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Aims and scope

Near Surface Geophysics is an international journal for the publication of research and development in geophysics applied to near surface. It places emphasis on geological, hydrogeological, geotechnical, environmental, engineering, mining, archaeological, agricultural and other applications of geophysics as well as physical soil and rock properties. Geophysical and geoscientific case histories with innovative use of geophysical techniques are welcome, which may include improvements on instrumentation, measurements, data acquisition and processing, modelling, inversion, interpretation, project management and multidisciplinary use. The papers should also be understandable to those who use geophysical data but are not necessarily geophysicists.

Impact Factor 2012: 1.123

Near Surface Geophysics is indexed/abstracted in the Current Contents/ Physical, Chemical & Earth Sciences , ISI Alerting Service and Science Citation Index Expanded .

Near Surface Geophysics is published 6 times a year.

Crosstalk by Andrew McBarnet: Near surface geoscientists deserve more recognition for their expertise

Next month’s Near Surface Geoscience 2014 event in Athens augurs well for the efforts being made to raise the visibility of the many geoscience professionals whose work in numerous sectors of industry and academia tends to be overshadowed by the oil and gas industry juggernaut.

The addition of two new parallel events – the First Applied Shallow Marine Geophysics Conference and the First International EuroGPR School – is a positive step in terms of attracting a larger attendance and providing a bigger forum for sharing knowledge and networking. However, it is still a long way from the desire often articulated by the near geoscience specialist community for a better defined more coherent identity. That goal may of course prove something of a mirage given the challenges. 

Geoscientists working outside the oil and gas business are the nomads of the profession in that they work in so many different areas employing such a variety of techniques. By contrast, oil and gas geoscience is predominately focused on reflection seismic with other applications less of a look in. EAGE has come to providing a welcome collective tent for these disparate interests. Indeed,  whoever came up with the term ‘near surface’ to encompass the range of activities involved deserves a medal. We are talking about the geosciences at work in established fields, such as hydrogeology, environmental monitoring, engineering geology and geomechanics, mining and civil engineering. These days, there is also growing interest in applications for agriculture, soil sciences, archaeology, non-destructive testing and forensic investigations. The full range will doubtless be on display in Athens.

The success story of EAGE’s Near Surface Geophysics journal, now well into its second decade, clearly demonstrates that a channel of communication for such a varied portfolio of research serves a purpose, is respected and appreciated. The real issue is how far the quest for an identity can be taken. For example, near surface is a description that neatly dodges the depth question. In earlier days the term loosely referred to activity down to around 100 m. But in reality there can be no arbitrary limit. Different depths apply to different disciplines. In agriculture, archaeology and a lot of engineering/construction type work, minimal depths of a few metres are involved, but something like post-closure safety studies of radioactive waste sites require applications associated with near surface geophysics down to 800 m or more.

Techniques typically claimed for near surface include magnetics, gravity, resistivity measurements, seismic reflection and refraction, induced polarisation, electromagnetics, magnetic resonance, interferometry, seismo-electronic methods plus many other more or less esoteric geophysical methods for measuring and interpreting the shallows of the earth. In Athens, the impressive advances in ground penetrating radar
are being highlighted, and rightly so. 

The problem is that not all these techniques are exclusive to near surface. Most obviously, reflection seismic, gravity, magnetics and electromagnetics are staples of the oil and gas E&P industry. Introducing the Applied Shallow Marine Geophysics conference in Athens features the attention being increasingly paid by offshore E&P operators to improved understanding of the immediate seabed subsurface.

The obvious conclusion is that the nature of the geophysical/geoscientific method and its many tentacles cannot be conveniently divided into tidy categories. But this is not helpful, because the value and potential of much nearsurface activity is arguably still not being sufficiently acknowledged. This is what some form of organised grouping of like-minded professionals can address. 

An exercise in communication and education would seem to be required if the possibilities of near surface geophysics are to be better recognized. Some of the fundamental issues are well covered by Professor Peter Styles, the distinguished geophysicist and past-president of the Geological Society of London, in his one-day EAGE Education Tour presentation entitled ‘Everything you wanted (needed) to know about Environmental Geophysics but were afraid to ask!’ The course preamble really says it all. 

He points out that too much of the literature and courses dealing with environmental/near surface geophysics is ‘inward’ facing, in other words aimed at professional geophysicists or students, and not “truly accessible” to the stakeholders and commissioners.’ That obviously leads to a knowledge gap between geoscientists and their potential customers.

Opportunities may be missed simply because the value of particular techniques are not properly understood or appreciated. If this is the case, it is particularly unfortunate because the market could not be more favourable. Environmental hazards, often the result of previous industrial activity, demand some study of the shallow subsurface. But, as Prof Styles points out, excessive old-style trial pitting, drilling and excavation can compromise the very area requiringremedial treatment. The result is that regulatory authorities and operators are turning more frequently to non-intrusive geophysical techniques to characterize the subsurface and to minimize the amount of borehole excavation required.

Pulling no punches, Prof Styles states: ‘Poor specification, poor advice, lack of knowledge about the appropriateness or otherwise of the tools available to address the task, adherence to methods which are defensible in litigation rather than right for the problem have all led to aposition where there is a lack of trust between engineers, who are usually in the position of client, and environmental geophysicists.’ He also suggests that advances in automated geophysical instrumentation can lead to inappropriately implemented applications. What particularly concerns Prof Styles is that non-intrusive geophysics is increasingly being regarded as the method of choice for subsurface investigations in especially sensitive projects, such as radioactive waste, geological disposal facilities, and in future, of underground gas storage and sequestration of CO2. These are cases where legislators seek to minimize drilling, but in so doing lay more of the risk, including financial, on geophysicists.

Assuming Prof Styles is correct in his analysis, the solutions are not straightforward. Better promotion of evolving geophysical techniques to potential clients is clearly required, but is not easy. Engineers cannot be expected to regard a geophysical procedure as the routine or de rigueur solution in site investigations without convincing demonstration of the benefit. One can also guess that near surface geophysics disciplines are generally more favourably received in the industrialised parts of the world, possibly from quite a basic starting point.

It is of course tempting to ponder whether it would help if the present groupings of near surface geoscientists could be converted into a professional body with its own qualifications and standards. The sheer diversity of the tasks undertaken and the skills required would seem to rule out the concept, and as previously discussed, the seismic departments of oil and gas companies are made up of geoscientists too.

The picture that emerges is that the near surface geoscience community deserves to be better recognized for the range of services and expertise it can provide and when possible be perceived as separate from the oil and gas sector, a point well made by new EAGE president Philip Ringrose (see p. 3). This latter aspiration raises the fundamental issue of recruitment and resources. Near surface geoscience personnel are typically to be found scattered in small companies and consultancies. Their services do not demand the major industrial scale investment in equipment and staff needed for the acquisition, processing and interpretation of oil and gas land and marine seismic surveys. This obviously puts the near surface world at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting the best and the brightest young professional recruits, especially when the pool of potential geoscientists is diminishing as a result of government policy and the pushback against science in school curricula.

If financial reward and a clear career path is the goal, then students will surely be predisposed to choose the oil industry sector. It is also the case that the scale and challenge of oilfield projects, the potential for seeing the world and, for the research-minded, the pace of technology advance made possible by the resources available are all criteria hard to resist.

Of course, this mindset does not apply to everyone. Some students will become intrigued by a particular facet of near surface geoscience and want to pursue it wherever that might lead; others may simply be deterred by the corporate image and dealings of the oil business and its service sector. 

Concern for the environment is often articulated as a priority by aspiring young geoscientists, including those signing up for the oil and gas industry. The EAGE annual Recruitment Special bears this out. In interviews with students and young professionals, their choice of oil company invariably seems to be influenced by a perception of that company’s stewardship of the environment. This is a ball that the near surface geoscience community can surely run with. A high proportion of its entire activity is based on some form of care, as opposed to exploitation,of our environment. But to do so, we come back to the need for some form of professional entity which can direct and support initiatives aimed at promoting awareness among students. 

Next month’s meeting in Athens at least signals renewed energy being devoted to the near surface geoscience cause. The irony, which has probably escaped no one, is that near surface could be interpreted as meaning, not quite reached the surface yet. That possibly best describes the current status. 

Views expressed in Crosstalk are solely those of the author, who can be contacted at andrew@andrewmcbarnet.com.

(Source: First Break August 2014)

Ludger Mintrop Award

Carlotta Ferrara and her co-authors Valeria Di Tullio, Pier Matteo Barone, Elisabetta Mattei, Sebastian Emanuel Lauro, Noemi Proietti, Donatella Capitani and Elena Pettinelli 

For their paper ‘Comparison of GPR and unilateral NMR for water content measurements in a laboratory scale 
experiment’, published in Near Surface Geophysics, 11(2), 143-153.

The Ludger Mintrop Award is presented to the author(s) of the best paper published in Near Surface Geophysics in the calendar year preceding the award.

Proposals for EAGE Madrid 2015

The Awards Committee once again extends its congratulations to all the award recipients and thanks Association members who made recommendations. If you would like to make a proposal for nominations in Madrid 2015, please visit the EAGE website for more details.

A classic near surface meeting in Athens

20th European Meeting of Environmental and Engineering Geophysics
The preparation of the EAGE Near Surface Geoscience ‘14 conference in Athens on 14-18 September is well underway. Having received more than 200 extended abstracts for what is also the 20th European Meeting of Environmental and Engineering Geophysics, the conference will accommodate a range of interesting topics sure to make the event the success it has been over the years. Our ambition in Athens is to attract more geoscientists from the nearby regions (Balkans, Middle East, North Africa) and from far away (America, China, Australia) in order for new contacts to be created and new technologies to be announced at a place where science was served from ancient times. In order to stimulate this global exchange of knowledge, EAGE invites participants from developing countries to apply for financial support through the PACE Foundation.

New shallow marine geoscience event
The Near Surface Geoscience conference will host several parallel conferences. In addition to the 20th European Meeting, the First Applied Shallow Marine Geophysics conference will also take place. This meeting has attracted papers covering a wide range of topics. Where several papers focus on particular case studies from a wide variety of geographical locations, others are more topical or address specific methodologies. The common aspect for all papers is the move towards a better characterization of the seabed, the sub-surface and the active sedimentary and fluid flow processes, using seismic and EM methods. In addition to the papers, the Association have extended the programme with a number of keynote presentations by leading geoscientists to set the scene and to look ahead to where future challenges may lay.

Summer school with EuroGPR
The EuroGPR School is the third parallel meeting taking place in Athens. The European GPR association (eurogpr.org) is engaged in defining protocols for good practice and is contributing at European level to legislation on the production and use of ground penetrating radar. This has made EuroGPR the organizational hub representing the interests of manufacturers and users with regard to GPR use within the European community. To support its mission, EuroGPR is providing a two-day summer school on 15–16 September in order to diffuse sound knowledge and practices among GPR users with particular emphasis on awareness of the capabilities and of the limits of the technology at hand. The course will include theoretical elements, opportunity for handson gathering of data in situ and guidance on the differing legalities of GPR use across Europe and other regions.

Near Surface Geoscience Workshops
One of the highlights will be the two additional workshops organized on Sunday 14 September. These workshops are especially interesting for young scientists and students and will feature contributions from distinguished geo. One workshop will be on `Seismic and GPR methods for urban and microzonastudies’ with contributions from Julian Ivanov, Jianghai Xia, Chih-Ping Lin and Oz Yilmaz. The other workshop `Time-lapse ERT monitoring’ will have presenters including Jonathan Chambers, Torleif Dahlin, Jung-Ho Kim, Robert Supper, and Panagiotis Tsourlos. These engaging programmes make the workshops worthy additions to the activities in Athens, and should not be missed.

Two field trips to treasure
Two field trips are being organized following the main event. A one-day field trip exploring the Lavrion region will take place on Friday. In addition, the Hellenic Geophysical Union will organize a three-day field trip to the island of Santorini. More information about the workshops and field trips can be found on the meetings websites.

As always our annual event includes an exhibition organized around the conference rooms on 15-17 September. The exhibition will be the central meeting place where companies from all disciplines can display their products and services, and where delegates can learn more about the latest technological developments in the field.

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