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March 14, 2015

On research seminars, talking to people and learning stuff

by Jess Guth

Last Thursday saw the School of Law having another go at a little seminar series. We have tried this before and they fizzle out because attendance is usually low and people are busy… However we all do interesting research and we need to make time to talk to each other about it. So in spite of being full of cold and having a cotton wool brain  I was really looking forward to it. The plan is to have regular seminars where one of us can present work in progress or even just an idea and we can chat about it. I like that. It’s what academic should be doing  – having ideas and talking about them.

Well my wonderful colleague Dr Sanna Elfving has lots of ideas, good ideas and mostly they are about things that I don’t know all that much about. Sanna delivered the first research seminar on her work looking at the regulation of shale gas in the UK. Her slides from the session can be found here:

Elfving SK_UK shale gas regime_12 March 15.

I was struck by three things as we talked about shale gas extraction. First, the idea of pumping water and chemicals deep into the ground under high pressure seems like a bloody stupid idea – perhaps not the best thought to base a legal debate on but it was the first that srpung to mind. The other two points are rather more legal in nature: The regulation, though not specific to shale gas but designed to cover more conventional oil and gas extraction, seems ridiculously complex. There are so many different organisations involved in granting the many different licences which might be required, not to mention the role of planning permissions etc. Doesn’t the complexity mean that it is quite likely that something somewhere falls between the cracks and our health and environmnent are not adequately protected? If you are pro fracking then the complexity is absured, if you are against it, it is worrying.

The other question that arose for me is the obvious gap between politcal rhetoric and politcal will to actually see this happen. The Tories in particualr have pledged their support to fracking but nothing is done to actually facilitate making fracking a reality. Europe (or more accurately the EU but accuracy isn’t always a strong point in these debates) gets blamed for delays but actually there is no European legal framework on this and case law coming from Luxembourg is sending mixed messages (I must ask Sanna about the cases she mentioned, I have already forgotten).

It was a really lovely way to spend an hour and I was again struck by how varied legal scholarship is and how much really interesting stuff there is out there that I don’t really know anything about. More importantly though I also remembered how much fun it is to talk to people about their work, to hear their thoughts and to learn from people who really know their stuff. Research seminars are a good thing, go if you can!

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