I travel quite a lot each year, and there always are a few places in the world that are especially unique and attractive. I found one of those places when I traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, in October for the 2008 AAPG International Conference and Exhibition (ICE).
Cape Town is exceptional in its geological and geographical setting – and most of all, in the hospitality of its people.
Over 1,950 participants came to Cape Town, and by all accounts the technical program was special, offering a broad selection of papers. In addition, the committee added several new programs, including forums on work force, global climate change and a socio-technical debate on the Indonesian Mud Volcano.
One of the best results of any ICE is the effect that they have on the Region where it was held. AAPG's Africa Region, led by James Agbenorto, of Ghana National Petroleum, has started a new phase of development.
The diversity of its officers speaks to its newly installed leadership: They include vice president Haddou Jabour, of ONHYM; president-elect Nosa Omorodion, Schlumberger; and secretary/treasurer Adedoja Ojelabi, of Chevron Nigeria.
Also key to any meeting is capturing those new ideas generated by the networking of people who may have different perspectives on the society and the world in general.
One of these ideas was expressed in Cape Town during the President's Council meeting – a new council developed by AAPG President Scott Tinker that meets at AAPG's major meetings to discuss strategic issues and major tactical programs. Invitees to each council meeting include Executive Committee members, Division presidents, Region and Section presidents plus special invited committee chairs or other guests.
In Cape Town several expressed concern that AAPG's Corporate Group Membership may not be affordable for smaller companies and institutions – especially in developing countries. The Corporate Group Membership is a three-year contract for dues plus discounts on AAPG's digital products and educational service.
The minimum number of members for the Corporate Group Membership is 50 and, although there is no upper limit, the maximum number of members has been by PetroChina and Petronas at 200 total.
The reality is many small companies and especially government institutions in developing countries are not large enough to qualify, and at least initially cannot afford full dues and the digital data.
AAPG doesn't want to miss opportunities for new "groups" of members, so it was suggested that a new "group" membership be formed.
The concept is that for groups of five to 50 members AAPG would provide a group membership based on graduated dues. The term of the agreement will be for three years. In this case there would be no discount on AAPG digital products or services.
The council agreed to send AAPG names of companies and institutions plus their respective contacts for the proposed new program. The AAPG Executive Committee will need to vote to form the new "group" membership.
A second major idea came from conversations with Nahum Schneidermann and others concerning AAPG operations and relationships with affiliated societies. It was noted that often volunteers try to start AAPG "grassroots" activities with great interest from a core of six to seven local AAPG members. When asked how to form a grassroots organization the answer has been to "start an affiliated society or work with an affiliated society."
But many times an affiliated society is not available. And when a core group tries to organize new affiliated societies they often run into multiple roadblocks, including significant legal restrictions and numerous approvals from the government and even companies. In addition it can be costly to incorporate. Efforts have died due to lack of funds or just too much trouble.
As a result the discussion focused on developing local "technical groups" where affiliated societies are not available. These groups could organize quickly to hold local talks and be the catalysts for workshops and other educational opportunities.
Once organized they could also work with staff to develop Distinguished Lecturer and Visiting Geoscientist tours, plus provide concepts for new publications.
These two ideas have been sent to the AAPG Executive Committee for consideration. If you would like comment on the concepts please feel free to write me or drop Scott Tinker a note.
Once again I thank the Cape Town Organizing Committee – led by general chair Sipho Mkhize and general vice chair Jeff Aldrich – for their hard work and support. I especially thank PetroSA for its sponsorship of the meeting and the Geological Society of South Africa for hosting the ICE 2008.
I also thank the people of South Africa for their hospitality and kind spirit to all "we" geoscience travelers around the globe.
As always, we appreciate those ideas that help improve and advance our Association.