The AAPG Distinguished Lecturers, as the name suggests, represent a program that offers the best and brightest of today's geoscientists, practitioners and big thinkers who are brought together with the next generation of leaders – geology students and young professionals, as well, as seasoned professionals who are members of Geological Organizations by way of a special lecture series presented throughout the world.
It is a tour, in a sense, of geology's all stars.
Established in 1941, the program is now involved with more than 500 affiliated societies and universities around the world.
For the past two years, it has been the job of two men – Matthew D. Jackson (Total Chair in Geological Fluid Mechanics at Imperial College in London), and R. Craig Shipp (geohazards assessment team leader for Shell International E&P Inc. in Houston) – to manage the proceedings.
Aided by a stellar committee of past Distinguished Lecturers and experts in academic, government and industry fields, these two sift through the vast number of qualified people in various disciplines to establish nothing less than a Who's Who in the industry.
Choosing the Team
Shipp, who has been involved with the program for the past five years and its co-chair for the past two, wants to clear something up first about the process: there is no application process.
"You don't volunteer. You do nothing. You are asked by the committee, because someone has seen your work," he said.
Which is just the first step.
"The committee members nominate candidates by providing evidence as to why these people should be included in the nomination list."
"The committee members," Shipp said of the committee, " have an interest in the potential lecture topics; they have been around in these areas – many are former Distinguished Lecturers themselves – and they nominate only those whom they believe are worthy."
Three finalists in each of 12 categories are chosen and are then voted on by the entire committee. The committee members then vote on the nominated candidates by a secure online vote, which automatically tabulates the results; afterwards, the DL co-chairs review the results and name the DL's, breaking any tied nominations by reviewing the nomination comments.
And the categories are as diverse as the people chosen to represent them. (See accompanying story, next page.)
Of the chosen Distinguished Lecturers, Shipp said the committee focuses on the work, not the flash.
"Frankly, controversial people that are out there saying things that are not supported by a lot of good work are not generally going to be nominated," he said. "We're looking for well-documented relevant, important work."
That's because the audience to whom the Distinguished Lecturers speak is a specific one.
"We're talking about geological societies and university students. That's the demographic, so, frankly, this list doesn't pick up a lot of people on the very edge of things."
Shipp believes it gives students a look into the future by showing them the present and the past.
"The Distinguished Lecture Program shows students that there are people doing the work. This is the stuff that people do. These are the issues. It's where they get the exposure to those in the mix," he explained.
He also knows there are benefits to organizations like AAPG.
"The Distinguished Lecture Series is a great way to advertise the industry and the Association," he said.
Shipp sees all the possibilities and challenges yet to be fully realized. He understands that together, all the specialization makes it work.
When asked, as the industry moves forward, whether it's the "vision guys" or the "nuts and bolts guys" who will be leading the conversation as we move through the 21st century, he answered, "Man, I just don't think you can have one without the other. And, frankly, we have both."
Shipp is, by definition, a "future trends" guy.
To some extent, though, doesn't everyone in the industry have to be?
"I clearly don't disagree with you," he answered.