They come from London, England; Bergen, Norway; University Park, Pa.
There is a professor from Brazil and a geologist from Houston; a consultant from Chevron and an environmentalist from Tulane University in New Orleans.
They are this year’s slate of AAPG Distinguished Lecturers – a unique, disparate-though-complementary group of scientists, professors, business people and researchers.
They all are those things. And it’s why they were chosen.
“Recent contributions to the science are very important,” says Ole J. Martinsen, an AAPG award-winning researcher and this year’s co-chair of the AAPG Distinguished Lecturers Committee, “but competent communicators are prioritized, because they can potentially be elected to travel and hold lectures in various parts of the world and represent AAPG.
“Thus, communication skills are necessary,” he said of what the group brings to the table, “in addition to high-quality science.”
And that global feel was by design.
Martinsen, who is vice president and head of exploration research for Statoil ASA in Bergen, Norway, says the best candidates to be AAPG Distinguished Lecturers are those who represent various sciences, a cross-section of petroleum and petroleum-related companies, universities and, perhaps most important, different approaches to not only scientific problems but science itself.
In short, he says, this group should represent different schools of thought to get a balanced group of scientists as AAPG Distinguished Lecturers.
Putting It Together
The Distinguished Lecture initiative is a joint program of AAPG and the AAPG Foundation. It is the Association's flagship approach for spreading the latest in science, technology and professional information. It is funded in part by the AAPG Foundation.
The Distinguished Lecture Committee evaluates the 12 themes from which the elected speakers will be chosen, ranging from general petroleum topics – climate research, the future of energy geology and unconventional resources – as well as more specific disciplines, such as clastic reservoirs, carbonate systems and structural geology.
The DL Committee, along with other AAPG members, then proposes professionals (both academics, independents and energy company scientists) with a proven public record (renowned speakers, people with recent impactful publications) to be nominated for selection.
“Every year,” Martinsen said, “the DL Committee then elects one lecturer within each of the 12 themes. Some are chosen as North American DLs and some as international DLs, to visit regions such as Europe and Southeast Asia.
“For 2013-14, we will have a couple of designated DLs for the European Region,” he added, “and we may develop the same for some of the other international regions to increase the frequency of DLs traveling to the Regions.”
The topics that are chosen reflect those most of interest within the earth sciences, petroleum industry and academic communities.
“It is absolutely important,” he said, “that AAPG and its lecturers stay in line with the advancement of the science.”
“Right now, the future of the energy industry – not the least, unconventionals – is a hot topic, so we seek speakers to cover those themes.”
The Agenda: Science
And of the hottest topics, the hottest at the moment is hydraulic fracturing.
“‘Fracing,’ or in more general terms, production techniques in unconventional reservoirs, is a theme we have many candidates for,” Martinsen said.
Controversial topics such as hydraulic fracturing, while discussed, are not what the AAPG Distinguished Lecturers are all about.
“We shy away from politically-colored talks and choose speakers who stay within the scientific side of things,” he said.
When asked about the teaching of science itself, specifically the pushback in some quarters these days that wish to de-emphasize or minimize its importance, Martinsen said he knows its out there, but maintains it doesn’t affect either the central goal of the DL program or its DNA.
“To some degree, yes,” he admitted, “but we emphasize sound, scientific analysis with speakers with different views from different backgrounds and schools on both classic as well as new and controversial topics.
“Like one of the founding ideas of AAPG, we argue that the best scientific debate comes from sound, empirically-based analysis,” he continued, “and that the DLs elected every year should represent a spectrum of views and interpretations within a range of fields – and communicate in a balanced way to those who listen to them speak.”