Strategic Planning

The Strategic Plan, and this column, both address ongoing long-term, thorny issues facing AAPG; issues that will require difficult decisions to be made.

As you know, our industry’s rapid changes during the past five years have created an entire new way for geoscientists to work. One of the many charges of the Executive Committee and Advisory Council is to monitor these broad changes, continuously evaluate how our Association should react, and to develop a Strategic Plan that prioritizes our objectives.

The Strategic Plan was discussed during Leadership Days, an annual event that’s usually held in Tulsa but met in Boulder this past August. Specifically, two break-out sessions were convened, chaired by Don Clarke and Lee Krystinik (candidates for president-elect), Ted Beaumont (AAPG president-elect), and Marv Brittenham (vice president-Sections). The results of their discussion sessions are posted in two presentations, and the latest Strategic Plan

The Strategic Plan has five main parts. Although many of the issues in the Plan are inextricably linked, we’d like to briefly review some of the critical issues in two areas: long-term goals and challenging our paradigms.

Long-Term Goals
(1- 10 years)

♦ Advance the Science:

AAPG is at its best when it disseminates knowledge about science of petroleum geology. There are really two issues here: how best to capture the abrupt ongoing changes and acceleration in our knowledge base, and how to best disseminate this information to members. Both of these, but especially the latter, are especially challenging because online media are changing so rapidly.

♦ Public Awareness and Understanding:

Public outreach always has been an ongoing major challenge for our Association. How do we educate the public and policy makers regarding the realities of energy, especially given the miniscule attention span of most media outlets? This issue varies considerably among our different regions and individual countries. In fact, as I’ve traveled for AAPG these past months, one key lesson is that many countries in the world are looking to the United States and Canada to see how unconventional resources are evaluated and developed, both scientifically and with respect to policy and economics.

♦ Membership and Member Services:

The September President’s Column included a graph that showed the distribution of AAPG membership by age – a bimodal distribution showing peaks in the mid 50s and early 20s. In the final analysis, if we want to continue as the world’s premier applied geoscience organization, we need more members and younger members.

♦ Global Presence:

About 35 percent of AAPG membership is international, and this relative percentage will likely grow in the coming decade. Historically, AAPG evolved as a bottom-up organization; in 1999, however, the six international regions were established and offered immediate challenges that all global organizations must face. Organizationally, the international regions require a different approach. For us to continue to grow, we will need to offer a number of services that are specifically tailored to each region. For example, one new program that will be offered in 2012-13 is a series of regional Distinguished Lectures sponsored by Shell. Plans for increasing regional meetings and for more Geoscience Technology Workshops designed for specific regions are moving forward quickly.

♦ Financial Strength:

In the October column, Jim McGhay and I discussed the immediate short-term and longer-term challenges with budgets, and the immediate steps that we are taking to address our budget shortfalls of the next two-three years. Our abilities to provide new services are constrained by our budget. In the next few issues of the EXPLORER, we will discuss some proposed new programs whose financial success is critical for the future of the AAPG.

Challenging Our Paradigms

Based on the many discussions at Leadership Days, and my travels in different Regions and Sections, many members consider two issues critical to our path forward: membership requirements and possible name changes. These challenge many of the prevailing paradigms and assumptions in our business.

♦ Membership

Over the years, AAPG has continued to modify and redefine our membership categories with mostly positive results for current and prospective members. Today, we still face some key issues around the professionals within the membership, many of who are still in the Associate category due to the way they came into the Association as “Junior” members. We long ago eliminated the Junior class of membership, but at that time decided to put those members into the Associate category instead of the Active category (because of the requirements for full membership). These days, many (but not all) AAPG leaders feel that degreed geoscientists belong in the Active member category. We need to change the membership system to create a solution for those Associates such that Delegates are allowed to sponsor applications.

Another important membership change that we need to review is the need for three sponsors to join the AAPG. Our heritage is that AAPG membership required other AAPG members to sponsor and support a new member. In the International arena, however, it is sometimes difficult to impossible to find three sponsors, and this stops many new members from joining the AAPG. It also affects the new graduates who do not know many members and thus may not join our Association. We are falling behind the other international learned Associations and Societies in our membership growth and, in part, this is related to our current membership procedures, which can and should be streamlined.

♦ American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

At the inception of our Association in 1917, we formed as the Southwest Association of Petroleum Geologists, centered in Tulsa and focused on the petroleum geology of Oklahoma and Texas. Today, almost a hundred years later, we have 36,000 members in 125 countries. Many members believe it is time to be seen, as past AAPG president Bruno Hansen stated, as “an International Geological Organization.” Many of our international Regions’ leadership have stated that the changing of our name will not only increase our membership, but also make us an international Association in name as well as in deed.

So, has the time come for a debate on the first “A” in AAPG? Should we continue to hold fast to heritage, or should we embrace the international reality of our present and our future? Two options discussed at Leadership Days include Association for the Advancement of Petroleum Geoscience (AAPG) and the Association of Petroleum Geologists (APG). Renaming is a contentious topic for some because it strikes at the very core of our identity. Renaming our Association will require broad support from both leaders and members to change the AAPG’s Constitution; thus, we all have a role to play in this discussion as we move forward.

To grow and prosper in the new millennium, AAPG has some difficult decisions and challenges to address, just as the Southwest Association of Petroleum Geologists did nearly one hundred years ago when the 167 members decided to change the name to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

In summary, our Advisory Council continues to review the Long Range Plan to keep AAPG relevant to its membership. We are confident that we will move forward with the spirit of professionalism, just as our founders did in 1917.

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Meet My Co-authors

My co-author for this month’s column is John Hogg, former chairman of the House of Delegates (1998-1999), former vice president of Regions (2007-2009), and Honorary Member (2011). John (with Steve Sonnenberg) recently updated the Strategic Plan for the Advisory Council and presented it to AAPG membership at Leadership Days.