More than 300 delegates from around the world flocked to Galway recently for the SEGH 2010 conference, a six-day event which not only provides a forum for the sharing of knowledge and research but has also proven to be of major benefit to the local economy.
However, conferences of this scale are being hampered by the stringent visa application process which has prevented many international delegates from attending, according to Galway-based GoWest, which specialises in conference, event, and destination management.
The SEGH 2010 (International Conference and Workshops of the Society for Environmental Geochemistry and Health on Environmental Quality and Human Health ) was hosted by NUI Galway, from June 27 to July 2. The conference provides an international forum for interaction among scientists, consultants, and public servants engaged in multi-disciplinary areas of environment and health. Participants are experts in a diverse range of scientific fields such as biology, engineering, geology, chemistry, toxicology, and nutrition.
SEGH conferences are held all over the world but this year it was brought to Galway, thanks to the petitioning of Dr Chaoshang Zhang, a lecturer in the Geography and Archaelogy department at NUI Galway and a member of the SEGH, and the GoWest team which provided the adminstrative and organisational back up to make the event a reality.
With more than 15 years experience directors of GoWest Kathleen McDonagh and Kerry O’Sullivan helped secure the event for Galway attracting scientific experts from as far away as Russia, Bangaldesh, India, Korea, China, and Iran. Delegates were also able to sample the hospitality of the west spending “massive amounts” on accommodation, pubs, restaurants, and tours throughout Connemara and field trips to Southpark and to the quarries of the Burren.
“Conference business is very important to the local economy,” said Ms O’Sullivan who added that the visa application process has made it very difficult for delegates to attend.
“Galway lost out because of the visa application process, this programme needs to be looked at and revised for conference delegates. GoWest had to get involved by ringing embassies, writing letters, and vouching for delegates. These guys are experts in their field and this event allows them to build up collaborations and share research. This is serious business with 300 delegates staying five nights in hotels and spending money locally. Conferences have now been identified by Failte Ireland as an important niche market,” said Ms O’Sullivan.
The conference is co-organised by the NUI Galway, Environmental Change Institute (ECI ), and the HSE. It is sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ), Environmental Health Officers’ Association, Ordinance Survey Ireland, National Roads Authority, Fáilte Ireland, Irelandinspires.com, Canadian Shield Research, and NUI Galway. A lifetime achievement award was presented to Prof Iain Thornton (Former SEGH chair ) - Imperial College and Imperial College Consultants, London - who was also one of the many keynote speakers. A field trip was also taken to South Park, near the Claddagh, which was led by Dr Zhang who discovered in 2006 that an area of about 10 hectares which had been used as a sports ground was highly contaminated because of unregulated landfill dumping.