By: Maitri Erwin, Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) Council Representative

Greetings from one of your representatives on the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) Council! During my terms as first vice-president-elect (2017-18) and first vice-president (2018-19) of the Geophysical Society of Houston, I also served the society as one of the SEG section representatives and continue in this capacity. Now, if you are anything like me up until four years ago, you’re probably wondering what the SEG council is, and what exactly is its function. The council “represents the Sections, Associated Societies, and Technical Sections of SEG and serves as advisors to the SEG Board of Directors” and its stated purpose as stipulated in the SEG Bylaws is:

a.   To approve the Annual Report, changes to dues rate structure or dues beyond cumulative inflation, and Bylaws revisions at the Annual Council Meeting or other Council Meeting called by the President.

b.   To provide the Board of Directors with suggestions and recommendations in the form of motions from the floor on any topic considered to be of interest to the membership of the Society.

c.   To serve in an advisory capacity to the Board of Directors on topics requested for review by the Board of Directors.

d.   To represent the members of the Society regarding Society matters; serve the needs of the Sections, Associated Societies, Technical Sections, and Districts; channel information between the Society and the Sections, Associated Societies, Technical Sections, and Districts; promote cooperation, and provide a forum for Members of the Society.

For a more in-depth understanding of the roles, composition, and responsibilities of the SEG council, please visit https://seg.org/About-SEG/Governance/SEG-Council and https://seg.org/About-SEG/Governance/SEG-Bylaws.

The Geophysical Society of Houston is currently represented on the SEG Council by Craig Beasley, Peter Duncan, Tommie Rape, Haynie Stringer, Dennis Yanchak, and me. During my tenure on the Council, I have participated in several voting and decision-making activities previously mentioned above in bullet ‘a’.

A critical discussion was held at the 2018 Annual Council Meeting that involved granting voting rights and the right to petition to associate members of the society. The multiple tiers of membership offered by the SEG have been confusing to new and/or junior members, who are often not aware that it takes eight years of experience and some paperwork to “graduate” from associate to active member status. Both sides of the debate had good points. Those against the extension of voting rights argued in favor of the reputation of the society and maintaining its high standards of membership as it grows and becomes increasingly global. There was also concern that a Section or Associated Society (SAS) with a preponderance of associate members would receive more council representatives. Council members favoring voting rights for associate members, including me, countered that it is critical to include emerging professionals (who constitute the bulk of associate members) in full ownership of SEG matters if we wish them to remain a part of the society. The profession of applied geophysics and the SEG are at a critical juncture, where we only stand to be reinvigorated by the inclusion of all full-dues-paying members, while still upholding our renowned standards. The ayes had it and, as of 2019: Active, Honorary, Life, Emeritus, and Associate Members are entitled to vote on all matters submitted to the membership and are referred to henceforth as ‘voting members’.

Somewhere between fraught debates on “controversial” topics and seemingly inconsequential negotiations over the wording of amendments of bylaws before they are voted on, I sense a year-long opportunity for all members to be heard at council. This is in keeping with giving “the Council a more prominent role inside the SEG Governance” that new Council Chair, Gustavo Carstens, would like to see going forward. As he rightly states in a recent note, “The Council is the truly global essence of the SEG and we have an opportunity now to become more active. This is the right place for all members to be heard.” 

GSH members, here’s your opportunity to bring up any topic of importance - to your SIX representatives - that you believe we need to address as part of a larger society. What can the SEG do for the GSH? How can the GSH and other SAS scale up a best practice to the global level? What are things we should be talking about? It’s usually the case that such a matter is considered by members of other SAS and discussing it in the larger group helps a much bigger audience than just ourselves. This is how we make progress. 

Speaking of progress, council meetings can now be attended virtually and Council Chair Carstens would like to hold more virtual meetings to discuss items that you provide. Council meetings are open to any member of the SEG while respecting that representatives alone maintain council voting rights. You have probably grown tired of me saying please participate, but you must do so for the future relevance and health of GSH, SEG, and applied geophysics.

It has been my pleasure and a great learning experience serving you on the SEG Council. Here’s to the happiest of holidays and a successful 2020!  □