Geotimes

From the Editor

This issue looks at “international” scientific efforts from two perspectives: collaboration through an institution and collaboration by scientific societies, particularly by U.S. earth science societies. The Ocean Drilling Program is an example of a successful international collaboration, and its administrative arm, the Joint Oceanographic Institutions, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Governments and universities have worked together to absorb the tremendous costs and logistical challenges of this large-scale scientific project. ODP now heads into a new phase to be called, appropriately enough, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program.
 
Our other feature, consisting of interviews with representatives of earth science societies, shows that some societies have pursued successful international activities for years, whereas aspirations of other societies remain unrealized. With low airfares (sometimes restricted), Internet cafes everywhere (well, some places at least!), bargain telephone rates and scientists of many countries increasingly using English, science is becoming even more international, and internationalization of earth science societies seems like the natural thing to do. But is it? And, if so, what activities, in which countries and by what approaches?
 
By internationalization we mean efforts to begin or to expand one or more of a society’s activities in one or more countries beyond the United States. Reasons for such undertakings could be many, ranging from growing membership, to spreading fixed operating costs, to improving services for current members. Other societies might want to fulfill their charters, bylaws and missions or respond to expectations of members and international nonmembers alike. The challenges include accurately reading the needs and preferences of current members and engaging them in the decisions. Similarly, the aspirations and preferences of earth scientists in other countries must be accurately plumbed.
 
What have been the experiences of U.S. societies that have attempted international activities? The interviews reported in this issue are enlightening in this regard. Societies face financial, social and manpower risks in new international activities. Differences in languages, currency, standards of living, computerization, education and customs are not trivial. The cost of society membership and publications may be prohibitive for earth scientists in many countries. Translation of printed materials may add unmanageable costs. Earth scientists and societies in some countries may be sensitive to initiatives from our societies. (How would we feel if the Geological Society of South Africa, for example, suddenly mounted initiatives in the United States?)
 
My read is that some international activities have been successful for some societies, to some extent and in some countries, and that this selective success will characterize future initiatives as well. Successful niches might best be found through careful attention to a society’s constitution and mission (for example, “the society is to promote research, the dissemination of science and the application of science for public good”); the informed opinions and needs of current domestic members; and the potential value to the earth science societies and earth scientists in other countries who might become involved. Perhaps limited and focused ventures with existing foreign societies are the best approach in one country, whereas the formation of an international chapter of a U.S. society fits for another country. Finally, perhaps there are ways for older societies in this country to share information and experiences with societies that have fewer or different experiences.

Believe your compass,

Samual S. Adams
Geotimes Editor In Chief


Geotimes Home | AGI Home | Information Services | Geoscience Education | Public Policy | Programs | Publications | Careers

© 2014 American Geological Institute. All rights reserved. Any copying, redistribution or retransmission of any of the contents of this service without the express written consent of the American Geological Institute is expressly prohibited. For all electronic copyright requests, visit: http://www.copyright.com/ccc/do/showConfigurator?WT.mc_id=PubLink