The essence of understanding is communication -- sometimes.
I recently purchased a new shredder for my home office to protect against identity theft. It had a nice safety feature that prevented kids from sticking their fingers into it. Nevertheless, I talked to my six-year old, Zoe, and gave her strict safety instructions while in my office. I told her she was not to play with it, and firmly said that the device was for business papers only.
Later in the day, I heard the shredder running in a continuous mode. As I walked into my office, I found Zoe merrily shredding a pile of personal business papers that I had left on my desk.
I guess I should have communicated a few more specifics. I think my refund check was in that pile.
At AAPG there are two primary modes of communication with you the member -- direct and indirect. Direct communication includes personal contacts at meetings, written hardcopy documents and e-mail communication. Indirect, of course, includes the strategy and actions the Association and its leadership take each year.
It is amazing, during the six years I have been director, how e-mail traffic has increased. E-mails are certainly the preferred mode of direct communication, with both positive and negative consequences.
The positive is the ability to network quickly with members and provide immediate response. The Web also significantly decreases communication costs.
The negative aspects are, of course, the increased demand for immediate response -- plus good written communication skills are sometimes lost in the hustle of work. As a result, I see more misunderstandings with e-mails than with the old letter format.
Also, misunderstandings are often copied to multiple recipients when one telephone call could solve the problem.
Misunderstandings sometimes occur with indirect communication. AAPG’s recent decision to give Michael Crichton the Journalism Award was viewed by some members as a statement by AAPG that we do not believe in the concept of global warming.
This selection was not a policy statement, just an award for some interesting writing with geologic overtones.
Most members I have talked with believe in global warming. The question is mankind’s contribution and how do we get more geology into the debate?
I received several pro e-mails about the award and about 50 con (see some of them in the Readers’ Forum). Many were well written and thoughtful, but some were emotional bursts that cc:’d the world. I guess I was surprised how vitriolic some of the e-mails were -- a few even had threats.
As professionals, I suggest it is important for us to understand the essence of communication and the importance of listening to each other’s viewpoints, especially on controversial subjects. We are a large society with many different opinions, and these various ideas are healthy for scientific progress and good for our profession.
I was in school during the tail-end of the debate over plate tectonics and I remember a memorable debate between Drs. Tuzo Wilson and Art Meyerhoff. It was an exciting debate, and I respected the society for providing a forum. In retrospect, I think it made the society stronger.
Personally, I believe the geosciences are going to play a bigger role in future human development. For want of a better word, “geohumanity” -- or that relationship between earth and man -- is going to be in debate on items such as energy, global warming, natural disasters, land use, etc.
Geoscientists have a lot to offer to humanity, so it is important as an Association that we remain engaged, listen and offer good humane solutions.
AAPG is committed to supporting excellence in science, but also to supporting good business practices in industry and sound cost-benefit solutions in public policy.
That said, I had better get back to checking my e-mails. If I do not respond to one of yours then probably it was filed by Zoe in the shredder. Please hit re-send.