On Jan.15, the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) began a new round of scientific drilling. About a dozen proposals for drilling projects to explore the planet have been filed for the year 2012. The topics cover a wide range of research projects, ranging from earthquake research to the exploration of natural resources. The planned drill sites span the globe, from Iceland to South Africa.

Also new is the chairman of the executive committee, Professor Brian Horsfield of the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, who now directs the evaluation of the proposals and the planning of the suggested research. He has more than 30 years of experience in the petroleum industry and research.

About his ideas concerning the importance of scientific research boreholes, he says: "Drilling the Earth's crust is an indispensable tool for the geosciences, and ICDP is the global leader in the effort to contribute to the understanding and sustainable use of our planet, be it the protection against natural disasters, serving an ever-growing population with natural resources or exploring the natural and anthropogenic processes of our dynamic earth."

In December 2011, Brian Horsfield took over the chair of the ICDP from Professor Rolf Emmermann, formerly the founding director of the GFZ. In February 1996, in Tokyo, he encouraged China, the United States and Germany to sign an agreement establishing the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program, which serves the exploration of the active processes on the continents. The research topics cover the whole spectrum of Earth Sciences: Volcanoes are drilled; earthquake epicenters are pierced; sediments in lakes acting as climate archives are opened; and geothermal energy and methane hydrates are examined as an energy source.

"The ICDP scientific drilling program has proved highly successful, and has set new standards in the exploration of our planet," explains Professor Reinhard Huettl, chair of the executive board of the GFZ and vice president of the Helmholtz Association. "Today, 24 states and UNESCO are members of and the ICDP. Twenty-nine drilling projects and 57 international workshops have already been conducted that have completely changed our view of Earth. In addition, this drilling program has the character of a role model for international cooperation. The achievement of Professor Emmermann against this background cannot be overstated." After his retirement as the chair of the scientific executive board of the GFZ (1992 - 2007), Emmermann was the chairman of the ICDP governing board until December 2011.