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is technology the solution to uncertainty?

In March, Steve Garrett, manager of Chevron’s UK Global Technology Centre, facilitated a panel discussion at the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain’s (PESGB) 2016 Stoneley Lecture, an annual outreach event which aims to excite and inspire members of the general public about topics relating to the geosciences.

This year’s lecture, which was held at the Westminster Central Hall, London, was led by distinguished Parliamentarian, Professor and TV presenter, Robert Winston, on the topic of ‘Uncertainty - Is Technology the Solution?’

Professor Robert Winston, Steve Garrett, and Jon Gluyas at panel discussion

Left to Right: Professor Robert Winston, Steve Garrett, Chevron's UK Global Technology Centre manager, and Jon Gluyas, Dean of Knowledge Exchange at Durham University.

Drawing on his vast experience in the world of biology, Professor Winston led the near 300 strong audience through a potted history of science, in particular highlighting areas where scientific literacy - or the lack of it - has led to serious misconceptions and misunderstandings.

His own field of genetics has had a mixed moral history, and is an excellent example of how the understanding - or misunderstanding - of science can lead to very different outcomes. Professor Winston’s own work has enabled huge strides in the development of processes to remove genetic illness from unborn babies, bringing hope to parents across the world. Professor Winston used many examples to show that scientists have a responsibility to engage with the public and that this will contribute towards a better understanding of and engagement with important scientific work.

Following Professor Winston’s presentation, Chevron’s Steve Garrett, alongside Jon Gluyas, Dean of Knowledge Exchange at Durham University, carried the discussion through to earth sciences, and the lack of perception by the public of what the oil and gas industry does.

“We have examples throughout the fields of science, earth science and energy, where engagement has worked, like PESGB’s support for teachers across the UK. However, there are many more examples where engagement has been challenged, such as the discipline of earth sciences being accepted into the national curricular and the impact and positive role hydrocarbons have in our society through gas for power, energy density for transport and manufacturing,” said Steve.

“Onshore oil and gas exploration in the UK is an example of how the earth science profession and energy industry has failed to engage the public effectively, reflecting a lack of scientific literacy across society, or understanding by scientists and engineers that they need to engage society in different ways,” he added.

On the topic of challenges, Jon Gluyas touched upon the apparent lack of government support for studies into Carbon Capture and Storage strategies (CCS) before closing the discussion with a rallying cry for geothermal energy.

Following the lecture, Steve stated that his key take-away had been the reinforcement of his belief that scientists and engineers have a responsibility to engage more effectively with the public.

Steve continued: “The time Professor Winston commits to visiting schools and engaging with thousands of school children is a perfect example of this. It was inspiring to spend time with such a role model for the scientific profession.”

To watch the video from the recent event click here.