Reform pace upsets geologists

May 2, 1997

RAPID and radical restructuring at the historic Geological Society of London is causing concern among fellows who say they are not being consulted.

A letter to the president and officers of the society, signed by 38 fellows - including a former president and professors from geology departments across the country, expresses "serious concerns" at the speed of re-organisation. It calls for a special general meeting to approve changes to be postponed "pending full discussion of the proposals".

According to the letter, which was coordinated by Desmond Donovan of University College London, comments from fellows on proposed changes were invited in the February issue of Geoscientist, the Geological Society's magazine. However, the letter says the announcement of a major change - the replacement of the role of executive secretary with a new job description - appeared in the same issue.

"In such circumstances it is difficult to believe that suggestions by fellows will be taken seriously," says the letter.

It goes on to say that more debate is needed about changes to the relative emphasis of the society's work and to express concern about the inclusion of non-members of the society on decision-making committees.

A spokesman for the Geological Society said the main thrust of the governance report, which had been commissioned by the president, was to make the running of the society more transparent and accountable.

He added that many of the suggested changes which the fellows were unhappy about, were either cosmetic or the responsibility of the elected council, to whom fellows had delegated responsibility. Non-fellows co-opted to committees would not have the right to vote, he added.

"There has been very little change to the society for a long time, but things have changed around it," said the spokesman, adding that the president now wanted to see changes over the period of one council to avoid complications.

"The society does concede that communication in the past with fellows was poor. The idea of a meeting to discuss the governance report is to reassure fellows who have concerns."

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