From the President - April 2013

HGS President's Column - April 2013  by Martin Cassidy

Spread the Word Through Science, Fellowship, and Fun

Communication is central to science, to business, and to our society. Have you ever said to your colleagues — “Oh, I had that idea years ago!” A professor recently said to me, after such a remark, “So why didn’t you publish the idea? Thinking of things is of limited use if you do not publish.” That is a little harsh, perhaps, but rings true. One is tempted to respond with all the reasons, all valid, that one doesn’t write and/or publish. Yet each excuse can be overcome, and there are many good reasons to spread the word of new ideas. Science is built on ideas of workers like us. Ideas are passed on via the spoken word, and also in writing.

But why write? First of all, it may help consolidate your ideas. It is one thing to talk to your peers, even to prepare a PowerPoint presentation, but quite another to write it out. Illustrations do not stand by themselves but require explanation. Written in longhand or typed into a computer, the words are specific, the ideas they describe call for facts to confirm them, and / or compelling images to convey them. The words remain ready for review, for crafting, for further elaboration. Are there others who should be co-authors? Get their input. Later one can go back to your words and determine if they convey exactly what you want to say. Are the ideas clear and explicit?

Wisely, one can sleep on the words and come back a day, or days, later after mature deliberation, and perhaps a dream or two. The work will be there as you left it. If you are pleased with it in the cold light of morning, then it is ready to share!

Many of us work in companies where the next step is to submit the work to obtain permission to publish. This is a positive step because it will get a more serious review than an initial presentation to management. As a representation of the company; perhaps management will be pleased to showcase how clever the company is. On the other hand they may reject publication because they value the competitive advantage of idea. Is that not what we want? We want exposure or at least appreciation of our work. Perhaps the company may want just a section of sensitive data removed and will then approve publication. It is a winning situation all round.

There are many places to publish, with varying methods of submission and levels of prestige. AAPG Bulletinsubmissions are peer reviewed, as are many of the more specialized publications such as those for SEPM. Meetings, forums, symposia, both national and local, all seek papers for presentation. Your publication may take the form of an extended abstract, a Search and Discovery article for the AAPG, or of a conference paper. Having created the work, you can then reduce it to a short oral presentation. Once you’ve “taken it on the road”, the full paper might be published later once you’ve gained feedback from audiences.

Some companies favor meeting attendance by those who plan to present papers and you may get to travel to a location of interest to you at company expense. Local luncheon meetings, dinner meetings, and conferences of the Houston Geological Society (HGS), provide an opportunity to present and give exposure of both yourself and your ideas to friendly crowds, at little expense, and with little risk.

Why expend the effort in what probably is your personal time? The material may help your peers, our science in general, and your personal development. You may become known in the greater community outside your company. You gain knowledge as the listeners relate to you their experiences with the topic. Within your company, there may be technology transfer forums to which you may be invited.

Fellowship is enhanced within the HGS, and any organization, when you have something interesting to present. Your good talk may bring in non-members to a meeting, introduce them to HGS, and result in increases to our HGS membership. Your open communication encourages others to do the same.

Now for fun: I urge each of you, in whatever specialty in geoscience or the business of oil and gas, to think through some of the hot topics of the day. We are all representatives of the business, our company, the HGS. In any social situation someone may ask, for example, “What is this fracking controversy?” Are you knowledgeable enough and prepared to answer that question?

As was pointed out in the AAPG Playmakers forum in late January, for any presentation one should have three versions, the “elevator” version that is 30 seconds to one minute long, the short discussion version of 4-5 minutes, and the less used, full presentation version. For many topics, I use the short version. For example, I particularly enjoy telling others the following about global warming: “Yes, it is a fact, the ice just left New York only 22,000 years ago.” The opportunity to interact with others comes up suddenly and we need to be ready.

A special opportunity to explain geoscience topics to friends and relatives will occur at the annual HGS Guest Night which will be held at the Houston Museum of Science on June 8th. The topic will address the findings of the new Mars rover. Invite friends and family, adults and children. You can see the “makeover” of the Paleontology Hall and its new dinosaur exhibit before the presentation.

A major mission of the HGS is communication of the value of our science. Here I have commented on three aspects of communication within the Houston Geological Society: communication of scientific ideas through publication and presentation, informal exchange of ideas as a form of fellowship, and communication during social activities. Hope you will all help spread the word about the value of our science and of the HGS!


Martin Cassidy
Monday, April 1, 2013
From the President