Just over a year ago, geography was established as an official sub-discipline within the Government Science and Engineering Profession (GSE) with the appointment of David Wood as the cross-government head of geography. David, along with his team of 11 deputy heads of geography, is growing a thriving geography sector within government and – through outreach activities to schools and universities – generating interest in the profession and its role in government. They are also professionalising the discipline by offering continuing development opportunities, guidance on chartership, mentoring support and other activities to the existing 500 members of the Geographers in Government group.
All of this will help to ensure there is demand for geographers to influence policy within government. David draws attention to the opportunity to ‘create an environment where geographers can have maximum impact on policy and its delivery, and ensure that the importance of including geographers in the policy making cycle is understood by policy makers. I want to ensure that each government department has skilled individuals able to tackle geographical questions and incorporate spatial thinking into policy design.’
The deputy heads of geography are from a variety of backgrounds and are all volunteering up to two days a month. Claire Edwards was appointed as the deputy head with responsibility for raising the profile of the discipline and embedding geography in policy delivery. Having held a number of posts at Natural England, she is currently on secondment to the recently formed Geospatial Commission, which was established last year to unlock the economic benefits that geospatial information can provide. ‘It is an exciting time to be a geographer in government,’ says Claire. ‘My academic studies have allowed me to envisage a spatial outlook of the world and my work experience has equipped me with the skills necessary to contribute to the work of the geography profession.’
The team has a range of activities planned for the coming year to help support the growing number of members of the Geographers in Government group. They have recently launched an online community, which allows members to connect and support each other in their respective areas of work. A series of seminars, guided by demand from the community, will take place throughout the year, with topics likely to include the role of people and place in public policy, visualising geographic information and interactive mapping, and geographical business intelligence.
The first Geography in Government Awards will be presented at the Society’s annual Medals and Awards celebration on 3 June this year. With five individual categories accepting nominations, the awards recognise and celebrate the wealth of inspirational individuals and innovative projects undertaken by civil, crown and public servants in the geography profession. The group’s second annual conference will take place in November, after the success of their first annual conference in September 2018, which was attended by over 100 people.
The Society will continue to support the Geographers in Government group and build upon the existing connections with the new deputy heads to help map a successful future for the profession in government.
This was published in the March 2019 edition of Geographical magazine
Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter and get a free collection of eBooks!