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Shaping responsible future experts: the need for integrating Geoethics in Geoscience university education

Geoscientific know-how is essential to tackle pressing challenges: climate change, geohazards, energy and raw material supply. However, technical expertise alone – without considering societal dimensions – will not be sufficient to find sustainable solutions to these problems. Geoethics literacy is needed to qualify Geoscientists to work responsibly on complex tasks at the interface to society. Also, Geoethics deals with our own Geoscience philosophy and can therefore help to address current problems in Geoscience academia – e.g. gender inequalities and sexism, studying with mental or physical illnesses and falling university entrant numbers. In teaching, Geoethics can be approached through five questions: How do we relate 1) to our own discipline, its history and its methods; 2) among each other; 3) to the environment; 4) to other disciplines; and 5) to society? This 'inside-out' approach ties up with existing courses in scientific working methods. These can be taken to the next level by teaching a holistic epistemology of Geosciences, which lies the foundation for a critical reflection upon the methods. Conducting field work, which plays a central role in Geosciences, raises many ethical questions. This is only one reason, why 'Geo-ethics' is needed and 'ethics' for itself falls short. These thoughts are fundamental for evaluating the role of Geoscientists in interdisciplinary teams and as part of society. Geoethics equips Geoscientists with the ability to critically reflect upon their work and its ethical implications to identify future-oriented solutions. Appropriate teaching formats should be developed – and implemented – to convey geoethical aspects in modern Geoscience study programs.


Dominic Hildebrandt1,2
1Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, Germany; 2Institute of Earth Sciences, Ruprecht Karl University Heidelberg, Germany
GeoKarlsruhe 2021