In Shakespeare’s play “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,” we hear Polonius tell his son, Laertes:
“This above all: To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
Scholars of the Bard tell us that in this context to be “false” is to act in a way that is detrimental to your image or your goal.
Boiled down to basics, professionalism is the image of petroleum geoscientists and AAPG’s goal is to promote good geoscience to the world.
So, if AAPG wouldst be true unto itself, what wouldst it be?
I have heard many of our faithful members distinguish AAPG from other groups because we are a premier scientific and technical organization – and so we are. I also have heard equally strident voices within AAPG passionately declare that we are a professional organization – and so we are.
Yet others, looking in from the outside and observing our presence in Washington, D.C., for example, and not understanding our purpose there or our engagement in policy issues, have suggested we are, heavens above forbid, a “trade organization.”
We are, in fact and practice, a group of professionals whose organization delivers premier petroleum geoscience by many modes. We are a group of diverse and talented individuals who mostly identify ourselves as professional petroleum geoscientists. Some faithful members pull for more “professionalism” while others pull for more science.
Our purpose, as defined in AAPG’s constitution, is to further the science as well as promote professionalism.
Unfortunately, some in AAPG have chosen to polarize to one side or the other of this philosophical discussion and have made it into a debate, or an outright fight. In my experience, AAPG is at its strongest when we all work together toward a common goal. The phrase, “United we stand, divided we fall,” with a literary nod to Aesop, comes to mind.
So, if we are to be true to ourselves at AAPG, then my job and my honor as president of AAPG for this short year is to work in concert with the Executive Committee, the Advisory Council, the House of Delegates, the AAPG staff and you, dear members, to further our scientific progress AND to promote professionalism, hoping to maintain a balance along the way.
A distinct opportunity to both serve science AND promote professionalism has arisen in the form of the resolution to remove sponsorship as a requirement to become a member of AAPG.
Some might worry that we are damaging our professionalism by removing sponsorship, even though sponsorship is considered an affront by many experienced professionals both in the United States and abroad.
I will be quick to say that I am exceptionally proud to have the good names of my sponsors, each an oil finder of note in his own right, in support of my becoming a member, in keeping with the long-standing traditions of AAPG – but one might ask, did this make me one drop more a professional?
I would submit that what makes me a professional is my education, experience, personal dedication to continuous self-improvement in our profession and my personal ethics, to which no other person can truly attest.
If my signature acknowledging that I will abide by the AAPG Code of Ethics is insufficient, having 50 sponsors’ signatures will not inhibit me from dastardly deeds befitting the darkest of villains in Shakespeare’s plays.
At the same time, we serve our science AND professionalism by not building barriers to qualified geoscientists who otherwise might become members.
By taking down this barrier, we serve the highest tradition of AAPG by including our fellow professionals in what I do consider to be THE premier scientific and technical petroleum geoscience organization.
I must emphasize that increasing our membership is NOT the goal; the goal is to include professionals who are technically qualified and who, through their accomplishments, will enhance our science and the professional image of petroleum geoscientists.
This is why all of the presidents of our Regions, our Young Professional community, the DPA leadership, the AC, the EC and many thoughtful and dedicated professional members endorse this measure.
I hope the AAPG House of Delegates, after due deliberation and careful consideration as a united body of professional geoscientists, also will agree.
And now, as Laertes responded to his father, “Most humbly I do take my leave.”
Please feel free to “ping” me at and let me know how I can best serve you as members of AAPG by continuing to do what we say we will do.