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Putting The Community In Scientific Society

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The coat of arms of the Royal Society. Nullius in verba ironically means “Take no one’s word for it.”

Compelling. Representative. Relevant. Useful. These are words used to describe what geoscientists want from their scientific society and that are only now beginning to be uttered by those in charge of these long-standing institutions. Now throw these words against the context of diminishing funds for science from government and industry, the changing nature of the university education, a quickly disappearing social safety net, and the emergence of non-western global competitors. A message emerges: Most geoscientific societies are no longer useful in their current incarnation. Each one of these societies is spread too thin and cannot afford to keep kicking the can down the road. But, what should they do? Here are some ideas to get us talking.

  • Reformulate the Society less as a collection of like-minded geoscientists, but as a community of humans who practice geoscience. Neither is science as clinical as some people pretend it is nor is it done in a vacuum by automatons.
  • Furthermore, the work of all geoscientists has an immediate link to life and living on earth and related policy. Consider charging a governing body like American Geosciences Institute with taking on a bigger role in corralling the various societies and forcing them to examine redundancies. As physical and monetary resources diminish all around, this is almost a no-brainer.
  • Geophysicist vs. Geologist vs. Engineer is a thing of the past. You are a geoscientist with strong quantitative skills and a clear understanding of the socioeconomic implications of your work or you are not. Merge like-minded geoscience societies and some engineering and economic aspects into mission-guided, feasible and attractive wholes. The Academia vs. Industry beef also needs to be resolved in a similar fashion. We are ALL in this together.
  • If the previous suggestion is unacceptable, allow for free flow of people, thought and practice among these societies, and figure out a way to deal with the qualification and fee barriers.

Why a society at all? As human bodies, social units and organizational collectives, we are in deficit spending. We are tired, overworked, underfunded, stressed, uncertain, foggy. We need spaces in which to commiserate and support each other, much less build and uplift. Let’s build them together, and as communities, not as clubs.

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