News / Policy

Science is global: Applying for IGCP project funding

The International Geoscience Programme (IGCP) recently held their annual open meeting at UNESCO, reviewing progress in 2018 and announcing their latest funded projects. Joel Gill* reports on this meeting, introducing the IGCP and sharing thoughts on how to craft a successful application.

(Note: Project proposals for 2019 must reach UNESCO by 15 October 2019 in order to be considered for funding by the IGCP Council in 2020: application information for 2019 is coming soon.) 

‘Science is Global’ declared European Academies in 2016, stating that ‘international science and research collaborations greatly enhance the knowledge and tools we need to tackle [global challenges]’ (European Academies, 2016). Positive, equitable partnerships play a critical role in scientific capacity building, opening up access to science, strengthening national institutions, and fostering dialogue between groups.

The British Geological Survey Team listening to sustainable development priorities and research ideas in Nairobi, Kenya © NERC 2019

Building positive international collaborations takes time and resources, but the benefits are significant. In the geosciences, effective national and international collaborations open up access to new field sites, enrich data collection and analysis, and help to connect the results of geoscience research with other stakeholders, for the good of society. Collaborations challenge us to think differently, communicate in better ways (including improving our ability to listen), and expose us to new ideas, cultures, and approaches.

The International Geoscience Programme

Capacity building, through science partnerships, is at the heart of the International Geoscience Programme (IGCP). This joint initiative of UNESCO and the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) provides funding to facilitate global cooperation, build capacity, and disseminate science that serves society.

Since its creation in 1972, IGCP has supported over 650 projects in 150 countries. Projects typically include co-leaders from the Global South (so called ‘developing countries’), as well as early-career scientists and groups that are underrepresented in science (e.g., women). While not directly funding research, IGCP does enable innovative training, dissemination and networking that adds enormous value to research opportunities. Funding, normally in the order of $5000 to $10,000 per year, helps facilitate workshops, training, field schools, and conferences asscociated with the project theme.

The United Kingdom has a proud history of engaging in and helping to shape the International Geoscience Programme. Over the last year, more than 75 UK scientists participated in 18 IGCP projects, with leadership responsibilities in 6 of these. For example, Adina E. Racoviteanu (Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Center for Glaciology, Aberystwyth University) is a co-leader on the project Himalayan glaciers: assessing risks to local communities from debris cover and lake changes using new satellite data. Adina and her co-leaders from Bhutan and India convened two capacity building workshops in 2018, running training on remote sensing and GIS techniques in Bhutan and Nepal.

Applying in 2019

IGCP projects normally fall into one of five themes: (1) Earth Resources, (2) Global Change, (3) Geohazards, (4) Hydrogeology, and (5) Geodynamics. Each year additional themes of special interest may be added to this list, or direction may be given to project topics of particular interest within this list of themes. At the IGCP Council Open Session, the following topics were identified as being of high priority by the Council Chair.

a. Mining geosciences and sustainability
b. Efficient and sustainabe extractive industry technologies and stimulation methods
c. Geology for the sustainable and safe scale-up of renewable energy production
d. Big data, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence in geosciences
e. Geohazards nearby metropolitan areas
f. Global warming CO2 emission mitigation using new methods (such as carbon storage and sequestration, CCS)
g. Sustainable small and volcanic islands: water, energy, resource management
h. Geoheritage for sustainable development
i. Geoscience and the Anthropocene

Those reviewing applications will also be particularly looking for projects to link to one or more of the following broad objectives: (i) making the exploration for and extraction of Earth resources more efficient, safe and sustainable, (ii) improving innovation around renewable energy production and CO2 mitigation, (iii) better understanding and ‘predicting’ climate change and geohazards. Applicants are encouraged to carefully review the criteria detailed on the IGCP website, and in their application form, as this may change from the information above (presented at UNESCO, February 2019). Application information can be found on the IGCP website (with the 2018 information expecte to be updated soon). IGCP project proposals for 2019 must reach UNESCO by 15 October 2019 in order to be considered for funding by the IGCP Council in 2020.

Tips For A Successful Application

While IGCP intends to build networks around excellent and innovative science, this will not be sufficient to be sucessful in funding applications. Applicants should carefully consider:

• How their project links to the thematic priorities listed above, and the broader aims of IGCP.
• The inclusion of project co-leaders from the Global South (so-called ‘developing countries), with evidence of their genuine engagement in the project leadership.
• The inclusion of female and ‘young’ (or early-career) project co-leaders, particularly those from the Global South.
• How project participants (those attending workshops, field schools etc) will be identified, and clear indication of the prioritisation of female and early-career project participants, and those from the Global South. You should include a description of how the project will recruit and engage these participants, demonstrating initial evidence or scoping of who will participate (from where, gender balance, how many young scientists). This may help demonstrate to reviewers that project applications have given this careful thought.

You may also want to consider how your IGCP project links to another UNESCO programme, their Global Geoparks. A full list of UNESCO Global Geoparks can be found online, providing invaluable access to geology of international importance for training and capacity building.

The UK National Committee to IGCP

(From left to right) Özlem Adiyaman (UNESCO Earth Science Division), Joel Gill (UK National Committee to the International Geoscience Programme) and Brigitte Vlaswinkel (Chair of the International Geoscience Programme Council)

The Geological Society of London External Relations Committee sits as the UK National Committee to the International Geoscience Programme. National Committees work to stimulate participation in new IGCP projects, and must endorse new IGCP project proposals coming from the country’s geoscientific community before they are sent to the IGCP Secretariat at UNESCO.

National Committees also report on their national involvement in IGCP each year to UNESCO. We therefore ask those involved in IGCP projects to keep us informed of your activities. In doing this, we can ensure we best represent your work and its importance, as well as maximise opportunities for you to share progress and learning with others.


*Dr Joel C. Gill is International Development Geoscientist at the British Geological Survey, and the Executive Director of the charity Geology for Global Development. He sits on the Geological Society of London External Relations Committee, and represents them as the UK Representative to the UNESCO/IUGS International Geoscience Programme.

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