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Refitting the flagships

A Science Committee working group on Society Flagship Meetings has reported, writes Al Fraser. 

Flagship Meetings have formed the mainstay of our science communication to Fellows and non-fellows for many years.  ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ came to mind; but we very quickly found that there were a few strategic changes we could make to bring them up to date and enhance the Society’s overall scientific output. 

The group met on 11 December 2014 and made a series of recommendations, subsequently reviewed by Science Committee and SERC in February and March and approved at Council on 8 April.  I want to share these proposals at an early stage and particularly ask for your support in identifying subject matter and suitable conferences to populate our new Flagship Meetings calendar.  I also wanted to bring two exciting new events to your attention that will be joining the line-up, details of which can be found on

The William Smith Meeting was identified as a ‘blue ribbon’ event and the working group agreed there should be no change in its remit. 

The Lyell Meeting will continue to report annually on and discuss key science in stratigraphy.

The Fermor Meeting has traditionally been held every two to three years but there is no reason why it can’t be annual.  Let’s have some proposals please!

The remit for the Arthur Holmes Meeting will be re-written to emphasise the substantial field-based activity required.  Novel formats will be welcomed (e.g.  a field meeting with a short conventional conference attached) and it can be on any aspect of geoscience.  The conference doesn’t have to be held at the Society and could take place near to the fieldwork.  And we would like to encourage conference proposals with an element of student field teaching.

iluThe group agreed that the focus for the Frontiers Meeting should be on early career geoscientists presenting research to their peers and potential industry employers, and should predominately be discussion-led.  Frontiers Meetings were originally also intended to provide an opportunity for early career scientists to propose and organise meetings themselves, to gain convener experience.  This aspect has not been successful.  It was agreed that meetings of this type need to be facilitated by a convener who is not necessarily an early career researcher, but who can stimulate the involvement of this community.  In an important change, the group agreed that the title ‘Frontiers’ (originally meant to refer to cutting-edge areas) was not helpful.  In future this meeting will be called ‘The Janet Watson Meeting: an early career geoscience symposium’.

There is no obvious opportunity within the current range of flagship meetings to address the ‘societal challenges’ outlined in the ‘Geology for Society’ report, most at present being research-based.  Although some are more applied (or mixed), the group noted that such meetings nonetheless tend to focus on an area of science (as per the ‘subject map’ in our science strategy) rather than on societal application. 

;jhThe group therefore proposed a new flagship meeting series to focus on societal challenges and the geoscience relevant to addressing them.  The group noted that the ‘Geology for Society’ report is a useful starting point for potential topics and proposed that the new series be called the ‘Bryan Lovell Meeting’, after former President Bryan Lovell (picture).  Bryan has enthusiastically supported this proposal and plans to be present at these events when they kick off in late 2016 or early 2017.

Please forward meeting proposals for the 2016/2017 flagship meetings to Laura Griffiths, Conference Manager, E: [email protected].