Declining professionalism is a threat to the future
Professionalism in the geosciences is declining for several reasons.
The attitude of some employees and companies has in general shifted
to short-term outlooks and anything to maximize the profit (the
end justifies the means, regardless). Some employees often take
the easiest way out, or finish the task at hand with the minimum
amount of effort.
The marginalization of the petroleum geoscientist in many companies
is particularly troublesome. The overall support that industry gives
professional societies is also decreasing.
Professional ethics have deteriorated along with the attitude.
One can pick up any news periodical and read about corporate malfeasance
or individual impropriety.
The education background of today's professionals may not be sufficient
for an ever-changing industry -- and a lack of proper training and
mentors compounds the problem.
Society often does not recognize professions such as petroleum
geology. The poor public image of the petroleum industry contributes
to the problem, because this lack of recognition keeps young individuals
from entering the business.
Success as measured by society is often by monetary gain only.
What kind of house do you own? What kind of car do you drive? Different
types of recognition would greatly aid in professional development.
Success is defined as a favorable or desired outcome and is not
necessarily tied to money alone.
Because of the above perceptions, I submit to you that one of
the threats to AAPG is declining professionalism.
Geologists are both scientists and professionals. The late Charlie
Dodge used to describe geology as the "oldest" profession. Science
pertains to accumulated knowledge. Geology is derived from Greek:
ge- for "the earth" and logos for "science." Geology is the study
of the earth, its history and the processes that shape it. The term
was first used in this sense in 1778.
Professions are vocations or occupations requiring advanced education
and training in some liberal art or science, and usually involving
mental rather than manual work, such as teaching, engineering, geology,
medicine, law or theology, and often for a monetary gain.
The earliest meaning of "profess" comes from those professing
the vows of a religious order. Clergy professed a duty to God. Professionalism
meant the act of professing. Late in the 17th century, "profession"
took on a secular meaning, and was extended to medicine and law.
In the 19th century it was extended to surveying and engineering.
Today it is often used as a principal calling or vocation, or
employment. Competitive athletes paid for their performances are
referred to as professional, a far cry from its original meaning.
Professions exist to serve society. Some characteristics of a
- Develop and maintain a specialized body of knowledge.
- Establish a unique subculture (distinguished from the society
- Develop and establish journals.
- Historical record of notable members.
- Existence of Professional Societies, which hold members to
high technical and ethical standards (codes of ethics or conduct).
- Governmental recognition (definition clauses in statutes or
Professionals profess the nature of their specialty. The AAPG
constitution contains the statement "Geology is a profession, and
the privilege of practice requires professional morality and professional
Geology as a profession got its start in the late 18th century.
Some examples of the early history is work done by James Hutton
in 1785 with his paper, "The Theory of the Earth," and Sir Charles
Lyell with his 1829 book, Principles of Geology. The oldest
geological society is The Geological Society (of London), founded
in 1807 with the aim of "investigating the mineral structure of
The oldest geological survey is the British Geologic Survey, which
was established in 1835.
AAPG is both a professional and a scientific society.
The scientific purposes of AAPG are to advance the science of
petroleum geology, to promote technology to explore for, find and
produce these products, to foster the spirit of scientific research
and to disseminate information relating to petroleum geology.
The professional purposes of AAPG are to provide the public with
a means to recognize adequately trained and professionally responsible
persons, to inspire and maintain a high standard of professional
conduct and to advance the professional well being of its members.
Having a code of ethics and educational and experience requirements
for membership makes AAPG a professional society. Removing these
requirements would make us a scientific society.
People are qualified for Active membership in AAPG by being engaged
in the practice or teaching of geology, having a degree in geological
sciences and having work experience in the geological sciences.
So what exactly is professionalism?
My year as president of AAPG has the pyramids of Egypt (our international
meeting in Cairo) at the beginning and the pyramids of the Mayas
(the international meeting in Cancun) at the end. Along the way
I reviewed John Wooden's pyramid of success that he used on his
championship basketball teams and AAPG's pyramid of benefits for
members. Therefore with this pyramidal influence I offer you a pyramid
of the qualities of a professional person.
One of the cornerstones of professionalism is integrity.
Integrity is a firm adherence to a code of values. You must have
a code that you live by.
Bob Megill described integrity as "taking what you believe to
be true and honest and letting it be reflected in your actions."
The other cornerstone of the pyramid is competence.
Competence is a product of education, training and experience.
Between these cornerstones are other qualities that help form
Honesty is fairness and straightforwardness
of conduct. It is adherence to the facts. It is the refusal to lie,
steal or deceive.
Ethics is also known as moral
philosophy. It is the discipline of right and wrong, good and bad.
It is conforming to standards of conduct.
Attitude is commitment to
hard work, commitment to achieve and maintain competence. It is
having pride in your work.
Overlying the base are many other important qualities that mark
Trustworthy means you are
worthy of confidence, you are dependable, and you avoid conflicts
Responsible means you are
able to answer for your conduct and obligations. You are marked
Loyalty means you are faithful
to a course, knowing who and what you have allegiance to. You maintain
Initiative is the energy or
aptitude displayed in the initiation of an action. It is the ability
to make decisions and take action.
The next layer starts with candor.
It is fairness or freedom from prejudice, marked by impartiality.
You are free from self-interests, favoritism or malice.
Confidence is belief in yourself.
It is the quality or state of being certain. It is the belief that
one will act in the right proper way.
Constant growth means that
you are constantly learning, maintaining and improving skills. You
subscribe to the theory of learning something new each day.
The next layer begins with diligence.
It is your commitment to hard work. It is characterized by steady,
Respect is an attitude of
deference, admiration, regard. It is being polite, kind and considerate.
The top of the pyramid is marked by enthusiasm.
You must like what you are doing and have your heart into it. You
inspire zeal or fervor by your actions. Be enthusiastic until it
positively thrills you. Have enthusiasm for life and radiate it
outward. Enthusiasm is a quality that nourishes success.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Every great and commanding movement
in the annals of the world is a triumph of enthusiasm."
The answers to declining professionalism are fairly simple:
- Practice professionalism every day.
- Examine the conducts or qualities that mark a professional
- Support your profession by getting active in your professional
Remember that professions are advanced through professional organizations.
"Constant and never ending improvement" is a motto to live by.
Education obviously comes in many forms. The academic world needs
to continuously update its programs to ensure top quality graduates
-- and employees need to keep current by attending continuing education
events. School is never out for the professional.
Spend some of your time mentoring to young, soon-to-be professionals
or students. Professionals must get involved outside their profession
to earn the respect of the public. Public recognition will enhance
the image of the profession and help attract new people into the
We also need to promote the old concept of "long termism." I believe
many of our problems associated with declining professionalism involve
"the short-term outlook."
My year as AAPG president has been very rewarding because I get
to associate and network with top-notch professionals. Your enthusiasm
and support of AAPG is greatly appreciated.
Let's spread the word and make our profession indispensable.