Derek Vance starts as EAG President!

It is a great honour to become the President of the European Association of Geochemistry (EAG). I have just taken over from Sigurdur Gislason – “Siggi” – who has led EAG so brilliantly during his two years as President. As Siggi noted in this same piece two years ago, the governing structure of EAG, whereby the incoming President has just spent two years as Vice-President and is supported by the retiring President as “Past-President”, is a clever one. The organization reaps the benefit of multiple sources of wisdom, and years of experience. I want to say a particular thanks to Bernard Marty (the retiring Past-President), who has now finished this six-year period of service to EAG: we will miss his calm outlook, often finding the funny side of things, but also always getting to the core of the issues we discuss on the Council. I am also, of course, very much looking forward to working with the new Vice-President, Catherine Chauvel. She will bring invaluable experience of running large scientific organisations.


The EAG is extremely well-served by the energy and enthusiasm of many geochemists. It relies on unselfish and generous volunteers, not just those highlighted above but across the geochemical community. Several others have just left the Council, and we thank them for their contribution. Helen Williams energetically co-chaired the 2019 Goldschmidt conference. Caroline Peacock and Sami Mikhail co-created the EAG Code of Ethics. Sami was also an enthusiastic and pro-active early career councillor, while Caroline was also a proactive chair of the Fellows Nominations Committee. Encarnacíon Ruiz-Agudo has helped with the evaluation of Goldschmidt grant applications. We also thank Heather Buss for helping to start the DEI Committee. Our new councillors for 2021 onwards introduce themselves here.


And it doesn’t stop at the Council. The EAG also benefits from the engagement of a much larger section of the geochemical community, whether it is to chair Goldschmidt themes and sessions, as editors and contributing authors of our journals, as outreach lecturers, on awards committees, or as members of working groups, such as our new one aimed at promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in geochemistry and in science generally. We really are a vibrant and engaged community!


Everything EAG does is co-ordinated by the business office. I know I speak for all recent Presidents in saying that the support, engagement, and sheer efficiency of Marie-Aude Hulshoff, as our Chief Operating Officer, and Alice Williams, as Programmes and Membership Manager, make the jobs of the Council – well – just possible.


One of the main tasks of EAG is to organize the Goldschmidt Conference in Europe every second year. I cannot avoid, here, a mention of the challenges that this task is currently raising, as all of you will appreciate. My term as President comes in the wake of many highly successful such meetings, with Paris in 2017 being the biggest ever and Barcelona in 2019 being only slightly smaller. The 2020 conference presented a huge challenge to the Geochemical Society, one that they rose to splendidly in the circumstances. The organizing committee for 2021, led by Dan Frost and Maud Boyet, have decided that we should plan a hybrid format for Lyon in early July. We have not taken this decision lightly. But planning for a hybrid format acknowledges the hunger everyone out there has for a physical Goldschmidt while also recognising the need to take account of travel restrictions that will almost certainly remain in place in July – at the very least for some. The Covid situation continues to be dynamic. As all of you will appreciate, we will need to keep monitoring the situation and the current ambition to hold a hybrid conference may well need to be revisited.


The year 2020, for the same unfortunate reasons that the Goldschmidt conference had to move online, has witnessed a renewed appreciation of how important science and scientific thinking is to the world. But science continues to face challenges from populist politics and “alternative facts”. All of us, yes, even we geochemists, need to do all we can to counter these societal trends.


Whatever happens in the first half of 2021, we will meet in July – I hope it is in Lyon but if it is on our computer screens we will do our level best to make it worthwhile. Above all: stay healthy!


About Derek Vance

Derek Vance is Professor of Geochemistry in the Department of Earth Science at ETH Zürich, Switzerland. In the past he has worked on mantle geochemistry and has used geochronology and metamorphic petrology to understand mountain belts such as the Alps and Himalaya. For the past 10-15 years, however, he has focused on understanding the geochemistry of the surface Earth. This has involved the quantification of the global cycles of trace elements through investigations of the inputs to the dissolved pool of the oceans, and outputs to various kinds of sediments. An important long-term objective is to use this effort, targeted at understanding modern budgets, to understand the chemical evolution of the surface Earth in the past.


Derek obtained his Ph.D. in geochemistry at the University of Cambridge, UK. He has previously served in various capacities with the Geochemical Society. He is currently a co-editor in chief for Earth and Planetary Science Letters, and has acted as an editor of Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems and as an Associate Editor for Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta.