In The Field

EGU: Farewell

The EGU goes on until Friday, but my time here is over. It has so far been another solid European geosciences meeting, although certainly not all talks were as good as you might hope.

One thing is language. The organizers ask that all lecturers must be able to give their talks in ‘more or less’ fluent English. Well, I certainly attended a few talks which suffered more than just a little from, err, let’s say ‘handicapped’ English.

Questions from the audience were encouraged, and usually they do add interesting aspects to a given topic. But discussion doesn’t make much sense if a lecturer seems not to understand what he or she is being asked. There is an issue of politeness and consideration: Do you really need to query someone in a strong Australian accent if it’s plain to see that the poor guy up there – Malaysian, Ukrainian, French, whatever – is in deep linguistic trouble?

Another thing is the use of formula in presentations. Of course, mathematics is part of the game, whether in remote sensing or in modelling fluid dynamics. But if your slides contain little else than rows and rows of equations you can’t hope to reach out to anyone except to the die-hard experts.

But these are minor points. By and large the meeting had, and has still, plenty of enlightening talks to offer. Indeed, some North American attendees told me they prefer the more human proportions of the EGU to its oversized American counterpart, the annual AGU meeting. Vienna’s ‘old-Europe’ charm, I would say, adds quite a lot to the appeal of the EGU.

And, after all, the meetings serve not least as a marketplace for new ideas, jobs and collaborations in the geosciences. I don’t know how many participants have teamed up with new scientific partners, and it’s hard to guess how many fruitful ideas have been conceived during these days. But from the many happy faces I saw during sessions I guess it must be plenty.


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