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Ethical considerations for research on Fragile Geologic Features

Lisa Grant Ludwig

Published August 15, 2019, SCEC Contribution #9830, 2019 SCEC Annual Meeting Poster #121

Fragile geologic features (FGF) are individually unique non-renewable natural resources. Some FGFs with aesthetic or cultural significance are preserved within parks (e.g. Arches National Park, US) for future generations. FGFs may also have significant scientific and economic value. For example, analysis of FGFs such as precariously balanced rocks (PBR) has provided important constraints on ground motions over timescales relevant to evaluation of probabilistic seismic hazard (PSH) models and their application to seismic risk reduction. The properties of some FGFs have influenced decisions about critical infrastructure such as dams, nuclear reactors and waste repositories. Because of their multi-dimensional value, research on FGFs requires consideration of multiple issues including property rights, preservation of geoheritage, scientific methods, and research conduct. For example: studies of FGFs often involve sampling and testing methods that are destructive. Destructive alteration of a unique FGF may decrease its aesthetic value and make it impossible to reproduce or replicate published results. Should there be limitations on destructive research? Who (landowner, scientist, community stakeholder) would determine and enforce appropriate limits? How can the scientific community conduct peer-review or attempt to replicate results after modification or destruction of a FGF? How are intellectual property rights and publication authorship determined when an individual (e.g. a landowner) can literally own the data? Many of these questions have been addressed by archeological and antiquities researchers. For example, the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) has a Code of Conduct (CIfA 2014) including Principles and Rules for ethical conduct of research on “irreplaceable resources”. I propose that FGF researchers consider adopting CIfA Code of Conduct, with appropriate modification.

Key Words
fragile geologic features, precariously balanced rocks,ground motions, probabilistic seismic hazard analysis

Grant Ludwig, L. (2019, 08). Ethical considerations for research on Fragile Geologic Features. Poster Presentation at 2019 SCEC Annual Meeting.

Related Projects & Working Groups
Earthquake Geology