Welcome to Volume 57 of the Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology (QJEGH). I am joined by Colin Serridge, Assistant Editor (AE) Engineering Geology (Fig. 1), because 2023 has been a busy year of meetings of the Engineering Group of the Geological Society (EGGS) and Quaternary Engineering Research Group of the Quaternary Research Association (QERG QRA). Field visits aside, between the two of us we have participated in most meetings and report here on some important UK developments strengthening industry-academe links in engineering geology and hydrogeology. In January 2023, the QRA Annual Discussion Meeting (QRA ADM) was co-convened by the QRA Engineering Geology Group and EGGS and partnered with QJEGH. A full report is provided in Quaternary Newsletter (Rouse et al. 2023) but it is worth highlighting, for your consideration and action where possible, key outcomes. Discussions focused on opportunities for connection and interaction between academe and industry, with emphasis on identifying mechanisms and protocols for data and sample sharing, and for ensuring that data and samples collected during ground investigations are suitable for multiple uses (e.g. both geotechnical and geoarchaeological). Another key outcome was a call to universities, and other trainers including the Geological Society of London (GSL) Training Courses, to ensure that engineering geology and hydrogeology training includes more Quaternary geology and a drive to encourage students in physical geography, including Quaternary geology and geomorphology, to enter engineering geology professions. It is incumbent on us all to contribute to improving the connection between academe and industry whether through enhanced training, offering relevant CPD training, publicizing student placement and graduate trainee opportunities or some other means. I am grateful to the meeting organizers for the opportunity to present and discuss how QJEGH supports academe-industry collaborations, ensuring impactful dissemination of the outcomes of research and practice and contributing to ongoing training and professional development of the engineering geology community. The discussion, and short online survey, highlighted some points worth mentioning: ensuring that research aligns closely with the needs of industry to create impact and authoring joint publications; emphasizing to commercial clients at an early point in discussions the value, to their internal governance checking processes and external regulators, of peer-reviewed publishing of outcomes as a quality indicator and a means of publicity and coverage for the organization of their in-house skills; some commercial sensitivities may be addressed by keeping the engineering challenge minimal, ensuring that the focus of the paper is on engineering geology e.g. even if it is a case study related to something that went wrong, the narrative can be re-written to explain how engineering geology was used to overcome the challenge; forensic analysis of projects that didn't perform as expected also provide important learning tools. QJEGH provides a direct route to publishing industry-led case studies, e.g. as shorter Technical Notes, Case Studies or Photographic Features, and, to help improve accessibility, corresponding authors who are GSL Fellows receive a 25% discount on Open Access publishing costs. Transformative Read-and-Publish Agreements provide seamless and unlimited OA publishing for corresponding authors in participating institutions at no additional cost to the author. A list of participating institutions and Geological Society guidelines for UKRI and Plan S compliance are available. The journal Thematic Collections offer the opportunity to collate papers on a particular engineering geological or hydrogeological topic of importance. The journal has responded to a clear call at the QRA-EGGS ADM for each issue to be downloadable as a single pdf, and this was implemented in Issue 4, 2023.
Issue 1 of 2023 celebrated the life and work of Rudolph Glossop (1902–1993), honouring the 25-year anniversary of the first Glossop Lecture (Fookes 1997) and award of the accompanying Glossop Medal (Moses and Davis 2023). The EGGS Annual Conference, in March 2023, celebrated the life and work of the First Glossop Medal winner, Professor Peter Fookes (1933–2020), with sessions themed around the geological ground model, engineering geomorphology, geomaterials and hot deserts. The twenty-five papers, including six keynotes, are to be published as a Geological Society Special Publication, ‘The Peter Fookes Engineering Geological Legacy in Geomodels, Geomaterials and Geomorphology’, examining how his concepts and papers have been taken forward and applied to projects by engineering geologists and geomorphologists. The legacy of his work was also the theme of the 2023 26th Glossop Award, a prestigious award given annually to an outstanding engineering geologist or geo-environmentalist with less than eight years of postgraduate experience, who is also a Fellow of the Geological Society, under training to become a chartered geologist or scientist. The winner, Luke Johnstone of Atkins Réalis, showcased the importance of geomodels in his paper ‘Differentiating fill and natural soft clays – the value of desktop studies in building a geological model’ in November 2023. Following Luke's presentation, the 23rd Glossop Medal recipient, Dr John Cripps, University of Sheffield, delivered the 2023 Glossop Lecture entitled, ‘From mud to rock and back’ providing a fascinating insight into the influence of weathering on the performance of mudrocks in engineering slopes, tunnels, embankments and foundations.
Another successful joint meeting of the QERG QRA and EGGS took place in Birmingham in June 2023, focused on the Quaternary of HS2. A pre-meeting visit to Cubbington on the HS2 alignment, south of Coventry, permitted inspection of an impressive cross-section through the glacial sequence of the area and site discussion on re-use of Quaternary sediments in earthworks construction in the context of stringent HS2 earthworks performance requirements, and also of climate change resilience. The main discussion meeting, at the Birmingham and Midland Institute, attracted some 70 delegates with very strong representation from industry. Four keynote speakers outlined the scope and scale of HS2 and geoscience input (Sarah Trinder, Lead Geotechnical Engineer, HS2 Ltd), diversity of periglacial features and their influence on ground engineering conditions (Julian Murton, University of Sussex), new interpretations of glacial sequences (Seb Gibson, University of Cambridge) and new data on periglacial influence on ground engineering (Kevin Briggs, University of Bath). Each keynote was followed by shorter presentations on subjects broadly aligned to the keynote. A full meeting report can be found in the October 2023 Quaternary Newsletter (Briant and Fish 2023).
The meeting highlighted the wealth of data that have been collected on the HS2 scheme and raised awareness of how risks are managed during the execution of major infrastructure projects, in particular how glacial and periglacial conditions influence the nature and behaviour of the ground; also, the significance of the HS2 Learning Legacy (https://learninglegacy.hs2.org.uk/) for collation and dissemination of good practice, innovation and lessons learned from HS2 (building on principles from previous major projects’ learning legacies, e.g. Crossrail). A key aim of the HS2 Learning Legacy is to ‘share data sets that can inform future research projects and knowledge and insight gained during the lifetime of the programme (case history information) that may be of benefit to future projects and programmes’; also, to share the expertise of earth science professionals involved in the project – and this remains despite the scaling back announced in October 2023. It is understood, for example, that LiDAR and InSAR data have been gathered within a 1 km width corridor centred on the, now former, intended HS2 route alignment between Crewe and Manchester. It is hoped that these data will eventually be publicly available to assist in further informing halite karst geohazard risk assessment in mid-north Cheshire. In the wider geological context, the section of HS2 between the Chilterns and West Midlands traverses Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic strata with associated tunnelling, earthworks excavations (cutting and embankments), temporary works, excavation support and deep foundation piles. Technical paper competitions have been set by HS2 Limited during the project, capturing content in technical excellence, learning and case history information. It is anticipated that a steady flow of papers addressing and capturing the engineering-relevant learning and research aspects will be submitted to QJEGH over the next few years.
The Geological Society's scientific themes include, amongst six key themes: Geohazards, Geoengineering and Georesilience, and the Energy Transition. Engineering geology and hydrogeology play a key role in these areas and provide an important source of potential future papers for QJEGH, from both national and international sources, particularly papers capturing developments in understanding, innovation, best practice supported by case histories and monitoring. In the context of climate change, engineering geologists play a key role in assessing and addressing ground risk and geohazards, including issues related to ground subsidence, problematic soils, slope instability and dam integrity, and designing resilience into new and existing geotechnical structures associated with transport infrastructure routes and coastal defences; also assisting the energy transition, including exploiting the potential of geothermal energy. Recent and current QJEGH Thematic Collections (https://www.lyellcollection.org/qjegh/thematic-collections) address these, alongside open calls for papers on slope and landslide analysis, geo-resilience and infrastructure, karst characterization, hazards and hydrogeology, and aquifer monitoring. Engineering geologists, along with ground engineering professionals, also face a growing number of challenges relating to sustainability and expanding government targets to achieve net zero in the construction industry, for example, reducing reliance upon natural primary aggregate resources. Submissions to QJEGH addressing these challenges are also encouraged.
Thematic Collections and the publication of important lectures including Glossop, Ineson and Hanrahan Lectures and high-quality invited reviews alongside the usual research and technical papers, continue to help grow QJEGH readership, maintaining the journal Impact Factor (IF 2022, 1.4). Of the top ten cited papers in the 2022 IF window, four were gold open access, four from thematic collections, with other highly cited papers from excellent research, technical note and case study papers from the UK, China, Canada and Russia. There was also a good split between academia and industry with two of the top cited papers coming from industry. Of the four most cited papers during 2023, two are from UK-based industry and two from China-based academe. In recent years, in line with the rest of the publishing sector, QJEGH has seen an increase in high quality submissions from researchers in China. To help us better understand the engineering geology industry-academe landscape of China and manage journal publicity, Editorial Board Member Xiao Liu has enthusiastically taken on the additional role of Social Media Editor, China. Over the last year he has been handling QJEGH social media in China and analysing trends in paper readership. This is helping QJEGH to reach a wider audience and identifying specific areas of interest for future Thematic Collections.
The global reach of the journal continues to grow, notably with increases in published papers from China (2022, 12; 2023, 20) now equalling the number of papers by UK based authors (2022, 19; 2023, 20), and modest growth in published papers from Australia and New Zealand (2022, 2; 2023, 6) and N. America (2022, 2; 2023, 4). The largest number of submissions over the last two years have been received from both China and the UK alongside India, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan and Turkey, with 106 submissions in 2022 and 141 in 2023 from the top 5 countries (76% and 83% of the total number of submissions respectively). The total number of submissions has increased (2022, 140; 2023, 170). Processing of papers from submission to publication is supported by Editorial Board Members across 15 countries and reviewers drawn from 34 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. Thanks to the hard work of the Editorial Board and reviewers, the time taken from submission to publication remains below 200 days. And, thanks to our Senior Journal Manager and production team, accepted manuscripts are available online within two weeks of acceptance, followed by the Version of Record within 4–6 weeks. Our Top Reviewer for 2023, based on the number of reviews completed, speed and overall quality rating, is Dr Mahdi Zoorabadi, University of New South Wales, Australia, who receives a Geological Society EGSP or SP and is invited to join the Editorial Board as a Guest Editor.
Each year, the Editorial Board selects the winner of the annual QJEGH William Dearman Early Career Award from the authors of QJEGH papers published in the year of the award who were within 10 years of achieving their first degree in a cognate subject, at the time of submission. The winner joins the QJEGH Editorial Board for a year as a Guest Editor, as well as receiving a free of charge gold open access paper (subject to full peer review) in the journal, for a paper submitted within 2 years of the award, and a Geological Society EGSP or SP. The winner of the QJEGH William Dearman Early Career Award for 2023 is Milos Katchkin, Jacobs UK, for their paper entitled ‘Slope stability assessment for a major trunk road at Scrabster Harbour, Scotland, UK’ (Katchkin et al. 2023). The eight eligible papers reported laboratory and field research and case studies conducted in Chile, China, Iran, Pakistan and Scotland. Special mention also goes to Pengtao An, Guangxi University, China, and Nicol Flandes, OITEC Ltd., Chile, who were each runners-up in a tough competition (An et al. 2023; Flandes et al. 2023). Congratulations to all our winners. Selecting award winners is an enjoyable part of being an Editorial Board Member. The Editorial Board of the QJEGH, especially the AEs working with our Senior Journal Manager Helen Floyd-Walker (Fig. 1), ensures that the journal meets its objectives, quality standard and publication schedule. Each year there are changes in the membership as volunteers complete their term and new members join to help maintain the breadth of our expert-base, bringing new ideas and enthusiasm to the Board. At the start of 2023, Matthijs Bonte joined us as AE Hydrogeology, and in April, Fleur Loveridge stepped down as AE Geomaterials with Ursula Lawrence taking on the role. Stuart Millis is also now coming to the end of his term as AE Geotechnical and will be replaced in April 2024 by Davide Elmo. Many thanks to those AEs and EBMs who are leaving for all their efforts in recent years and to everyone who has taken on a new challenge. Thanks also to all our authors, reviewers and readers whom we enjoy meeting, where possible, at conferences, meetings and workshops. We always welcome suggestions for new Thematic Collections and articles, including reviews and opinion pieces, and look forward to hearing from you in the year ahead.
CM: conceptualization (lead); CS: conceptualization (supporting)
This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.
Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.
The volume number referred to was corrected.