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Glossop Award winner calls for data to be central to projects

Data should be at the centre of a project life cycle and that cycle must become more circular to ensure data is not lost, according to a lecture delivered last night by Glossop Award winner Mott MacDonald assistant engineer Jonny Neville.

Neville gave his presentation at the Engineering Group of the Geological Society’s (Eggs) event at the Royal Institution ahead of the 19th Glossop Medal Lecture by Kevin Privett, who echoed some of Neville’s thought on use of technology.

“At the moment we are not good at getting geotechnical data flowing through the project cycle and data is lost between phases,” said Neville in his talk, which was entitled “Technology and Engineering Geology – What does the future hold?”

Neville pointed to a number of new technologies, such as use of drones for surveying, digital core logging and use of 3D ground modelling that could speed up the collection, use, interpretation and communication of data.

According to Neville, artificial intelligence (AI) could play a key role in the future. “Engineering geology is notoriously unpredictable but judgement is based on previous experience and this experience could be replicated by AI to derive parameters and evaluate risk,” he said.

Privett also underlined the importance of drawing on wider experience in his lecture which was entitled “The lines of evidence approach to the challenges faced in engineering geology practice”.

“The engineering geologist’s toolkit has three parts – multidisciplinary working; knowledge and experience; and lessons from the past,” he said.

Privett also highlighted how modern satellite technology is helping the sector to improve interpretation. During his lecture, he used Lidar to show how interpretation of an area in the Cotswolds he studied for his PhD in 1977 could be examined more effectively with the new technology.

Nonetheless, he cautioned the industry not to get carried away with technology. “You must also use the basic skills,” he said. “You need a need a sound conceptual model to understand the site and predict the outcome and it is still a key skill to recognise when a problem is complex.”

Eggs chair Tracey Radford concluded the event by announcing that the 20th Glossop Medal Lecture will be delivered on 13 November 2019 by Canada’s Queen’s University professor of geological engineering Jean Hutchinson.


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