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If you've got it, flaunt it

Ted Nield

Ted Nield FGS thinks that Fellows of the Geological Society ought to be out and proud…

Geoscientist 18.3 March 2008

The Institute of Spurious Post Nominals, membership in which entitles holders to style themselves MISPN, can be found at There you can read some rather spurious-sounding testimonials from the ISPN's alleged members – including a Mr Hugh Jarse - attesting to the client-impressing qualities of the designation on a good stiff business card.

Of course, such ragamuffin ideas didn’t exist when I was 11 years old and part of my education consisted of learning lists of postnominals (my first exposure to FGS) from now sadly neglected books like Angus McIver’s First Aid in English, and Wilfred Best’s Student’s Companion. But then, those were the good old days when the most important part of education at 11+ meant learning to recognise one’s betters from behind the counter of a superior gentlemen’s outfitter.

There can be little doubt that since then, the purpose of postnominals has shifted from prestige to practicality. The very best postnominals, like CGeol, will achieve both; and in this issue, David Norbury asks Geoscientist readers about a new environmental qualification on the scene, Chartered Environmentalist, or CEnv. But my concern this month is with the one postnominal we all share.

It is my belief that the increasing informality of university information has as much to do with the FGS’s relative lack of visibility in academe today as anything to do with the academic eclecticism of our modern staff mix. In attempting to appear warm and cosy to students, website staff lists number more Daves and Phils than DPhils.

I think this is a shame, and a mistake. In attempting to appear unthreatening universities are in danger of giving the young nothing to aspire to. I wonder how many Fellows in academe make a point of listing their Fellowship, as once was the norm, together with every one of their honorifics? And I wonder how many either don't or try to and are prevented from doing so by arbiters of the new taste? (If so Geoscientist would be interested to hear from you.)

Prestige postnominals are a distinguished form of peacockery – impressive display. They fall into the realm of public relations - a world where perception is reality. There is no shame in this, in case you think I am being rude. Many fine human qualities mean nothing without display. Gratitude unshown goes by the alternative name of ingratitude. "Inner courage" so hidden that it results in inaction, is no better than or different from cowardice.

Personal example is the most persuasive marketing tool known. If those we admire and wish to emulate draw attention to their belief in the Society through mentioning their Fellowship, then reinforcement flows and Fellowship is encouraged.

Fellowship is a vote of recognition by your peers. It costs you money. I f you’ve got it, flaunt it. If you take pride in this Society, use the postnominal - For Goodness’ Sake!