The importance of the Geoscience Sector is now being understood at the highest levels of government and Noel Dempsey, Minister, Department of Communications, Marine & Natural Resources has been a strong advocate for the sector in recent times. He has challenged GSI to take a leading role in the sector and an important development spearheaded by GSI in partnership with the Royal Irish Academy came to fruition on the 21st of February 2007. This was the launch by Minister Dempsey of the "National Geoscience Programme 2007 - 2013."
Jointly published by the RIA and GSI this programme sets out a vision for the geoscience sector over the period of the new National Development Plan (2007-2013). This document can become a blueprint for the future investment in the sector either through the National Development Plan or other national and EU funding mechanisms.
The geoscience sector is committed to the provision of efficient and relevant information to underpin economic, social and environmental progress and in support of balanced regional development. The programme will enhance the contribution that geoscience makes to sustainable environmental management, the development of natural resources and infrastructure, an understanding of natural hazards (such as landslides or tsunamis) and a better appreciation of how the Earth works as a planet. While geoscience will continue to provide services to the petroleum and minerals sectors, it will increasingly support a wide range of others, including planning, environment, agriculture, water supplies, infrastructure, transport, tourism and heritage.
The geoscience sector comprises the providers of geoscience-based commodities, services, research and education, together with their customers and stakeholders. Its industry contributes €2 billion to the Irish economy, its private sector services have an annual turnover of €130 million with 1,000 employees and its research budget exceeds €30 million per annum. At third level, institutes on an all-island basis produce 50 geoscience graduates per year, with 25 PhD and 15 post-doctoral start-ups annually, supported by 70 faculty members. The sector is sufficiently coherent to ensure that new investment will nurture multidisciplinary world-class research thereby driving national economic competitiveness.
The programme established a series of key research objectives which cover the energy, environment, marine and infrastructure sectors. Ireland can expect world-class research in the geoscience sector provided it has the necessary research infrastructural support and international participation. The key objectives can be summarised as follows: -
- To explore the energy potential of our subsurface, include offshore petroleum and onshore geothermal;
- To assess the options for carbon storage in deep geological formations;
- To model the impacts of climate change and intensifying infrastructure on groundwater supplies;
- To provide inshore surveys in support of the optimum use of marine resources;
- To provide high resolution assessment and monitoring of hazards such as landslides and tsunamis;
- To ensure aggregates are available to support balanced regional development.
The development of an Irish Geoscience Graduate Programme is a key element of the National Geoscience Programme. It will be a networked and all-island graduate programme which will provide modular courses and research activities for all geoscience graduates. With appropriate investment, the number of graduates and post-doctoral fellows can be doubled over the period of the programme.
The work of GSI itself features in the programme. Recognising that its core competence lies in the way that GSI manages and delivers information, the programme describes a number of GSI programmes with which our customers will be broadly familiar, including INFOMAR, RESI (Resource and Environmental Survey of Ireland) and other GSI programmes. It notes that GSI over the period of the programme will shift towards digital 3D appreciation of the landscape and towards forecasting future environmental change by modelling the effects of climate change and infrastructure development.
The programme, noting the poor state of geoscience research infrastructure, identified two key priorities to support world-class research. The first comprises analytical facilities and equipment, both geochemical and geophysical, which will be strategically located and made available on an all-island networked basis. The second is the development of a 3D digital model of Ireland’s subsurface, based on strategic data acquisition and easy delivery.
The programme is explicitly an all-island one and will build on the strong N-S cooperation which already exists in geoscience. Ireland must operate in an international and EU context in order to produce excellent research and geoscience has an important tradition of successful participation in such activity. The programme also recognises that outreach is essential to ensure adequate government funding is provided to geoscience. While there is considerable ongoing outreach activity, a unique opportunity will arise in 2008 which is the International Year of Planet Earth.
In launching the programme the Minister announced two initiatives which will facilitate its implementation. The first is open and free access to all GSI databases. The second is the Griffith Geoscience Research Awards Scheme which will provide attractive opportunities to early-career scientists in areas of key priority.
The programme is available in hard copy from GSI's customer centre - firstname.lastname@example.org or ++353 1 678 2868 and it is free of charge. Alternatively it and other relevant documentation can be downloaded below:
Information in PDF format
National Geoscience Programme 2007 - 2013
Official Press Release for Programme Launch
Minister's speech at Programme Launch
Irish Times article on the Programme
The Case for Geoscience Funding (a rational for the Programme - 2005)