How do you coordinate a group of scientists working across seven continents, to achieve the project objectives? By Virginia Hannah

This is my role and although it might sound easy, it really isn’t!!

My name is Virginia Hannah.  I have worked at the BGS for over 15 years starting out as a Secretary, later known as Business Assistant. More recently, I have become a Project Coordinator, working on various science projects within the Informatics Directorate.  I now coordinate and bring together the practical and necessary elements of the projects, which a scientist may not always think about, enabling the effective delivery of their science.

I am also the Secretariat for the OneGeology Project, which is still a very active project within BGS and stakeholders from around the globe.  The mission is:

to make web-accessible the best available geological and other geoscience data worldwide at the best possible scales, starting with at least 1:1 million scale.

OneGeology Board members at the 16th Meeting in Vancouver, Canada, June 2018
OneGeology Board members at the 16th Meeting in Vancouver, Canada, June 2018
The project, governed by the Board, meet virtually several times a year and is chaired currently by James Johnson, the CEO of GeoScience Australia (GSA).  I manage the logistics of these meetings that stretch over many different time zones.  This usually means I end up upsetting at least one member who has to attend at an ungodly hour!  However, I try to make this fair and give everyone the chance to attend at least one meeting wearing pyjamas 😄  

There is also one face-to-face meeting annually, which the Board Members take in turns to host in their own country, but again, it is my role to coordinate.  I spend lots of time liaising with science and administration staff, where there is quite often a language barrier to overcome, to manage the usual logistical requirements for the meetings.  In addition to the day programmes, I also organise evening events such as conference dinners; ensuring time for networking, I have to bear jet lag in mind and make sure delegates are not is falling to sleep in their soup!  I also manage the material we need to take with us, such as pop-ups, give-aways, posters etc, and determine how we are going to get that stuff to the venue.  Whether that be filling peoples cases up for them or arranging courier deliveries, which can be a nightmare if you only have a conference venue address to deliver to!

I manage the administration of the project and all of the communications and outreach activities.  I am responsible for purchasing all marketing material as well as creating flyers, posters and creating and editing newsletters.  I attend the meetings to report on marketing progress and expenditure, as well as take notes and detailed actions from the meetings, which I monitor for progress and closure after the meetings.

OneGeology Board Meeting in Full Swing at Geological Survey Vancouver Canada Offices June 2018
OneGeology Board Meeting in Full Swing at Geological Survey Vancouver Canada Offices June 2018
This year the Geological survey of Canada (GSC) kindly hosted us at their offices in Vancouver, 13-15 June. OneGeology celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2017-18, so to celebrate the board decided to make this event in Vancouver bigger and hold a three-day meeting.  So adjacent to the usual one day face-to-face board meeting, we hosted the annual Technical Implementation Group (TIG) meeting and ran a one-day regional workshop, which outlined the focus of the project for the next ten years, with a particular focus on North American involvement.  To manage these events, I worked closely with the team at GSC,  Boyan Brodaric and Sonya Ryou

The invited delegates came from all over the world: UK, Japan and Australia to name a few.  Many people that attended gave presentations, which you can find on the OneGeology website along with the minutes from each event.  

Prior to the meeting, I had to plan the timings of these presentations and work with the IT team to ensure that the rooms that we had been allocated, were equipped with the correct equipment to make the presentations.  During the meeting, I also had to make sure that the presentations were loaded onto the meeting PC and ready to run at the correct time in the agenda. I worked alongside the chair to make sure that the presentations ran to time.

To communicate the considerable achievements of the last ten years, we aligned the OneGeology meetings with the Resources for Future Generations conference, which was being held at the Vancouver Convention Centre.  

Session 4 was The changing roles of geological surveys.  Here, Carina Kemp (GeoScience Australia), Matt Harrison (BGS) and François Robida (BRGM) presented and ran the discussion session about the OneGeology project.  They described how big data is managed within the international geological survey community and explored how exciting new technological directions, such as the application of artificial intelligence, will impact next generation geoscience and the geological survey organisation of the future.  I helped to co-ordinate participation in the session prior to the conference and attended to ensure they ran smoothly.  I also minuted the session and took photographs, which I tweeted from @onegeology and will feature in the next OneGeology Newsletter.

Carina Kemp presenting at RFG
François Robida presenting at RFG

Matt Harrison presenting at RFG
Matt Harrison presenting at RFG
At the conference exhibition, we also had a booth in association with the rest of BGS.  The booth was staffed by BGS personnel attending the conference.  I wanted OneGeology to be represented at the booth, so prepared a timetable for an expert to be available during certain times every day to answer any questions and give advice.  I took a corner of the booth and set it up with OneGeology information and products to entice delegates to take an interest. 

I also work on the H2020 European Plate Observing System (EPOS) project, as the communications lead for the Geo-Energy Test Beds for Low Carbon Energy (GETB) work package.  I also attended the RFG conference in this role to report on presentations given by the GETB teams 
  1. Dr Helen Taylor (BGS) who presented: EPOS and ECCSEL; Geoenergy Test Beds in European Distributed Research Infrastructures
  2. Mohammadreza Jalali from ETH Zurich, who presented; In-situ Stimulation and Circulation Experiment as a Decameter Geo-Energy Test Bed for Enhanced Geothermal System Development presentation, on behalf of EPOS GETB during the same session.  
I attended both presentations to take notes and pictures to communicate to the wider EPOS community through our dedicated GETB web page and to produce an article for the external newsletter, produced by the EPOS programme management office.

Dr Helen Taylor giving the joint EPOS –ECCSEL presentation at the RFG in Vancouver, June 2018
This was the first time I had the chance of attending a conference of this size and it was exciting to have the experience.  It was challenging because I hadn’t experienced a science conference as a delegate before and being a ‘non-scientist’ I found it difficult to know which sessions to attend.  When I did find talks that I wanted to see, they were all over the place, and this convention centre was BIG, so navigation was fun, but I managed it and attended some great sessions.

Attending the conference meant I finally met people face-to-face who I have worked with remotely for years.  I would not necessarily have met them in person otherwise.  It has given me a greater understanding of the need to network and insight into some of the collaborations BGS has going on globally, and the complexity of how these intertwine with other collaborations closer to home.  It has also strengthened my confidence in the work that I do within these collaborative projects and how my role fits into the bigger picture.

As well as this, I got to hang out with a moose and was fortunate enough to see this beautiful view of the Rockies out of the aeroplane window on the way home…if Carling made sunsets! 

Virginia Hannah on her trip to Canada
Virginia Hannah on her trip to Canada