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A year of preparation

Richard Fortey -

Leader, Geoscientist 17.4, April 2007

Your President commends the Annual Report 2006, and looks forward to a packed Bicentenary year

This issue of Geoscientist comes to you with the Annual Report of Council to the Fellowship. You may feel tempted to skip on to something more superficially appealing – but I hope that won’t happen. The Society needs to tell Fellows about its extraordinarily varied activities, and the Report is important as proof of our accountability to them.

This year is special in several ways. On Council, Bicentenary year has been accompanied by a certain measure of introspection, as well as celebration of our achievements. A distinguished past means little unless we face up to the promises and challenges of the future.

The Report is complementary to the Council Strategy, outlined in the previous issue, which aims to provide a structure for our next decade and beyond. Partly, this is to do with the way Council runs the Society. The business of the Society has grown exponentially, particularly as specialist groups arose, and in response to Chartership. The various Standing Committees took over much of this business. Council’s time was in danger of becoming occupied with receiving reports, rather than engaging with matters of policy and vision. With the new strategy in place, it is our aim to look regularly at more fundamental issues once the Bicentenary year is over. We want to be more flexible to discuss areas of concern to Earth scientists. This is how a Society can become more than just the sum of its parts.

As Bicentenary year progresses there is already much to be proud of. Doubtless Fellows visiting Burlington House will have appreciated our “makeover”. The whole place is so much brighter, but without any loss of distinction. The décor reflects a positive ‘spin’ on many other aspects of the Society’s activities. Fellowship is growing – though not as much as we would like within the academic community. The financial appeal has also gone well – thanks to tremendously hard work by staff and the Fundraising Committee. We have secured a generous response from our Platinum Sponsors BP and Shell, who have been followed by a long list of companies offering smaller, but equally welcome, support. It is particularly pleasing that the Fellows themselves have contributed a quarter of a million pounds by the end of 2006. I have sought to acknowledge all these contributions personally.

As this is written, the Shell London Lectures for the general public have got off to a most encouraging start. The first two were over-subscribed – to the point where we were thinking of running a reprise. The programme for the Bicentenary Conference is almost in place.

Finally, I invite members of the Society to come to President’s Day on May 2. This is the occasion when we present the medals that provide our best way to recognise geological distinction. The medals are named for illustrious figures in our past – Wollaston, Lyell, Smith. They remind us of the living tradition of our science. This year is an appropriate time to reflect on where the science might be a century hence.