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Paul Weimer, AAPG ACE2012 Presidential Address

ACE2012 Long Beach, California

ACE2012 Long Beach, California


AAPG President Paul Weimer addresses the 2012 ACE Opening Session in Long Beach, California, on April 22, 2012.

Full Transcript

I want to share briefly with you some of my learnings. My immediate predecessor David Rensink last year challenged the association to think of where we might be in 2035, think strategically. There's a lot aspects of that that we need to consider. But I think the most critical one is with long-term membership trends.

This year, I've heard a lot of different members express opinions about future membership without really looking at the data. So what I'd like to do in the next few minutes here is spend some time looking at the data and review the programs that AAPG have implemented during the past decade to look at our membership trends. And finally, where might AAPG be in the future?

The slides I'm going to show you illustrate our long-term trends in terms of membership since 1979 and what the implications of our policies have been. And I want to recognize Vicki Beighle, Matt Randolph, and David Lange for helping prepare these slides. Now, the first slide that you have up there, you might recognize this comes from the book The Little Prince.

And at the start of the book, he talks about drawing a boa constrictor while digesting an elephant. And when he draws this picture, the adults look at him, and they don't understand what he did. So he drew another picture.

The shape of this roughly mimics the shape of our membership when we start to plot them on graphs. And it also serves as a wonderful metaphor for our efforts in terms of trying to improve and increase membership. Now, the first eight slides I'm going to show you are going to show the ages of members in groups of five years on the horizontal axis and the total number of members of each group on the vertical axis.

Now, before I get into them, let me make three comments. The first one is that statistics for each of these snapshots are taken on January 1 of each year, which is mid-year in terms of our fiscal year calculations. So as you'll see in just a minute, the timing of when we take this snapshot each year actually affects how we calculate membership.

Second thing is as you can see, here I've also plotted the average price of oil for each year. And I've plotted this in terms of 2012 dollars. Then finally, what you're going to see is that the slides show specific years when each of the major population cohorts move from one group to another, for instance, from 31 to 35, moving on to 36 to 40.

So if you look at the first slide here, what we have is 1979. And what you can clearly see is a bimodal distribution in terms of AAPG members. One peak is at 26 to 30, about 4,000 members here. And I'm going to call them the baby boomers for the rest of the talk.

The other peak is around 51 to 55. And there's about 4,000 members there. And last week, when I began looking for a good appropriate sobriquet to call this, I did several internet searches. And they all suggested "the silent generation."

Now, when I mentioned this to my brothers, we all had a very long and hearty laugh, because that was not our experience growing up. This was not the silent generation. So instead I took the advice of Ed and not Carmen Dolly, who suggested we call it affectionately "the long in the tooth generation." So we're going to call it LITT, Long In The Tooth generation.

Now, in 1979, this is the first year that the baby boomers became the dominant age group in AAPG membership. A lot of students had joined, including myself, at this time. We had rising oil prices between 1973 and 1978 and the extensive hiring also associated with the rapid expansion of industry.

If we move forward to January of 1983, the price of oil was about 66 barrels. And what you can see is that the baby boomers group, which remains at 26 to 30, has now grown to nearly 9,400 members and an increase of 5,400 members in 4 years.

If you look at the long in tooth generation, there's no change in terms of their total numbers. But what you can see is there's been a movement from the 51 to 55 group up to the 56 to 60 group. At this point, the price of oil had dropped a bit from its peak. But it still was a fairly robust industry.

If we go to the next slide, this is January of 1987. And what you can start to see here is, first of all, baby boomer numbers are going down a little bit, about 600, down to about a little less than 9,000. And the long in tooth generation has decreased about 500. You can see that also the baby boomers have moved age groups. So now they reside in the 31 to 35 group.

If we go to January of 1991, again, the baby boomers' numbers are decreasing, 900 from 1987. And the long in tooth generation numbers have decreased by about 500 from 1987. Again, there's been a movement. The age group has moved from 36 to 40. And in terms of the long in tooth generation, they also have moved now into the 61 to 65 group.

Let's move next to January of 1996. Decreased in numbers by about 900 from 1991 down to about 6,000 members. And if we look at the long in tooth generation, it's down to about 300 number from 1991. And for both of them, their courts have moved in this case, from 41 to 45, and then also into the 66 to 70 group here.

So as we move forward to January of 2001, what you're starting to see is the graph and start to be unimodal. But we have two significant plateaus on there. Baby boomers have moved to the 46 to 50 group here, decreased slightly in numbers.

Long in tooth generation, down about 100. They've also moved in terms of their age group into the 71 to 75 group. But you're starting to see that our 21 to 25 numbers have increased, in fact, 700 from 1996. Interesting trends are beginning to evolve here.

Now as we move forward to January of 2006, what you can see is that again, the baby boomer numbers are decreasing down about 500. Same is true with the long in tooth generation, down about 600 from 2001. And we've also moved relative cohort groups into the 51 to 55 and the 76 to 80 group.

You can also notice that student numbers are starting to increase, 700 from 2001. And interestingly, it also corresponds very closely to when Halliburton began to initially sponsor students. So what that means is that students were in fact paid for. They had free membership.

So finally, let's move forward to 2011. And what we see here now are maybe two major peaks and a slightly minor peak. Student numbers have increased by 4,000 from 2006. The baby boomers have decreased by about 1,000 from 2006.

And interestingly, the long in tooth generation has actually increased by 400. Now, this is just the statistical way that we calculate this. Because anyone past the age of 80 now is still in this group. It's actually pretty significant that we have that many people in the group. I think that's actually quite admirable.

Now, if you take a look at this, you'll get the idea that the students in fact are very ably replacing the baby boomer generation here. But the appearance is a little bit deceiving. And that's what I wanted to spend a few minutes talking about in just a second here. There also is a movement on the cohort generation.

Let's go back and take a look at this metaphor that I used from The Little Prince. And what I'd recommend you do is-- I'm just going to click through these just for a second-- place yourself in whatever appropriate place you reside. I'm not going to say anything. But you can very interestingly see some very interesting trends evolve here.

Well, I think the graphs speak for themselves. A couple of more trends here-- on this plot, what I've put are the distribution of baby boomers and the long in tooth generation. But I've changed the x-axis. So what we're looking at are years here. So it starts off with 1975 on the left through 2010. And then total numbers are on the y-axis.

Now, in a simplistic way, you can treat these graphs as decline curves from a producing well. But I don't want to push the analogy too far. There are statistical problems with that. And the actual movement of age groups actually isn't quite as straightforward as these graphs show. But they still illustrate, I think, the overall general migration of membership through time.

Now, if you look at these last nine slides, I think the point is actually pretty obvious. The baby boomers are now in a similar decline curve as the long in tooth forefathers. And obviously, for AAPG to maintain its large number of members, we're going to have to recruit a lot of new members to succeed the baby boomers.

So let's start to analyze then. What has AAPG membership done to implement the past decade. And how has that affected membership? There are five programs that have been implemented. And let's just look at them very briefly.

The first one is sponsorship of student dues. Again, Halliburton started paying for student dues about 2003. And Chevron then took it over in 2006. And today they pay for more than 11,000 student members. That's primarily through Bobby Ryan's leadership. And I want to thank him for that.

The second program--

The second program-- for those of you who just sat through the Imperial Barrel Awards, I think you understand that it's become one of the premier programs for geoscience students around the world. And that's Steve Veal's leadership and his committee. And they've done an absolutely fantastic job. This year's competition--

Yeah, please.

This year's competition had 104 teams with 5 students per team That translates into 520 students, 70% of which were from international regions. Participating in the IBA helps lead to commitment to AAPG. Last year, 53% of the members of the IBA teams became associate members in contrast to overall 9% retention.

The next program that has been here for many years is the Grants-in-Aid program. That is done through the foundation. And this program supports student research. And this year, we gave $185,000 in money awarded to 84 students. Last year, only 32% of the students who received grants became associate members. So clearly we have some work to do to maintain their membership.

The fourth thing that's happened over the last five years is the Young Professional and Student Membership Committee. And this has had very good success in terms of encouraging involvement with younger members, them joining committees. And in fact, it probably has been the most successful program that we've had.

And then finally, let's talk a little bit about the student bridge. That was passed last year by the House of Delegates. And it allows for student members to have the option to remain in the student class after ending their academic career for two years. So they pay $10 a year for the first two years after they graduate.

For the most recent 2013 fiscal year billing, AAPG charged a little more than 4,600 students who graduated to change to students and YPs. And what we hope is that this bridge program will assist in recent graduates retaining AAPG membership.

Let's look at a couple different slides here-- three precise-- to look at student members. What we have plotted here would be student members through time, going back to 1979. They're the lower part of the graph. And you could see the change in colors there represents when student sponsorship began to happen around 2003. It's grown from 6.9% in 2003 to now 14.3% of our membership.

Now, if we turn to the previous slide I showed, this is the same one with the baby boomer and the long in tooth generation. What I've plotted on here now is just the ages of the 21 to 25 members. And what you can see beginning in about 1995 and going up to about 2010-- there's been a significant increase in membership here.

Now, it's a little bit misleading. And the next slide is going to show the reality, which is that student membership actually fluctuates quite a lot within any one year. And this is the key point.

Specifically, there are two dates for student memberships that are shown here. The upper graph shows before we do billing, which is roughly the 1st of March. And the lower graph is done on June 30, after they basically have removed members who chose not to continue with their membership.

So you can see from this slide, the way that we count our student members really depends upon what time of the year in which we take the snapshot. If you take a look at 2000, 2007, and 2008, there's about 2000 difference between the March and June date. And as you move forward into 2012, it's more like 5,000.

I personally believe the June 30 number more accurately reflects what our true member numbers are. So I don't think it's quite as robust as some of the previous graphs are. So let's keep that in mind.

Let's start to look at some of the other programs that have been implemented. And next what we need to do is look at graduated dues and what its effect on non-US membership has been. So what we have here-- if you remember, the last time we had AAPG in Long Beach in 2007, the House voted to have graduated dues.

And what this allows is for members with lower incomes to pay lower dues. The primary purpose was to increase our membership, especially in the non-US arena. We were actually following on our SPE and SEG sister societies who authority have had similar policies.

So what we've done is increased from about 117 in 2008 up to about 2,140 in fiscal year 2012. So we have had some success in the program. Now, one of the surprises though that came out of this is this next line. And that is if you look at graduated dues, let's compare us versus non-US members who elect to use them.

You'll note that about 63% of the members that actually choose to use them are within the US, 37% outside. So what I conclude from this is this program has considerable potential growth in non-US settings. And it's a matter of us, I think, working harder to make sure non-US members who can use this in fact choose to do it.

OK, let's look at the next slide here. It's quite interesting. And by the way, I'm breaking one of my own rules, which is never show more than one graph in a slide in a talk. But it's the only way in which we can communicate this information.

It's a very interesting graph here. I'm sure you've seen it before. And what we're plotting here is US versus non-US members versus total. So total AAPG from early '80s through the present is shown in the upper line. The middle line is US members. And the lower line would be international or non-US members.

If you look carefully, since about 2001, US membership in AAPG has basically been flat. We've been hovering around 21,700 members. And if you take a look at our non-US membership, it's increased in the same period from about 8,700 members to about 13,500. Note that in both statistics, we are including students here.

I think the message is pretty clear. If AAPG memberships wants to grow and maintain current members, we're going to have to increase both US and non-US membership. However, it's important for us to recognize that geoscientists outside of North America have very different needs and different requirements, including, importantly, different perspective regarding ethics and membership requirements.

Now let's look at three more important aspects of membership. And let's next look at voting members. What's shown on here on this graph-- the upper line shows basically AAPG membership through time, beginning in 1979. And the lower graph shown here in green are the total voting members.

Now, to be a voting member, you need to be either an active, honorary, or emeritus member. We reached our peak in 1985. And since then, the number of voting members has steadily declined, including, if you look at the last 5 years, when our membership numbers actually increased, the total number of voting members has decreased.

So clearly there's a large number of associate members that have not converted themselves to active. And I think this affects the election of AAPG membership if only active members can vote here. So I think it means we're becoming less participatory, at least in terms of voting, and possibly less representative.

I think there are two solutions here. One is to increase international active membership and/or change the structure, one of the two. AAPG staff has been working on identifying associate members who appear to be qualified to move to active membership. And their engaging, I think, is important to make us more participatory.

Let's talk about female membership in AAPG next. And that's what's shown on this slide. Again, the upper slide, the upper line shows total membership. And the lower line shows the percentage of women between 1986 up to the present.

Now, if you look very carefully, membership overall decreased in terms of women from '86 to '95, between about 10.68% 8.3%. And it's slowly increased since then up to about 1/6 of our membership today. Now, as part of the workforce in the US-- and I'm talking total workforce-- the trend is toward women comprising more than 50% of the workforce today. And it's worth noting that women now earn almost 60% of all bachelor's degrees in the US-- not in geology, but everything-- and more than half the master's and PhDs.

Now, there's a larger issue here, what the relationship is between industry and women, which is beyond the purview of my talk. That is a one-hour talk unto itself. But I can say is that I think AAPG needs to continue to try to engage this part of the workforce as much as we can in all aspects of the organization.

Lastly, let's take a look at the relationship of membership and oil prices. So what's plotted here, again, in the yellow line is membership through time. And what's plotted then in the white line is the price of oil in terms of 2012 dollars.

I thought it was curious when I plotted this, because there's not a real strong correlation between the price and the total number of members. It appears that maybe membership lags a little bit behind boon times. But you notice the big high frequency increases and decreases of the last four to five years. There hasn't been a significant increase as there was in the late '70s.

So what do all these trends mean? I think the future success of our association depends largely on the recruitment and retention of new members to carry out the missions of the association. It's difficult to project a membership into the future due to the number of variables. For example, student retention, non-US membership, the rate of the baby boom decline-- it's very, very difficult to make predictions into the future.

So I think the real question is whether AAPG, what do you want to be? What do you want to be in the coming decades? Do you want to be a US society with 15,000 members? Several people I've spoken with this year, if you pursued their policies, that's where we be.

Alternatively, do we want to be a global society with 40,000 members? You may recall at last year's All-Convention Luncheon, Harrison Jack Schmitt, who is an AAPG honorary member and the last astronaut to walk on the moon with Apollo 17, observed that the average age of a NASA engineer who put people on the moon was 26. I think that's a wonderful metaphor for what AAPG's future is.

And from my travels this year, speaking with members in 25 countries as well as the US, I've seen the future of AAPG membership. And I really like the face. The face of the future is a young face. It's an international face. It speaks multiple languages.

These students and young professionals are hungry for knowledge. They see science and technology rapidly evolving, especially in the area of unconventional resources. And they want to apply these techniques to their own company, to their own country, and how they can start to transform from unconventional to conventional.

What the future wants? The future face from AAPG membership is to access the state of the art geoscience information. And we have the potential to do this. In a few minutes, we're going to begin to honor those members who in the past have given themselves so selflessly to this association. And it's all together and fitting that we do this.

But I think what we have to do at this point is start to recognize the new. We need to look into our future. So at this point, what I'd like to do-- I'd like to introduce all the Imperial Barrel Award participants to stand and remain standing. So the students to just participated in the Imperial Barrel, please stand at this time.

And remain standing.

OK, that's good. Remain standing. Next I want all the students who received grants-in-aid to stand. Everyone who received grants-in-aid, please stand.

Lastly, what I want is all the rest of the students and young professionals to stand. Please stand and remain standing.

Now, if you're close enough to reach out and shake their hands, I want everyone who's sitting down to reach out and shake their hands, OK? Please do.

You're looking at the future of AAPG. Go ahead. They're not going to bite you. They're young. They're good-looking. The handshake is both physical as well as symbolic. You can sit down now.

I believe Mark Twain observed that there are two essential skills to be successful in life-- confidence and ignorance. They possess ample supplies of both, as well as we all did and probably still do. So what I'd like to do is spend just a few minutes now summarizing the key learnings and recommendations for increasing membership and, I think, improving the overall health of the organization.

The first point I want to talk about are companies invested in universities globally. In nearly every country I visited this year, I was really surprised by two things. First was the students expressed their frustration about the lack of access to AAPG scientific information. Not all universities can provide access to the wealth of AAPG publications.

And the second thing I learned is that there is a surprising lack of engagement between companies and universities. And it was almost universal in every country I went. Now, there's several reasons for this. But I think the primary reason is a lack of desire on the company's part.

So what I encourage companies to do is to do two things. Take the time to go in and give talks and speak with the students at local universities about the profession. Secondly, most importantly, donate a [INAUDIBLE] subscription to AAPG data pages so they can give their universities access to all AAPG publications.

Here is a scenario. Say your company works in country X. And there's 10 major universities that have broad programs in petroleum geology-related fields, including the IBA program. If the five largest companies who operate in that country gave $30,000 each, their combined gift of $150,000 would give university lifetime access to publications. I can't think of a better investment than that.

I've already spoke with the corporate advisory board about this. But I encourage people who work outside the US, or even within the US, to do this. It's really pretty essential.

The divide between the companies and universities has an immediate negative impact on the future of AAPG in terms of building and maintaining memberships, but also on the long-term health of our profession. Finally, I think there's a number of things that AAPG can do in addition to the IBA program. And we're beginning to try to work more towards that, including placing regional lectures, visiting geology programs into the regions.

The next thing I'd like to talk about is cooperation with other societies. The January column that I wrote to discuss the need for AAPG to increase its level of participation with other societies. Because really, our members are banding to do so.

So in response, we already have been working on opening a joint office with SEG in Dubai. And that happened in March. And then secondly, in late February, the executive committee of both AAPG and SEG met at the Nape in Houston, along with staff. And we discussed quite a lot of additional areas for future collaboration.

One of the surprising things that came out of that conversation is that staff had analyzed how many members were present in both societies, SEG and AAPG. And the number was surprisingly smaller than what I had predicted. If was only 6%. What that tells me is that increasing collaboration is going to basically increase integration and also increase our potential profit from these events.

Another example of cooperation is we're hoping to sign a memo of understanding to do more with the EAGE. And we'll be signing that hopefully in June at their annual convention. It's important to recognize that AAPG's mission does not always align with other societies. However, without more cooperation, I think all associations are going to lose their ground to for profit organizations who have been flooding the market lately with high quality scientific conferences.

The next point is we're reconsidering membership requirements. There's been a move in the last five years towards membership simplification that began. And this year, it's been led by Jeff Lund and Andrea Reynolds. These are a series of positive continuing steps to make AAPG application experience more efficient in terms of process and also far more welcoming in terms of qualification application requirements.

Now, what I learned this year from speaking with members around the world is that one, they don't understand our reasons for membership requirements. And they think the process of becoming an active member is just unnecessarily onerous. That is one if not the primary reason for the decline in active membership.

When the Southwest Petroleum Association was founded in 1917, there were two primary drivers on that. One had to do with developing a scientific society. But also, it had to do with professional ethics.

And today, as we approach our 100th anniversary in 5 years, I think we need to look forward to what kind of society we want to be and not take a backward looking picture of what we were. I think we need to look forward into the 21st century. And I would suggest to you that membership is one of the key issues that needs further simplification and reconsideration.

Finally, most importantly, I think AAPG personally is entering into a new golden age for applied geosciences due to the confluence of two emerging factors. The first thing is that our science has evolved considerably in the last few years. The move towards unconventional resources has challenged us to rethink many old concepts in terms of petroleum systems, migration, porosity systems, reservoirs, while at the same time pushing us to develop new methods and technology to explore for it.

The second thing that's very important is we now have the ability to deliver our scientific information almost instantly around the globe. In the April column that I wrote with Steve Laubach and Ted Beaumont, we reviewed what our ongoing efforts are to improve our abilities to deliver this science. It's going to take two or three years to make this transformation. But I think this is absolutely essential to our future ability to entice new members and retain current members.

And I think with these capabilities, we could reach the full potential of our influence as a professional society globally. And I think in summary, as we honor the past, we also have to begin to ring in the new by embracing the opportunities of the present and the future. And I think our best pass forward is the influence that we've already earned. And apply it to new learnings to grow membership and long-term health of our organization.

I want to thank the association again. Again, this has been an absolutely tremendous year, tremendously successful for me. The support of my travel has been wonderful. And I wish all of you a very successful and enjoyable convention. Thank you very much for your time.

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In the News

Explorer President’s Column

This month’s column is extracted from my address at the opening session of the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Long Beach, Calif., on April 22. I thank AAPG staff members Vicki Beighle and David Lange for their extraordinary help in generating these statistics and figures.

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

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