Societal Cooperation

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

During my travels this year I have been repeatedly asked a number of questions regarding the AAPG and its policies. Here, I address one of the more challenging and important issues – joint cooperation with other professional societies.

The rapid development of unconventional resources in North America has had many consequences. Two of them are the continued merging of disciplines, and the proliferation of technical meetings and trade shows.

Many AAPG members have told me that they feel overwhelmed by the number of conventions they need to attend to keep their skills current, and have asked that AAPG cooperate with other professional groups to hold joint meetings of various kinds. We hear the same request from most people who stand for AAPG office. This issue is also important to me personally, as I have volunteered with several professional societies during the past 25 years.

So we all agree that professional societies need to work together. In fact, we’ve seen many successful joint projects at the local level – one example from my neighborhood is the highly successful annual RMAG/DGS 3-D seismic symposium. But why doesn’t this cooperation happen more at the national and international level?

The answer, as you might expect, is that joint programs can present some financial and organizational challenges.

  1. Different professional societies have different philosophies and emphases. Tom Davis and I learned this in 1992 with our 3-D Seismic Atlas, published jointly by AAPG and SEG. As the late Gary Howell (former AAPG science director) pointed out, different societies have different activities with different priorities; have different internal reporting structures; and have different sets of rules and boundary conditions for how they operate. Bridging these gaps among the different societies is critical for any joint activity to succeed.
  2. Developing viable business models is critical to joint cooperation. For jointly sponsored events that generate income, finding an acceptable division of risk and profit is always the challenge. One successful model is for one society to act as the operator, while other societies help in advertising events and in placing people in organizing committees.
  3. Members must drive cooperation. For joint projects to succeed between professional societies, members must be willing to take the lead. Support staffs at different societies can help accommodate joint programs, but ultimately, members must take responsibility to bridge the gaps between societies.
  4. Leadership of societies must drive cooperation. Leaders should understand the value of collaboration, lead by example, and inspire volunteers to take action. Leaders have espoused some joint programs that started successfully, but unfortunately, ended when subsequent leaders are no longer willing to cooperate with other groups. Keeping the long-term momentum for some programs is challenging.
  5. Finding joint overlap in the interests between group’s societies. Professional groups must find the common ground for successful collaboration. For example, with the SEG, there is probably about a 20 percent overlap in interests between the two groups, i.e. primarily seismic interpreters. Where there is technical overlap between AAPG and other societies, there usually is room for cooperation for science and conferences.

The AAPG has been doing joint projects with other societies in several broad areas. Let’s review our recent activities, and ponder where we might do more in the future. The first two areas represent grassroots efforts by members, and the last two represent initiatives from elected leaders.

Joint research/technical conferences: This is an area that is ripe for cooperation, and there have been notable successes in three areas.

First, AAPG, SEG and SPE have been jointly sponsoring yearly research conferences. Each society runs its own research conference, and the two other societies help by advertising the joint program, and by having representatives serve on the technical program committee. AAPG organizes this conference as Hedberg Conference; SPE hosts an ATW; and SEG sponsors one of their workshops.

Second, since 2000, the AAPG and SEG have been co-sponsoring one Distinguished Lecturer a year in an effort to promote the integration of geology and geophysics.

Third, AAPG and EAGE sponsored four joint research conferences between 1994 and 2000. Following the leadership of Stuart Harker (AAPG vice president-Regions and longtime EAGE member) and John Underhill (longtime AAPG member and current EAGE president), we are re-establishing these events as technical workshops beginning in early 2013. In addition, the first joint-sponsored Geosciences Technology Workshop between AAPG and EAGE is planned for Bali in February on fractured carbonate reservoirs, co-organized by Julie Kupecz, Bob Park, and Sigit Sukmono.

Publications: AAPG has done four joint publications with the SEPM during the past 15 years, and four with the SEG. Generally, these joint publications work well where there is significant overlap in scientific content between the societies, and one society becomes the publisher/operator of the book. Considerable possibilities exist for future joint publications, as there is clearly overlap among sedimentology and stratigraphy, geophysical content, and reservoir and drilling engineering in the evolving plays globally. Again, the book editors must be the ones who encourage joint publication.

Joint offices: As AAPG expands its membership in the international regions, developing joint offices with other groups makes good business sense. For example, AAPG and SEG are planning to share offices in some international settings; AAPG personnel in the Latin American region is planning to share an office in Bogota with the Asociación Colombiana de Geólogos y Geofísicos del Petroleo, a local professional society.

Joint conventions: AAPG sponsors the Annual and International Conventions with local societies affiliated with the organization. Additionally, there are several joint conventions/trade shows in which AAPG participates (listed with sponsors and next date of conference): NAPE Expo: (AAPL, IPAA, SEG; Feb. 21-24), GEO Middle East (EAGE, SEG; March 4-7), Geo India (APG) 2013, Offshore Technology Conference (11 other societies; May 2012), Arctic Technology Conference (13 other societies; Dec. 3-5).

The 2011 International Petroleum Technology Conference (IPTC, sponsored with SPE, EAGE, SEG) is a joint convention that is held in the Middle East and Asia. The most recent conference in Bangkok, originally planned for November 2011, was postponed until February due to the regional flooding. We encourage all to attend the meeting.

Finally, the newest and hopefully the most financially successful program that we are working on is an integrated, multidisciplinary science and technology event on onshore unconventional plays. AAPG is working with several other societies to develop this conference. The idea originated primarily with Rick Fritz, while he served as the AAPG executive director, and is moving forward. This proposed annual conference has the potential to serve as a significant new source of revenue for the organization, a topic that Jim McGhay and I discussed in our October column.

Beyond these activities in progress, can the AAPG increase its number of joint programs? The answer is a resounding yes! There are some challenges, as reviewed above, but they are not insurmountable. There are myriad opportunities for future joint programs, especially in our Regions.

If you want to see more cooperation between the different societies, then become the change that you wish to see. Tell your leadership how important cooperation is to you, your budget, and your time. And champion your ideas – you can make a long-term difference in our industry.

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