Doing What We Say We Do: Ethics

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

This month we continue our series dealing with the reality of doing what we say we do. And this time the question is:

Do we do what we say we do regarding our maintenance of professional ethics at AAPG?

I recently had the opportunity to reappoint a very well qualified member of our Ethics Committee. This was easily done, as the individual is a great person who exceeds all the measures of professionalism and ethics one could ever wish.

A quick review of the Ethics Committee roster (all very accomplished, serious and exemplary AAPG members), however, triggered a question in my mind: I wonder how many complaints have been lodged – and how many scoundrels we have thrown out on their ears – in the last 10, 20, 30 years or more?

In visiting with the Ethics Committee chair, he didn’t remember charges being brought recently. So, I did some more checking and it turns out there have been a few folks who have had their memberships revoked. On a percentage basis this number is significantly less than one-tenth of one percent.

This percentage does not, by the way, include the fellow convicted of violence involving his wife, but who retained his membership and thereafter sent in letters to the EXPLORER editor from his prison cell.

We can look at this in a couple of ways:

First, we might acknowledge that some small few of us could know of a person who might cause us to ponder rather carefully before buying one of their prospects. Geology is an interpretative science, and some folks who are fully ethical can push the data a little further than someone else might.

Of course, one person’s optimist might be another person’s scoundrel.

If we were to be really honest with ourselves I think we might have to admit that in this litigious time our policing of ethics might not be as rigorous as we all might wish.

The facts of modern life, replete with rampant law suits, effectively prevent us from sending in a letter to AAPG that honor and rigorous ethics could otherwise suggest we should send.

Fortunately, the number of scoundrels all 38,000-plus of us might know is, in aggregate, very small indeed.

Alternatively, we could acknowledge that by most standards, the time and intense effort someone has gone through to gain a geological degree usually weeds out the worst sorts (I’ll let you judge what professions those folks might end up pursuing).

As to the possible scoundrels who might slip through, they are a very, very small percentage of our fellow AAPG members, and they are prone to weeding themselves out through their own actions in business.

We say we are rigorous about ethics in AAPG. We have an AAPG Code of Ethics that all of us promise to uphold – an impressive framed copy of it provided by past AAPG president Pete Rose hangs in the main conference room at our Tulsa headquarters, and I make a point of routinely reading it whenever I come into that meeting room. Thanks, Pete!

Also, all of us have access to it online (

So, regarding ethics in realistic terms, are we doing what we say we do?

In fact and practice, the phrase “not so much” comes to mind. History tells us that legislating morality doesn’t typically work very well (consider the stunning example of Prohibition in early 20th century United States).

If we truly are going to do what we say we do, we must either become much more draconian in policing that <0.1 percent, or be much more directly honest with ourselves and admit that it is reasonable to trust our geoscience colleagues to be honest and ethical.

I would submit that draconian measures would change things little or not at all. Thus, we may wish to say that our ethical code is clearly stated and all are expected to live by that code when we sign our names to the membership application.

During my 35 years or so as a member of AAPG I have found our members to be genuinely honest and decent, contributing members of society who are worthy of the trust we place in them when they sign our Code of Ethics.

For all of you who send me your comments and would like a copy, AAPG will send you a suitable-for-framing copy of the AAPG Code Of Ethics. Let me hear from you. If I have you all riled up, or (preferably) if you have something encouraging to say, please fire off a note to me and help me to understand how AAPG can better do all we say we will do.

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Presidents Column

President's Column - Lee Krystinik
Lee Krystinik, AAPG President (2013-14), is a principal with Fossil Creek Resources, Arlington, Texas.

President's Column

AAPG Presidents offer thoughts and information about their experiences for the Association. 


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