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GSL Public Lecture: Lost in translation - why talking about geoscience is so difficult

12 October 2020
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The Geological Society, Burlington House
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For many, geology is an unfamiliar and intimidating subject. Most people don’t think about geology until they have to, such as when they see it represented in dramatically destructive movies or think about the lurking threat of hazards, both natural and human-caused.

When members of the public are asked about geology, they often say that they don’t know anything about it; so, when geoscientists need to talk about new geological technologies, geological resources or risk preparedness, they can at first find themselves facing a barrier of disengagement or fear. Even talking about the less controversial parts of our science can be a struggle, as non-geologists often seem to switch off just as you launch into your explanation of why ice is actually a mineral.

The problem is that conversations between geologists and the public aren’t just desirable – they are essential. Combating the rise of misinformation around science subjects is a constant challenge, and it’s not one that can be solved by throwing more facts into the ring.

The good thing is that there are ways to address these difficulties in translating our science, and geoscientists themselves are part of the solution. Geologists are more than a stereotype, and our diverse community holds the key to creating meaningful discussions between geoscientists and the public, by communicating values with the facts.

But in order for this to work, we as geoscientists need to understand how ‘the gap’ between experts and non-experts doesn’t just come from a lack of public knowledge, but also from the way geoscientists think and talk about their subject. By acknowledging the role that all experts have in making our subject accessible and looking for the places where our own biases enable disconnection with the people we are speaking to, we can draw geoscience into the public, where it belongs.


This lecture will be given twice on the day, once in the afternoon and once in the evening. You can book free tickets for your lecture of choice now via Eventbrite:

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Hazel Gibson, Sustainable Earth Institute

Dr Hazel Gibson is the Communications Officer for the European Geosciences Union. She has previously worked extensively around public perceptions of geoscience and science communication, including studying geothermal power, subsurface visualisations and the influence of regional geological heritage.

Combining experience in industry and science communication with an interdisciplinary research approach, Hazel has developed a whole new understanding of how expert and non-expert geoscientists conceptualise the geological subsurface and how that understanding can be used to improve the effectiveness of our communications.


Matinee lecture

2.30pm: Tea and coffee served in the Lower Library

3.00pm: Lecture 

3.45pm: Questions and answers

4.00pm: Lecture ends and guests depart

Evening lecture

5.30pm: Tea and coffee served in the Lower Library

6.00pm: Lecture

6.45pm: Questions and answers

7.00pm: Lecture ends and guests depart


The Geological Society
Burlington House

Live streaming

You can watch the lecture live via our streaming service on the day at 3.00pm and 6.00pm.


Please email with any enquiries.

Videos of past lectures can be viewed in our past meeting resources area.

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Book your ticket for the matinee lecture >>

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The Geological Society
Burlington House