Engaging with Society

Preface | 2006 Achievements | Serving a Changing Society | Supporting the Knowledge Economy | Protecting our Environment | Mapping our Earth Resources | Engaging with Society | Co-operating Abroad | Providing a Stimulating Work Environment | Using GSI Services

GSI interacts with society on many levels, through its work programmes and services, it publications, its website and media publicity. It is important for GSI that the general public is aware of its mission and of the value of its contribution. This provides considerable validation for its services and makes it more likely that they will be adequately funded. Once more in 2006 the news media focused national attention on key aspects of the GSI mission. Landslide, tsunami, heritage and seabed issues featured on television news coverage as well as on a range of about 20 radio programmes, both national and local. Indeed in many regions local radio seems to be replacing local newspapers as the medium of preference for this type of coverage.

GSI coverage in print media during 2006

The extent of coverage in the print media remains a barometer of the national awareness of the importance of the GSI mission and it is gratifying to report that in 2006 this coverage remained at the same elevated level as in the previous year. The ratio of national:trade coverage increased to 70:30 in 2006, similar to the ratio of 2004, while regional media, whose average level has fallen significantly in recent years, dropped to only 6% of total.

The major theme of newspaper coverage in 2006 was natural hazards, prompted by two significant stories. One was the publication of the “Landslides in Ireland” report. Another was the progress in developing a tsunami warning system for Ireland and this coverage followed on a specific Parliamentary Question. Seabed activities were widely reported upon as in previous years, and there was particular interest in the exploration of shipwrecks and the newly established INFOMAR programme. As usual, heritage and tourism aspects of GSI work attracted publicity and the newly established airborne environmental surveys (RESI) began to create considerable interest.

The public is increasingly interacting with GSI by visiting its websites: an overall increase in visitor (not hit) numbers of 64% was registered in 2005 over the previous year and once more in 2006 there was an overall increase of 65%. As in previous years the strongest growth was recorded by www.gsi.ie and the weakest by the seabed site. The interest in the Web Mapping site was 60% groundwater, 30% general and 10% seabed. The recent pattern of website activity is summarised as follows (visitor numbers): -

GSI Website activity

The groundwater pages on the main website have been greatly improved during 2006. Data can now be viewed and queried relating to the most up-to-date national aquifer maps, vulnerability (incorporating both Water Framework Directive and Groundwater Protection Scheme work) and source protection zone maps. In addition, the Teagasc Subsoils Map is hosted on the website.

Geology Matters - GSI NewsletterThe Marketing Officer advises GSI on its marketing strategy, liaises with the media and the Department’s Press Officer, and places material and news items as appropriate in the media. GSI provides support to a small number of key publications, designed to ensure geoscience content reaches critical educational and general public readership. The Marketing Officer is involved in a range of outreach activities including exhibitions, product launches, website and International Year of Planet Earth. The “What On Earth?” Exhibition, which describes the work of the GSI, featured at a few locations in 2006, while staff organised events for both National Heritage and Irish Geology Weeks. Geology Matters, the GSI Newsletter, is produced regularly as a digital publication and is circulated to 150 persons.

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The GSI Customer Centre is a one-stop shop for customers where they can receive guidance from a designated duty geologist during normal opening hours. This year saw a drop of about 10% in the number of queries received from the public. This was the first decrease in recent years but it had been anticipated for some time that as website activity continued to increase there might be such a fall in queries. Queries come to GSI via phone, fax, mail, email or personal callers and the queries relate to all aspects of its business. While groundwater queries remained at the 2005 level, many programmes experienced decreases of 20% or more. Only bedrock queries increased – they more than doubled. The pattern of queries from the public in 2005 and 2006 is summarised below.
Queries from the public during 2005 and 2006

There continues to be significant interaction with society in the area of geological heritage. Although much of this effort is necessarily channelled into responses to planning submissions, there has been appreciable progress on completing the work for the Mineralogy and Quaternary Themes of the Irish Geological Heritage, its final themes. The list of indicative geological heritage sites is now close to finalisation and submission to the National Parks and Wildlife Service. In parallel, a list of geological heritage sites has been incorporated into the County Development or Heritage Plans of six local authorities, thus ensuring a measure of protection for these sites.

The Irelithos Project seeks to match dimension stone in State heritage buildings with quarry sources so that successful conservation work can be supported in the future. Funded by the Office of Public Works, its fieldwork is now completed and analytical work is progressing on schedule to finish in 2007.

Visitor members to Ireland continued to rise in 2006, reaching a total of almost 9 million. At the same time visitor expectations have become more discerning, with a significant shift in preference from the west to the east coast and sufficient evidence that tourists will no longer be captivated by Ireland’s traditional attractions. Landscape tourism projects can have significant impact in these circumstances. GSI has in recent years been involved in two community-based tourism projects (see the Breifne and Copper Coast panels), each of which received endorsement during 2006 when funding was provided for additional phases of work up to 2008.

Geoparks are areas of significant international geological heritage, where geology and landscape are used as tools for economic development mainly through tourism.

GSI was pleased to be a sponsor of the Second International Conference on Geoparks, successfully hosted by the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI) at the Waterfront Hall, Belfast in September.

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planetearth.ie2008 has been proclaimed by the UN General Assembly as the International Year of Plant Earth (IYPE), a unique opportunity for the geoscience community to demonstrate the contribution to society by its scientists. Organised under the patronage of several international organisations, including UNESCO, it will have a Science Programme embracing ten broad themes and an Outreach Programme directed at reaching the wider public. Visit www.yearofplanetearth.org for more information about this fascinating initiative.

GSI with the support of the Royal Irish Academy has formed an Irish National Committee for IYPE to organise a programme, which will maximise the benefits of IYPE within Ireland. Organised on an all-island basis, events will be aimed at the media, educational sector and the general public. Ireland has adopted six priority themes – climate, ocean, resources, groundwater, hazards and deep earth – but the overall thrust will be on a holistic appreciation of the functioning of Planet Earth. It is hoped that everyone in Ireland will have contact with, and enjoy, some IYPE events and in the process learn more about our environment, its past, present and future. Visit www.planetearth.ie for more information about Ireland’s programme and how you can get involved.


Ruins in Boyle, Co. RoscommonGSI and GSNI have together pioneered landscape-based Cross-Border initiatives for more than a decade. The Breifne Project started in 2003 with the strong backing of Fermanagh District Council, Cavan, Leitrim, Sligo and Roscommon County Councils, the University of Ulster and the Special EU Programmes Body. The effectiveness of the North-South cooperation is widely acknowledged as being enriched by the joint participation of GSI and GSNI, and their role in raising awareness of the tourism value of such landscapes.

In late 2006 the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Mr. Noel Dempsey, TD, marked the successful conclusion of the current phase of work when he launched the resulting guidebook, A Different Journey, website and film. These beautifully designed products will bring the greatly understated and diverse landscapes of this region to a wider audience.

Do visit www.breifne.ie and create your own customised map of interesting features, whether you use it for educational purposes or to plan a visit to the region. Enjoy the virtual delights of this region even before you arrive!


The Copper Coast Geopark is based on the landscape, geology and mining heritage of the County Waterford cliffed coastline. It is unique in being a community-driven initiative with support from local and national authorities (Waterford County Council, GSI) and organisations (Mining Heritage Trust of Ireland). As a member of the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network and the European Geoparks Network, it has delivered significant results, such as:

  • In partnership with 3 other geoparks it has secured funding of €1.6 million since 2004 from INTERREG 3B (NW Europe) which recently decided to extend funding until mid 2008;
  • The Tankardstown mine site has been purchased and its buildings conserved as a distinctive location for creative uses;
  • Sculpture, outdoor furniture and interpretation signs have been erected at many localities, attracting many visitors;
  • A programme of seminars, courses and summer walks has been very successfully targeted at both schools and visitors, gaining
    significant publicity in the national media;
  • A range of innovative educational services were produced, aimed at primary and secondary schools;
  • A wide variety of publications has been produced, many published by GSI, and many dealing with the interpretation of mining heritage;
  • Agreement has been reached on the purchase of the disused Knockmahon Church for use as a community and visitor resource centre – a permanent centre for the future development of the Geopark and replacing the temporary arrangements currently in use.

Copper CoastSo the story is far from over! The Copper Coast community has the commitment and innovation to restore, adapt and utilise the Knockmahon Centre as a great resource which will drive other developments in the future.


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