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Why academics should join


David Manning, President, explains why academic Earth scientists and the Geological Society need one another.

I asked the Editor if I could write a Soapbox, and he explained that being President did not mean I ceased to be a Fellow: so here goes.  In fact, I’ve been a Fellow since 1977 - a long time.  During the last 37 years the Society has changed almost beyond recognition.   When I joined the Fellowship numbered about 5000.  It was more or less automatic that academics became Fellows – it was the ‘done thing’.   

I remember APIPG, and was a member of the Institution of Geologists that it spawned; the professional matters that IG represented became part of the Geological Society in 1991.   Since then, the Geological Society’s Fellowship has greatly increased in number, to around 12,000 at present.  It has become preponderantly non-academic, with about 75% of our members working in industry.  My own career has been academic, with 10 years running a spin-out company, and very close engagement with industry that continues to this day.  

Taken for granted?

When talking to academics about the Geological Society, I’m often asked: ‘Why should I join?’.     The key answer is that without academics actively playing their part in the Fellowship there would be no Geological Society.   We in the academic world perhaps take it for granted that the Journal of the Geological Society is a top-quartile journal, that the Special Publications and memoirs continue to be published, and that the more specialist journals are there as part of the pantheon of high quality deliverables that we, our students, and our graduates, use.   We assume that there will always be a varied and lively programme of scientific meetings, many organised by groups that come under the Society’s umbrella, but which enjoy considerable autonomy. 

We celebrate the esteem that comes to academic colleagues of all ages when they receive one of the Society’s awards or research grants.   We can be proud of the authority that underlies statements made on our behalf by the Society in response to consultations from Government, and to meet the needs of other interested parties.  That authority draws on the knowledge and practical expertise of the academy and industry speaking with a single voice.  Frequently such submissions are made jointly with other kindred geoscience bodies.


For the Society to deliver these benefits to the academic community, it needs one thing – academic leadership, and active involvement in the Society’s life, at the right time, and in the right place.   That can take many forms – service on specialist group or regional group committees, on key management committees, and on Council.   None of these tasks can be undertaken by those who are not Fellows, and they can be very rewarding, especially in this impact-laden climate.  The Geological Society offers academics a vehicle to shape the future of geology as a science that supports very significant industrial activity.   It has always done this, and with your continued support, will continue to do so.