief Geologist

Bruce Yardley (Leeds University) has been appointed Chief Geologist by The Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD) of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Chartership news

Chartership Officer Bill Gaskarth reports on a projected new logo for use by CGeols, advice on applications and company training schemes

Climate Change Statement Addendum

The Society has published an addendum to 'Climate Change: Evidence from the Geological Record' (November 2010) taking account of new research

Cracking up in Lincolnshire

Oliver Pritchard, Stephen Hallett, and Timothy Farewell consider the role of soil science in maintaining the British 'evolved road'

Critical metals

Kathryn Goodenough* on a Society-sponsored hunt for the rare metals that underpin new technologies

Déja vu all over again

As Nina Morgan Discovers, the debate over HS2 is nothing new...

Done proud

Ted Nield hails the new refurbished Council Room as evidence that the Society is growing up

Earth Science Week 2014

Fellows - renew, vote for Council, and volunteer for Earth Science Week 2014!  Also - who is honoured in the Society's Awards and Medals 2014.

Fookes celebrated

Peter Fookes (Imperial College, London) celebrated at Society event in honour of Engineering Group Working Parties and their reports

Geology - poor relation?

When are University Earth Science departments going to shed their outmoded obsession with maths, physics and chemistry?

Nancy Tupholme

Nancy Tupholme, Librarian of the Society and the Royal Society, has died, reports Wendy Cawthorne.

Power, splendour and high camp

Ted Nield reviews the refurbishment of the Council Room, Burlington House

The Sir Archibald Geikie Archive at Haslemere Educational Museum

You can help the Haslemere Educational Museum to identify subjects in Sir Archibald Geikie's amazing field notebook sketches, writes John Betterton.

Top bananas

Who are the top 100 UK practising scientists?  The Science Council knows...

Letters

GEO COVER_DEC11JAN12 for web.jpgThis page has been created to facilitate rapid and timely interchange of opinion. Each month (space permitting) a selection of these letters will be published in Geoscientist Online , the colour monthly magazine of the Society Fellowship.

Correspondence strings are listed in the order that they are begun, the most recent string at the top. Within each string, letters are listed with the first letter of the string at the top, and subsequent letters below.

This page contains letters from the current year.  The archive of letters from previous years are accessible by clicking the links to the left.

If you wish to express an opinion, please email the Editor. Letters should be as short as possible, preferably c.300 words long or fewer. You may also write to:

Dr Ted Nield, Editor, Geoscientist, c/o The Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BG.
  • Please note that letters will be edited for publication. This particularly applies to versions  printed in the magazine.  The Editor reserves the right not to publish letters, at his discretion. Writers should submit their letters electronically to ensure rapid publication. All views expressed below are the responsibility of their authors alone.TN

Sorry, but 'sorry' doesn't cut it 23 March 2018

Received 23 MARCH 2018
Published 23 MARCH 2018
From Chris Milne
Sir, With regards to Jonathan Silk’s response to the ongoing online CPD system debacle, unfortunately, ‘sorry for any inconvenience’ really won’t do to explain two years of delay, even assuming the latest deadline for reinstatement is met. I note that we are now, somewhat richly, being chased for CPD declarations. 

Can I politely suggest that any further rolling out of the new CPD system - and any requests for CDP declarations - be suspended until such time as the Society manages to put in place a modern online recording system?  Alternatively can we all be allowed two years to get things right?  Responsibilities for CPD cannot only be one way.

Chris Milne

When, oh when, will CPD online reporting come back? - reply 27 February 2018

Received 27 FEBRUARY 2018
Published 27 FEBRUARY 2018
From Jonathan Silk
Sir, We had to suspend the original online CPD system back in 2016 due to a serious risk in the way it handled data. It was based on old and unsupported technology that the Society had been planning to replace for some time. Unfortunately, the timing of the old system’s failure did not coincide with that of bringing onstream its replacement, which is part of the complete overhaul of the Fellowship IT system that we have been engaged in since late 2015.

The good news is that we are almost there and that before the end of June this year we will be rolling out the new system including online CPD recording as well as other features. Apologies that this has taken some time but we felt that it was important to get the new system right before announcing its arrival. More to follow – but you read it here first…

Jonathan Silk, Director of Finance & Operations

Still waiting for CPD online reporting 19 February 2018

Received 19 FEBRUARY 2018
Published 19 FEBRUARY 2018
From Mark Godden

Sir, I feel compelled to forward a few sentences in staunch but unhopeful support of the letter recently published in Geoscientist Online by Chris Milne, regarding the Society’s long absent online CPD reporting facility. I can only reiterate the sentiment expressed in my previous (but alas, wholly ineffective) letter of June 2016 on the same subject where I mentioned that I thought professionalism should start at home.

As a Chartered Fellow who lives way out in the sticks, the online CPD facility (along with the ever-excellent Geoscientist magazine) is one of the few tangible benefits I expect to routinely receive for my £319 annual subscription to the Geological Society. Apologies at this point to those who consider it gauche to mention money; please make allowances because I’m a Portlander and thus, luckily, unafflicted by such social constraints.

I too would love to know when I might expect to see the CPD reporting facility’s oft-promised but as yet unfulfilled return. [insert tumbleweed moment here]…

Mark Godden

Peer review problems 15 February 2018

Received 15 FEBRUARY 2018
Published 15 FEBRUARY 2018
From Neil Mitchell

Sir, I agree with John Cope's comments (Soapbox, Geoscientist 28.01 February 2018) though suspect he may even have been optimistic.  There is some (admittedly only anecdotal) evidence of academic staff being encouraged to put less time into reviewing, presumably as there is little direct reward to the university.  Unfortunately, given the increasingly commercial environment of UK universities, solutions to this problem probably involve more direct rewards to employers, though none of the options seems palatable. 

For example, journals could pay for reviews or adopt quota systems (publishers only accepting articles if their host institutions were supporting peer review adequately).  The former option would make publishing more expensive and the latter would be bureaucratic.  One could argue that universities in gathering grants and tuition fees of PhD students on the basis of our research productivity benefit from the free efforts of reviewers at present, so there seems to be a mismatch in our system if peer review is not valued.

Neil Mitchell

When, oh when, will CPD online reporting come back? 13 February 2018

Received 13 FEBRUARY 2018
Published 13 FEBRUARY 2018
From Chris Milne
Sir, Try as I might I can get no answer as to why we no longer have a system for recording our CPD online, more than two years after the mysterious technical issues that took the system offline.  What is going on?  We are told first of all that this would be restored once a new CPD system had been put in place – but this deadline is well passed - and instead we have effectively paper system with guidance documents that cannot be accessed through the website.  Given the added complexity of the new CDP system (now far in excess of even the ICE requirements – but that’s another story), an online version is even more important

I used to explain smugly to members of other professional bodies the simple and useful Geol Soc CPD system, but the situation now appears so embarrassing that no-one in Burlington House can be bothered even to acknowledge my emails on the subject.

CPD records are a vital matter for professional geologists and hence a key function of the Society; I would welcome any attempts to get a proper explanation of this debacle.

Chris Milne

Editing Scientific English 13 February 2018

Received 13 FEBRUARY 2018
Published 13 FEBRUARY 2018
From Frank O'Reilly

Sir, I fully endorse John Cope’s Soapbox (Geoscientist 28.01, February 2018) but would go further than his comments on ‘elementary spelling mistakes.’ In fact in some cases the standard of English is such as to undermine the integrity and comprehensibility of the paper. English is an international scientific language and is often the medium of first choice for foreign conferences, journals and researchers. We may have a scenario where a research paper from a foreign geologist passes through various stages from conference to peer review, editing and publishing in a foreign English-language journal, being ‘seen’ by various foreign experts, who add their own ‘national errors’ to the mix and no native English-speaker in sight. The British are not blameless either as their glib usage of idiom and wit flummoxes many foreigners.

First, we have to accept that English does not belong to the British or Americans and also welcome the growth of scientific journals in emerging economies far from the traditional metropolitan centres. Secondly, we have to decide if there is actually a problem and how great it is. Solving the problem, that’s the hard bit. Certainly, clear precise abstracts in the major languages would help. So would a simplified English. Scholars often write in long sentences with clauses and parentheses and, inevitably, the text becomes blurred by their native grammatical structures. Perhaps international bodies could be set up and books of guidelines of scientific English produced. English language study groups, formal or informal, in the universities would also help. I don’t think we can just sit back and say ‘it will sort itself out’, as scientists mix more. In fact the situation could become entrenched and worsen, aggravated by the acceptable casual language of online research offerings.

Frank O'Reilly

Protecting our data? 08 February 2018

Received 08 FEBRUARY 2018
Published 08 FEBRUARY 2018
From Jonathan Cowie

Sir, In the early 21st Century, post 1984 when information is mouse-click transferred in seconds, most of us are aware of the need for data protection.  However, I accept that few are as quite as concerned as I; perhaps most rely on things like the Data Protection Act of 1998, due to be tightened up very shortly with the introduction of European legislation under 'GDPR'.  Indeed, the Geological Society has a legal duty to protect our data: things like your address and e-mail will not be given to third parties unless you have signed up for access to the Society's partner libraries and publishers.  But there is a difference between 'good' (let alone 'competent') and 'best practice'.

So after many years of attending Society events I was saddened that for some events it was now using a third-party organisation to manage bookings.  So now one has to register with a third party account, and here the least of my worries was that I'd have to create yet another unique password of at least six digits, one of which should be a numeral and another an Elvish rune and which most likely I'd eventually forget.  What really worried me was the third party's 'privacy' or, more accurately, 'data dissemination' policy.  Here, few actually read such statements but simply click 'accept'.  (Such souls regularly get spam and cold sales calls.) To save you the bother, I'll briefly summarise it for you.

Past a few paragraphs of beguiling 'we will never sell your details to other parties' you hit the worrying stuff.  They will freely share your data with their business partners (which, of course, is not selling) and that's the least of it: they will import any data their business partners have on you to create a profile and this they will too share.  At this point some of you may say, 'well, if you are that worried then create a unique e-mail.'  But that will not work as you need to give your name to attend the Geol Soc event, besides it also means creating another six-digit password, with at least one numeral and a Klingon glyph. Even then, that also will not work as the 'privacy policy' states that they will harvest the IP address of your PC terminal or mobile phone. They've got you either way.

Remember, computer system hacks occur daily and that large multinational companies – including major IT providers and high street banks – have had their customers details stolen. Indeed, this January it became apparent the fitness app Strava revealed map outlines of military bases as personnel jogged around perimeters and paths: worse, covert patrols could be identified!  Now, you may not be military but knowing your daily routine would be of use to, say, potential burglars among others.

So is the Geol Soc employing a third party, online event manager undertaking 'competent', 'good' or 'best' data protection practice?  Well, certainly it is not 'best' because it could provide an alternative method of registering. However, it is better than 'competent' as having contacted the Society they quickly registered me for an event without sharing my data.  Well done the Geol Soc meetings staff!  However, the purpose of this article is to alert fellow Fellows to the issue and to encourage the Geological Society to always provide an alternate, data-secure method of registration even if, ideally, I'd like them to desist from using third parties

From Jonathan Cowie FGS whose Climate Change: Biological & Human Aspects is available from Cambridge University Press. He can be found online at www.science-com.concatenation.org.

Diphthongs out? (You mean 'digraphs' shurely?) 07 February 2018

Received 07 FEBRUARY 2018
Published 07 FEBRUARY 2018
From David Smith

Sir, I think I may have played a small part in the Stratigraphy Commission’s recent recommendation.  As a contributor to both the 1982 and 1989 Geologic Time Scales of Harland and others, it’s at least 35 years since I accustomed myself to leaving out that redundant ‘a’ in all things paleo.  Imagine then, my horror when editing a recent Special Publication to find that the conscientious staff of the Publishing House were replacing all of my carefully edited instances of ‘paleo’ with the dreaded ‘palaeo’!  (As the topic of the GSSP was stratigraphy, there were a good many of them.) 

Taking up the cudgels of self-righteous pedantry, I insisted that – at the very least – the names of Time Scale units should remain as Paleocene, Paleozoic and so on, this being the form in which they were being defined internationally.  Although I lost the argument at the time (see GSSP 404, passim), I was informed that the Commission would add the matter to their agenda; think of the savings in paper and ink that will now result from this long-overdue reform.  Who knows, perhaps ‘geologic’ and ‘stratigraphic’ (also championed by Brian Harland) will follow in due course.

Meanwhile, I was amused to spot an anachronistic ‘palaeontological’ in the Geoscientist piece by John Cope, directly opposite ‘Diphthongs Out!!’.  From our days together on the Stratigraphy Committee (as it was then), John may remember Alf Whitaker describing my views on stratigraphy as ‘post-modern’ – I took it as a compliment.

David Smith

Diphthongs out! 30 January 2018

Received 30 JANUARY 2018
Published 30 JANUARY 2018
From Chris Vincett

Sir, How can we agree (Geoscientist 28.01 February 2018)  to change 'Palaeozoic' to 'Paleozoic', but continue spelling 'Palaeontology' in this way? In justifying the change as due to “adoption of international spellings”, do we mean 'International', or 'American'? Does the adoption of different rules for 'technical' and 'colloquial' spellings really make any sense?

On the facing page, Professor John Cope vents his frustration about increasing difficulties about reviewing and elementary spelling mistakes from younger researchers. This kind of decision adds to the confusion, rather than helping.

I’m not saying we should never agree to any changes. However, changes should be consistent.  This appears to be highly inconsistent.

Chris Vincett CGeol