A society divided

June 11, 2009

I enjoyed the excellent article on the Royal Geographical Society debate very much ("'Think big' campaign splits geographers", 4 June).

The fundamental point is that the society has lost balance and more closely resembles a professional association of academic geographers than a broad church of wider interests. It has alienated a large section of the fellowship by its lack of inclusiveness.

The argument that large multidisciplinary projects do not lead to good science is specious. A wealth of scientific material has been generated by all RGS projects, and this is widely acknowledged. Through their inspiration, they also lead, among other things, to large legacies to fund further research, such as the £1 million left to the society by Ralph Brown, a wealthy Californian jet-boat enthusiast impressed by the society's rainforest research programme in Malaysia.

It is inaccurate of academics to say their voices are being drowned out. Nothing could be further from the truth. They are dominant within the RGS, despite representing a minority of the fellowship. Their stance is detrimental to the organisation. As Abraham Lincoln said in 1858: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Justin Marozzi, The Beagle Campaign, Fellow of the RGS.

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