The Great Debate: Hands on or hands off?
Monday, 9th April 2018
Austria Center Vienna
EGU Great Debate on Expertise
European Geosciences Union
General Assembly 2018
Convened by: Caspar Hewett, Jonathan Dick, Paul Quinn,
Mark Wilkinson and Cristina Garcia Fernandez
In recent years there has been a growing distrust of experts in the public
imagination which has been expressed in numerous debates from Brexit to the
US presidential election. This gives rise to serious questions about the role
of scientists in policy making and the political sphere. As geoscientists,
our disciplines can have a real impact on the way humanity organises itself,
so what should our role in that be? There are serious tensions here between
the desire for our knowledge to have real impact and make a difference, the
need for scientific detachment and objectivity, and respect for broader
perspectives and for democracy itself.
The key questions for this debate are:
Should geoscientists restrict themselves to knowledge generation and stay out of
the policy world?
Or should we be getting involved and making change happen?
Should our voices as experts be heard louder than others?
Or does evidence-based policy undermine democracy?
Should we be hands on or keep our hands off?
This Great Debate will address these questions and critically examine the
controversies surrounding expertise and policy.
You can tweet about the debate using #tgd18 and
Elena López Gunn,
Chair: Dr Caspar Hewett
The Great Debate
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Tweet about the debate using #tgd18
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Dr Elena López Gunn
Elena López Gunn is the Founder and Director of
and a Visiting Fellow at University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.
Elena finished her PhD at King's College, London. She also holds a Masters
from the University of Cambridge, and a Master in Investigative Journalism,
data and visualization from the University Juan Carlos I with “El Mundo” newspaper.
She was an Associate Professor at IE Business school and a Visiting Senior Fellow
at the London School of Economics as Alcoa Research Fellow. Professionally, Elena
has collaborated with a number of organizations including UNESCO, FAO, UNDP,
EU DG Research and Innovation, universities (Spanish and Dutch) and river basin
agencies, the England and Wales Environment Agency, as well as the private sector
like Repsol, and NGOs like Transparency International-Spanish Chapter.
She has published on a range of topics mainly related to water security,
social innovation, collaborative decision making, water governance,
evaluation of public policy, knowledge management and transfer.
Her current main focus is on climate change adaptation and the role of green
infrastructure, as well as groundwater strategic management. Elena lives in Madrid
with her husband, Dave, and her three fabulous children.
Minni Jain is the operations,director of the
Partnership which has revived 7 rivers through community action in arid
areas of Rajasthan, India. The principles of this work in India are proving to be
beneficial to understanding and finding solutions to floods in the UK.
Minni is an editor of the Holistic Science Journal. She also helps co-ordinate a
series of workshops called Process and Pilgrimage which explore the relation
between Science and Spirit through dialogues on knowing, knowledge and experience.
Minni’s skill is in bringing unlikely combinations of people together in order
to bring about the real action needed to enable change in complex systems.
Her driving force has always been in keeping the focus on the search for the deeper
spiritual meaning of life, to aspire to that which is higher than ourselves.
Her work has always tried to initiate and connect grass -root level movements,
in India, which is where she originally comes from and in the UK
where she now lives. Her motivation is to enable a voice for the poor, the
marginalised and the dispossessed using all her abilities.
Dr Paul Quinn
Paul Quinn is senior lecturer in Catchment Hydrology at Newcastle University, UK. His research
interests focus on catchment instrumentation, GIS and modelling. The work includes
implementing a wide range of soft engineered interventions for diffuse pollution
management and flood risk mitigation. Equally the work includes liaison with catchment
stakeholders and regional & national policy bodies. He has worked closely with Defra
& the Environment Agency (EA) and many rural organisations and NGO’s. Paul actively promotes
the topic of Catchment Systems Engineering as a proactive method to solve environmental problems.
In 2016 he was appointed as a special advisor to the
Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee on the “Future Flood Prevention”.
In 2015 NERC he was awarded an Industrial Fellowship at ARUP with the broad goal of
‘Delivering Natural Flood Management to Industry’. In 2015 also he won the
ICE Robert Stephenson Award for the Belford catchment flood management scheme in
partnership with the EA and AMCO.
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