19 April 2019

Key Takeaways from the EGU General Assembly 2019

Posted by Chris McEntee

A view of the AGU Booth and conference attendees at the EGU General Assembly 2019

Fresh off an early-morning flight from Vienna, Austria, to DC last week, I was reflecting on every moment from the General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

There were more than 16,000 attendees from 113 countries representing many scientific disciplines. It was an honor to see so many students and early-career scientists as the international presence of AGU continues to grow.

As a founding society member of the Societies Consortium on Sexual Harassment in STEMM, it’s clear that global attention and action continues to grow to address harassment, bullying, and discrimination. I sat in on several sessions featuring male leaders in EGU and the Japan Geoscience Union (JpGU) that have taken on leadership roles in addressing this issue. We need representatives of every gender identity to be empowered to address issues, particularly about gender parity and diversity.

There were certainly more science policy sessions this year than in the past, as well as numerous discussions on how to measure and reward scientists beyond using the impact factor. Though we discussed the integrity of science and fighting misinformation and disinformation, one topic was not as prominent as it is for our community of scientists and researchers in the U.S. – federal support for science.

Federal research dollars can help reveal the mysteries of our planet and the universe. This funding also bolsters agencies and programs that help grow our economy and strengthen our national security. AGU encourages elected officials to prioritize federal funding for science to make discoveries possible.

There was one session I found particularly startling. Audience members learned about a virologist who came under attack even while working to benefit global health. She developed a strategy to help contain avian flu but was accused of promoting that strategy for personal gain. This scientist was charged with crimes that could have resulted in life imprisonment but was later cleared.

With cases like this, it’s important to fight for the value of science. As scientists, we cannot take that for granted. We must work with the public and policy makers to ensure scientific fact continues to matter and continues to benefit humanity.

It was remarkable to see the collaboration between the EGU, JpGU, and AGU as we continue our Centennial celebration and aspiration for open access for science. Our fields are truly without boundaries, and meetings like this affirm our core beliefs: that there is no language or geographic barrier to scientific truth.