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The Giroud Lecture – A Speaker’s Perspective

The renowned Giroud Lecture has been a pioneering platform for geosynthetics education for nearly 30 years. Named in honor of J.P. Giroud, it has seen some of the most experienced members of the geosynthetics community sharing their ideas on an international stage.

Given every four years during the International Conference on Geosynthetics, the lecture has until recently been solely delivered by men. This changed in 2018 when Dr. Nathalie Touze, Vice President of the IGS, became the first woman to give the Giroud Lecture, at the 11th ICG in Seoul, Korea.

As the IGS Council considers nominations for the next speaker at the 12th ICG in Rome in 2022, Dr. Touze reflects on her experience of being one of the prestigious speakers. 

Dr. Touze on the Giroud Lecture

“I was asked early in Summer 2016 if I would accept being nominated for the Giroud Lecturer 2018. When Jean-Pierre Giroud himself asks if you agree to be nominated, you do not say no. The Giroud Lecture is one of the main, if not the main recognition you can get from your peers in the geosynthetics community. It is also a challenge, following some very famous contributors. Of course my answer was yes.

11 ICG Seoul Geosynthetics
Dr. Touze’s Giroud Lecture discussed not just the infrastructure benefits of geosynthetics but their utility for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

That summer, my holiday reading was Frédéric Lenoir’s excellent book, La Guérison du Monde, about healing the world and human values. After reading it three times, it was clear that should I be selected, the topic of my Giroud Lecture would be about how geosynthetics contribute to sustainable development. For me it made no sense to give a technical lecture as I did not see what I could add to the existing excellent works.

I began writing as soon as I was nominated, in late September 2016, and continued until late April 2018. In the meantime I had the opportunity to attend the ISSMGE conference in September 2017 at the COEX convention center in Seoul, where the 11th ICG would take place in September 2018. Getting familiar with the venue and the capabilities of the auditorium helped me a lot in preparing the oral presentation.

I thank colleagues from all over the world who answered my requests for papers, book chapters and pictures to prepare the lecture. Preparing the talk was about repeating, repeating, and repeating again. I wanted to give the best I could; I could do no less.

It was a turning point in my career, moving away from the laboratory and research to administration and managerial tasks. In some ways it was the peak of my research career and not the worst way to end it! It was my last chance to give a lecture of this caliber in my career.

I really enjoyed giving the lecture, especially knowing it would be one of the last for me. Moving on to the stage and not staying behind the desk was really meaningful for the messages I wanted to get across.

I received a standing ovation, something seldom seen in geosynthetics. It gives me goosebumps to think of it; a good thing to remember in difficult times.

Afterwards I was invited to give the Giroud Lecture elsewhere including Brazil, Chile, the UK and Morocco. It gave me the opportunity to meet more members of the IGS in various chapters and learn more about the diversity of the geosynthetics world. Further positive outcomes were products created from the Giroud Lecture like the video, the Sustainability eBook, and a shortened version of the lecture in Geosynthetics International.

Furthermore, an IGS Sustainability Task Force was created and recently became a council committee.

There are various societal questions nowadays around sustainability issues. I guess geosynthetics can bring answers in many fields. It would undoubtedly serve not only our community but society at large if we can continue putting emphasis on that. Any of the lectures on geosynthetics, but in particular the Giroud Lecture, should support the development of the appropriate use of geosynthetics, especially by giving an opportunity to communicate ideas outside the box. It should be an opportunity not only to communicate with peers, but also with other communities.

Nathalie Touze delivering the Giroud Lecture in South America
Dr. Touze has brought the Giroud Lecture around the world. Seen here: Speaking at the University of São Paulo at São Carlos School of Engineering, Brazil.

My advice for the next Giroud Lecture speaker on subject-matter? I guess the person and topic are intimately linked, as the awardee is responsible for the choice of the topic. I would say thinking global these days is the best way to serve the IGS.

I’d like to thank the IGS council at that time to trust that even though I had been away from the laboratory and had not published any original data for some time, I would be able to deliver something of value that was useful for the IGS.

Giving the Giroud Lecture was the biggest challenge ever in terms of lectures for me, and will certainly remain. It is an achievement and proof of recognition by the community.”

RESOURCE: Free Access To Giroud Lectures