Letter from the Editor
Geoscientists and the energy industry are enjoying an upswing now. Remember the mid-80s plea: “Please, if you give me another oil boom, I promise not to mess it up this time!” In good times, the wise prepare for not-so-good times. AAPG can prepare now by directing its funds and talents toward delivering products our members will value. We can take a significant step forward by modernizing our infrastructure, improving our website, and offering more digital products, or we can let this opportunity pass us by.
As Chair of the AAPG Membership Recruitment committee, I understand the barriers to increasing our membership. In discussing the issue of membership upgrade with eligible Associate members, I am left with offering only one benefit. I say, “Upgrade to Active, and you can vote in AAPG elections”. Their responses are not encouraging.
This week, I spent time showing the geoscientists in my office how to use version 1.0 of the Geographic map-based Search. It’s available on the AAPG web site for “Members Only” and was rolled out last November. “Cool”, was the most frequent comment I got, when I showed how hours of searching the Bulletin archive for articles by keyword could be reduced to five minutes by clicking on a map.
Presenting benefits to members, such as this, is a more rewarding experience. It’s exciting to think of the reaction if access to all of the geoscientific literature (Datapages, for example) was a benefit of Active membership. We can accomplish this, though it will require focused effort and financial investment.
The demographics of our industry have changed. Now geologists are less often at the top of the corporate ladder, and this loss of influence has been painful. The failure of energy corporations to see beyond the last downturn led to layoffs and lower academic enrollments for over a decade. This caused a low tide in the talent pool for geologists. Now our industry is struggling to overcome years of neglect. This diminished flow into the pipeline has decreased membership in all geological societies.
Additionally, Harvard MBAs, with the blessing of Wall Street, introduced the concept of the employee as a task-specific entity to be utilized and discharged as needed. As a consequence nearly 50% of our current membership identifies itself as “independent.” AAPG must adapt to a wider spectrum of career experience and a wider geographic area more than ever before. A key way to do this is to ramp up our online information services. Meeting the growing demand for information -- piped from the AAPG server to the member’s PC -- will add value for our existing members and attract new ones in record numbers.
“We need more young people to join AAPG,” is said so often now that it is the new buzz phrase. Yet we expect young members to simply “show up” without doing enough to attract them. Especially with what they, and all of us, increasingly value-- electronic communication. This must come in the form of e-mail messaging, chat rooms, online forums, and more and more value delivered online in a way that respects the member’s time. Technology offers us powerful tools to increase member participation, offer faster and more frequent communication, and heighten awareness of member services if we are willing to implement them. Younger members won’t join because we need them to, but only if they see clear and tangible benefit.
Increasingly, we are obliged to be self-reliant. I type my own letters and am glad to fire them off without a postage stamp via e-mail. I can find online logs and information in seconds that used to take a geotech hours to gather on paper. Today’s jobs demand we do it all and we manage to get it done, because electronic communication and data access increase our efficiency. We value these tools because time is the new currency.
Information Technology improvements and online services are crucial to outreach and membership growth. They have the value, if designed well, of being very quick and easy to use. Membership growth should be our priority, yet we need to have the electronic infrastructure to serve existing and new members. Our current industry upswing is the time to invest in these changes when our financial health is strong. It’s a time to plan and build, not for the next five years, but for the next five decades. We should modernize AAPG to enable more member participation and think about how we will serve and involve members worldwide.