Interview with Gabriele Ponzoni

Coordinator of the EFG Panel of Experts on Geotechnics

EFG’s Panels of Experts (PE) have been set up to provide high quality advice and information to the European institutions, to international NGO’s and to other global professional associations. EFG has currently 10 Panels of Experts active in the fields of CCS, Education, Geological Heritage, Geotechnics, Geothermal Energy, Hydrogeology, Natural Hazards, Minerals, Oil & Gas and Soil Protection. The Panels involve more than 200 voluntary experts from over 20 different countries and all aim at emphasising the importance of geology to society, the benefits of incorporating geological advice and to promote the importance of the geoscientific profession.

To raise awareness about the existence of these Panels of Experts, EFG is presenting its coordinators in a new interview series. In August 2018, we have talked to Gabriele Ponzoni, the coordinator of the Panel on Geotechnics.

Gabriele Ponzoni

Coordinator of the EFG Panel of Experts on Geotechnics since November 2017

About your field of expertise:

Could you explain in simple words what an expert in geotechnics exactly deals with?

A simple but also a complex question: in short (and very in summary) he/she is the technical specialist who connects the works in a project with the reality of the lithostratigraphic and geological context and its properties (characterizes it: a very complex operation).

In 2017, the European Commission has released a decree updating the new technical standards for buildings. Which changes does this involve for geoscientists?

The role of the geotechnical geologist needs a greater sensitisation in the Commission: In fact, one could run the risk of seeing the geologist mortified (against that of the engineers) … a speech that starts from far. I consider the work of the PE to be necessary and fundamental in terms of sensitizing the geotechnical issues in which the geologist, thanks to the complexity of his discipline, is able to make a valid contribution: specifically, I think of recent earthquakes in Italy that have shown that an accurate knowledge of the subsoil is necessary.  

How do you see the future role of geoscientists in your field of expertise, for example 20 years ahead from now?

A good question…I hope (rather than see) that we realise how strategically important it is to design and manage the territory with specialists…in this case specifically the geologists! Due to the very nature of their profession geologists are able to manage the variable time and the relative (and probable) geomorphological evolution. We are increasingly exposed to violent natural disasters (earthquakes, floods, landslides, etc.) and only an analysis of the characteristics of the land and of the territory as a whole ensure us against high costs in both economic and social terms.

About your Panel of Experts:

Which role can the EFG Panel of Experts on Geotechnics play in the current EU policy context?

The PE plays a crucial role in creating a shared language and intent through all national associations;
and then to send contributions to the European Institutions through collegiate documents on the active roles that geologists can give to geotechnics.  

How would you define the added value of collaborating with experts from different European countries?

A huge value: in fact, for the first time, it is possible to try to tackle the issue of geotechnics through the points of view of the various European members and then elaborate this science with an approach that can take into account cultural diversity and different methodologies of approach.

What is your Panel of Experts currently working on? What are your further plans for 2018?

The PE is preparing an article that explains the role of this group, the topic of geotechnics and in short the contributions that can be given. The PE on Geotechnics is the last born and it will take time to be able to make it work in an integrated and continuous way. Therefore, in my opinion, the goal for 2018 is to create an amalgamated group.

Is there anything EFG could do to support your Panel of Experts?

The Federation is already very supportive of the groups, giving them the possibility to contribute (in their area of expertise) to the increase of the visibility of geologists and their importance in modern society.

About yourself:

Since when do you lead your Panel of Experts?

November 2017

What inspired you to become a geologist? 

The curiosity for the earth and its history. 

Why did you choose the field of geotechnics?

The possibility of a future career. 

More information about the EFG Panels of Experts