Director's Discourse
 Geology Matters No 8 
Introduction Director's Discourse The Role of Geoscience in Society World Geoscience Conference International Co-operation and Agreements Griffith Geoscience Research Awards 2008 - International Year of Planet Earth GeoUrban Dublin Project New Burren Map IYPE/Du Noyer Competition Launch of INFOMAR Website and Product Range Mapping Potential Landslide Hazards Groundwater Vulnerability Mapping An Intern's Life

Director’s Discourse

Peadar McArdle
November 2008

During the last few years the pages of this newsletter – Geology Matters - have recorded many new initiatives in GSI. These reflect the Government’s increased commitment to GSI, and geoscience generally, in the wake of publication of the National Geoscience Programme. This programme expresses clear priorities on behalf of the geoscience sector in Ireland and Northern Ireland in the period to 2013.

The process of advancing the National Geoscience Programme is by no means complete and this issue of the Newsletter describes the further steps envisaged. It is important that geoscience contributes to society as fully as possible, developing its economy and improving its quality of life. Geoscience is a priority theme in the Government’s Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation, and it has the potential to enhance its role in the knowledge economy and in attracting more students to choose science as a career choice.

Geoscience Gaining Ground Geoscience already makes a significant contribution to national life, as illustrated in our recent publication* on the topic. Its activities account for 3% of Ireland’s GNP and 1.2% of national employment. The core economic activities of the geoscience sector comprise energy, mining and quarrying extraction, and geoscience services (both private and public sectors). The extraction of construction materials and petroleum production and exploration together account for over 70% of the value of these activities and almost 60% of their employment. There are also a range of non-core activities where the geoscience input is less and the main activity among them is manufacturing of construction materials.

Ireland and Northern Ireland together produce about 60 geology graduates and 130 geo-graduates per annum. Historically only 300 out of 1100 graduates in recent decades are active in Ireland and of these 50% are due to retire within ten years. At the same time the skills profile required by employers has shifted significantly from those of the extractive sector towards those of the water and environmental sectors. As a result of these various trends Ireland and Northern Ireland are facing geoscience skills shortages in the future.

It is clear that there is little room for complacency if geoscience is to increase its contribution to national life. While expenditure on geoscience academic research has averaged €8 million per annum recently, it is noticeable that geoscience attracts only 5% of key R&D funds, perhaps reflecting a poor valuation of geoscience itself. The initiation of the Griffith Geoscience Research Awards will go some way towards rectifying this situation. Also the relatively lean resources devoted to geoscience have encouraged multidisciplinary collaboration while North-South cooperation has increased the level of synergy in services.

An increased investment in geoscience will certainly provide new benefits for society, including some that are not anticipated. As we prepare in an uncertain financial climate for the upcoming geoscience seminar in December (see next article) it is clear that we need to build a very compelling case for geoscience. In this we need the support and engagement of all stakeholders, including those in the private sector. Given such support, we can establish future priorities that will meet stakeholder needs in vital areas such as natural resources, climate change, the environment and the knowledge economy. It is important that the entire geoscience sector works together to achieve this.

* Geoscience: Gaining Ground, 2008. Geological Survey of Ireland, 19 pages. (Available on www.gsi.ie)