starting this column in January 2001, the topics have focused on
concepts and techniques to help you value your E&P ventures
more objectively, or to manage your E&P business more efficiently.
But Robbie Gries' stirring presidential address at the recent Houston
annual meeting reminds us that ethics is a key part of our profession
and business, one that we need to pay more (and more frequent) attention
going back, chapter and verse, to our AAPG Code of Ethics, as Robbie
did so effectively, I've decided to devote an occasional column
to this essential but frequently neglected aspect of the Business
Side of Geology — professional ethics.
the annual meeting is still fresh on my mind, I'd like to start
with two ethical issues that seem to be arising more frequently
in our presentations in open technical sessions. These issues concern:
- Blatant commercialism
in supposedly objective scientific papers.
- The lack of appropriate
acknowledgements of prior sources in our illustrations and prepared
us should recognize that, when we present a good paper or poster
at a regional, national or international meeting, two things are
are contributing to, and participating in, the ongoing growth
of geoscientific knowledge, from which all geoscientists, our
employers and clients, as well as society itself, benefit.
This open tradition
has been operating for at least 250 years, and I hope it will
Inevitably, we are demonstrating technical expertise — putatively
sanctioned by AAPG — that may well contribute to our career advancement,
new partners or new clientele. And that's OK, so long as it is
incidental to — and not the object of — our presentation.
In addition to the
venues AAPG provides for our scientific proceedings, the active
networking that goes on at such meetings is also a valuable service
that AAPG provides.
is, what is passive professional exposure, and what is just crass
the boundaries may be fuzzy, my own impression is somewhat consistent
with Justice Potter Stewart's analogous comment about pornography:
"I can't define it, but I know it when I see it."
we promptly and effectively correct this developing trend, our annual
AAPG meetings may well degenerate into commercial fairs.
issue concerns failing to cite previous workers on whom our later
work rests. Because I've been a professional geologist now for 43
years, I've witnessed a lot of presentations and posters, and read
a lot of articles. Increasingly, I think I'm seeing a lot of concepts,
ideas, findings, quotes and even figures thrown up on the screen
that I know were first put forward by someone other than the speakers
who now blithely present them as their own. What I don't often see
(or hear) is the obligatory "after Smith 1987," or "modified from
an acceptable excuse to blame such lapses on the ease and reach
of the Internet, or the facility of PowerPoint, or one's ignorance
of the prior literature. At worst, such omissions represent scientific
dishonesty; at best, they reflect just bad professional manners.
You also may be violating copyright laws.
assured, your more experienced listeners do notice, and they do
remember. This also applies to private presentations to clients
and prospective partners.
So what do
these two problems have to do with the business of petroleum geology?
our long-term professional success in this business rests upon a
foundation of intellectual and factual integrity, and small dishonesties
imply larger underlying ethical shortcomings.
the progress of our profession depends substantially upon learning
from each other through open sharing of ideas and techniques.
do not fairly credit the work of others, we risk turning off otherwise
worthy contributors, and also getting ourselves shut out of future
free exchanges of information, by alienating colleagues who could
be helpful to us.
crass commercial self-promotion in scientific proceedings insults
the intelligence of technical audiences, wastes their time, turns
them off — and reveals the speaker's ignorance, lack of class and
influential listeners notice, and remember. Bad manners are bad
correct these problems?
On AAPG's part,
the technical program chair for each meeting should include
a prominent warning in both the Call for Papers and Notification
of Acceptance to prospective presenters.
be required to evaluate speakers' observance of these two principles,
along with other traditional criteria of performance.
Session chairs and
AAPG members in the audience should speak out at the end of
offending presentations, when they find such omissions and/or
commercialism offensive and inappropriate.
Speakers who offend
twice should not be allowed to present under the AAPG auspices
for three years, instead being advised to pay for a booth at
next year's exhibits hall!
speakers, here are some useful hints:
- Don't lift slides
directly from your sales pitch for your AAPG paper.
- Ask yourself, "Does
my talk clearly emphasize a new technical contribution, or is
it just a vehicle to promote my business?" Don't use AAPG venues
as advertising vehicles!
- Don't show data in
your talk that you're not willing to release to interested colleagues.
- Show your logo only
twice — on your opening and concluding slides.
- Go over each slide
carefully and proactively, looking for material originated by
someone else, and acknowledge them!
recommended reading: "Stocks for the Long Run," by Jeremy Siegel
(1994 McGraw-Hill). An excellent, thoughtful perspective on personal
investing, based on thorough, documented historical data.
you'll like it!