Past Messages


Richard Fillon, Summer 2003

fillonThis column, although read by the GCSSEPM membership in the Summer Newsletter, is actually written in late April. In New Orleans, Louisiana where I live, late April means beautiful early summer weather that invites everyone outdoors. However, late April is also a busy time for those GCSSEPM members in industry and at universities who are working to organize or contribute to major professional meetings in the petroleum-related earth sciences including the AAPG and GCAGS/GCSSEPM Annual Conventions, and the GCSSEPM Annual Bob F. Perkins Research Conference. For the organizers, April is a time for hectic preparation of programs, coaxing authors, arranging peer reviews of submitted articles, and editing extended abstracts. For the contributors, it is a kind of grand celestial conjunction of deadlines. Drafts of convention and conference manuscripts must be completed and proofed, figures finalized, and computer formats fathomed for electronic submission. At the same time, PowerPoint shows and posters must be readied for the AAPG.

To those members who subject themselves to these annual April deadlines, we owe a great debt of gratitude. Without their Herculean, mostly spare time efforts, we would all be trapped in a geoscience age of darkness. Fortunately through thick and thin travel budgets and varying company support of our professional organizations they have rallied to keep the light shining on innovative earth science and emerging technologies. Thank you, and keep up the great work!

From a GCSSEPM Section perspective, April is also the month during which the Spring Executive Council meeting is held. At the meeting this year, several items were brought up for discussion that will be of interest to the members. The first is a plan to energize the group of volunteers that we call Business Representatives or "Business Reps". Currently, GCSSEPM Business Reps are appointed to represent each of the major communities along the Gulf Coast that have had long associations with the petroleum industry.

Traditionally, the GCSSEPM Business Rep's job is to be a kind of embedded reporter for his or her area, providing information on events of interest to the newsletter editor and, importantly, serving as the go-to contact person when the GCAGS/GCSSEPM Annual Convention is scheduled in their city. As you may know or can guess, the Business Rep program was conceived decades ago when there were many oil and gas centers throughout the region, and when most employees worked for one company and remained in one city for their entire careers. We know that has all changed in the last decade. For example, in today's Times Picayune, ExxonMobil just announced it is leaving New Orleans. Clearly, it is time to reconstruct the Business Rep program so that it can better fulfill its intended role in the Section.

One solution to the Business Rep problem discussed by the Council is to seek volunteers that are GCSSEPM members within individual companies and universities rather than or in addition to individual cities. Certainly one Business Rep for Houston, Texas and one representing Lafayette, Louisiana seems out of balance with the times. I would like to ask our members to think about the role of Business Reps in the new reality and about how we can improve the program, making it easier for our representatives to act as liaisons between the members and the Council, technical and professional news gatherers, the nucleus of convention planning, and future Council officers.

The second item discussed by the Council is how to encourage young geoscientists to become members and new members to be more active in the Section. It is a complex issue, related in part to how GCSSEPM is perceived in the academic community and by the graduate student population. Although senior faculty members of several major universities have played an important role in the GCSSEPM both in governing the Section and in helping to organize annual research conferences, newer faculty members seeking to move up the academic career ladder are not currently being attracted to the Section. As a result, the Section is unfortunately also off their graduate student's radar screens.

Last year, the GCSSEPM Foundation took a giant step to address this issue by offering graduate students the opportunity to compete for the Foundation sponsored Ed Picou Graduate Fellowship Grant for Graduate Studies in the Earth Sciences worth $2500. Several worthy students have been funded under this program, however the Council was somewhat disappointed in the number of applications that were received.

What else can the Section do to be of greater service to the academic community? Possibilities include implementing one or more of the following ideas: expand funding for graduate students, institute a research grant program for newer faculty, provide general grants to university geoscience departments, give free registration to graduate students who present papers at the annual research conference, upgrade the academic credentials of the GCSSEPM publications, and/or develop a more international Gulf Coast perspective with ties to academic groups in Mexico including perhaps reciprocal travel grants to U.S. and Mexican faculty to attend conferences or conduct research.

Another aspect of making the Section more attractive to new geoscientists is providing programs of interest to entry-level professionals working in industry. What can the Section do to increase the membership of young professionals? Direct financial aid to company employees of the sort offered to graduate students can be ruled out, but perhaps increased contributions from industry to the Foundation can be used to provide reduced conference registration fees for newer industry staff and/or complimentary registration for industry professionals having less than two years work experience who present papers at the research conference.

Appointing a Business Rep for new geoscientists is also a possibility. This special business representative could be charged specifically with providing the newsletter editor with information of special interest to young geoscientists and could help in finding conference, and workshop themes that would attract new professionals, faculty members and graduate students to the Section.

If you care to weigh in on this discussion or would like to volunteer to be a GCSSEPM Business Rep, please contact me, the GCSSEPM Secretary, Lana Czerniakowski, or comment directly to any of the Council officers or trustees. All suggestions will be brought up and discussed at our next council meeting to be held this October at the GCAGS/GCSSEPM Annual Convention in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

On a final note, please try to make it to both the Annual Convention in Baton Rouge, and to the December Bob F. Perkins Research Conference in Houston, Texas. Both venues this year have exciting programs that will be well worth the money and time invested. Check out the announcements for these meetings elsewhere in the newsletter or at the GCSSEPM website.