People who know me might kindly note that I sometimes repeat myself, so you are going to see several editorials wrapped around the concept of “doing what we say we do.”
This time the question is:
Do we do what we say we do regarding the membership application process at AAPG?
Since joining the Executive Committee last year I have had the opportunity to have numerous discussions with members and leaders in our Sections and Regions about the concept of AAPG membership.
Without prompting, these conversations often included strongly worded comments regarding the same topic – AAPG’s membership application process.
We say we apply a rigorous membership application review process because we are a professional society and want to maintain the highest possible professional standards within our membership. We also say we want to be an inclusive organization that is open to qualified geoscientists of all nationalities.
So, are we doing what we say we do?
AAPG Bylaws dictate that to become a member of AAPG, the prospective member must have at least a bachelor’s degree in geoscience and at least one year of experience.
Interested parties also can join AAPG as an Associate member if they hold a college degree of any type and are employed in association with some aspect of geoscience. The AAPG Executive Committee (EC) can waive specific membership requirements on a case-by-case basis, where deemed appropriate.
OK, sounds fine so far. So, what are the issues?
Once past the initial membership requirements, the prospective member enters into the membership application process and immediately encounters the “Sponsorship Form,” where three sponsors must attest that the potential member’s experience and ethical behavior meet AAPG’s standards.
And therein lies the rub.
Experience generally is easy enough to attest to, but how does a sponsor actually attest to another person’s ethics?
I can personally say that my true insight into others typically stops at their skin. How can I know whether this person, once a member of AAPG, will act in an ethical way under stress?
On the other side, the prospective member may have been raised in a culture where a request to have their ethics and capabilities attested to by others may be profoundly insulting – or simply may be quite challenging in a place where very few AAPG members reside (this creates a self-fulfilling non-membership cycle).
Then there is the question of what we are actually accomplishing through our rigorous membership application review process.
In fact and practice, after all our vetting, AAPG delegates virtually never turn away any applicant who meets the basic AAPG education and experience requirements. Those who don’t meet the requirements but have extenuating circumstances are referred to the EC, which for the most part have only refused recruiters and a few people who fall blatantly far outside AAPG’s basic requirements.
Once the prospective member has cleared the sponsorship hurdle, there is the waiting period where we post the potential member’s name and the level of membership they are applying for so that our membership can catch any scoundrels who may have slipped through.
In the 30 years that we can refer to staff memory in AAPG, less than a handful of individuals have had formal, written complaints offered through the posting process. One of those was an angry spouse who admitted that her wayward husband was an ethical geoscientist although she apparently had issues with his non-geological behaviors.
So we find our hard working volunteers and ever-vigilant staff very busily policing our potential members, year in, year out, at considerable financial cost, yet producing precious little net tangible effect for AAPG.
A rigorous membership review sounds great, but we catch hardly any riff-raff in the process.
Is it possible that like all of you, my fellow AAPG members, all of our potential members love geoscience and have worked hard to earn the appropriate education, experience and trust of their geoscience colleagues? And do the numbers strongly suggest that virtually no other riff-raff want in?
The diligent and hard-working delegates and staff who do this tedious work are greatly appreciated and respected for their efforts, but I find myself asking if these fantastic volunteers and our hard-working staff don’t deserve to focus on tasks that step beyond being guardians of a castle gate where precious few barbarians ever approach.
Perhaps our volunteers and staff would prefer to do things that more directly serve AAPG’s rather well-qualified membership.
The Advisory Council recently proposed that AAPG drop its requirement for sponsorship, because the process has caused a huge expenditure of human and financial resources for little net measurable outcome.
This seems to make pretty good sense, although some of you will likely tell me why it does not.
Fire away! Send either your rousing support or your scorching flame mail to .
I seek to understand as I continue to ponder AAPG doing what we say we do.