Geological and Geophysical Societies
Professional associations or licensing bodies are established for
the primary purpose of protecting the public. In Canada, they normally
have: legal status, minimum standards for admission, codes of ethics
to which their members must conform, and provisions for disciplining
members who fail to practice professionally or who violate the body's
ethical standards. Authority usually exists in the legislation which
prohibits the practice of the profession by unauthorized individuals
or entities. However, while the professional body has a definite
interest in the continued technical and scientific competence of
its members, its concern in these matters is mostly secondary in
Most professions, besides having legal status, are organized into
technical or learned societies whose basic purposes are to disseminate
technical/scientific information to their members and the public.
Enhancement of the competence of the members of a profession over
the course of their careers is more properly the role of the society
rather than the professional licensing body. As such, the requirements
for membership in the society are usually much less stringent than
those for admission to the professional body; ethical standards,
if they exist, are not enforced, and if a form of disciplinary system
is in place, the penalty is relatively minimal, usually consisting
With respect to the profession of engineering, according to Kemper,
there are over 400 engineering societies in the USA, including state
and local organizations, and 21 in Canada. With respect to geology
and geophysics, Geotimes, a monthly publication of the American
Geological Institute, lists over 150 geological and geophysical
societies in the USA, most of which are at the regional and local
level, although about 20 are national organizations. This same directory
lists several national and regional societies in Canada connected
with geology, geophysics or the earth sciences.
The main Canadian societies listed in Geotimes are:
of Exploration Geochemists
Canadian Exploration Geophysical Society
Canadian Geoscience Society
Canadian Geotechnical Society
Canadian Geothermal Resources Association
Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists
Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists
Canadian Society of Soil Science
Canadian Well Logging Society
Geological Association of Canada
Mineralogical Association of Canada
of the above-listed societies are member societies of the Canadian
Geoscience Council (see paragraph 6.18) which includes as member
societies the following additional organizations:
Association of Geographers
Canadian Geophysical Union
Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Canadian Quaternary Association
Canadian Chapter, International Association of Hydrogeologists
two societies of direct interest to most persons in the geology
and geophysics professions in Alberta - those involved in oil and
gas - are the ones in italics above and these are discussed in the
Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (CSEG)
In Alberta a society may be registered under the Societies Act which
states: "five or more persons may become incorporated under
this Act for any benevolent, philanthropic, charitable, provident,
scientific, artistic, literary, social, educational, agricultural,
sporting or other useful purpose, but not for the purpose of carrying
on a trade or a business." The CSEG, organized by an enthusiastic
group of geophysicists, was established under the Societies Act
in 1949. Its object is to "promote the science of geophysics
especially as it applies to exploration, and to promote fellowship
and cooperation among those persons interested in geophysical problems."
Operations of the Society were mainly to be carried on in the City
When the CSEG was formed in 1919 there were about 100 founding members.
By 1967 it had a membership of 700, 1,000 in 1976 and at the end
of 1989 there were 2,028 individual and 114 corporate members. The
society operates under a set of bylaws which were adopted in 1959,
later amended and formally registered by the Department of Consumer
and Corporate Affairs in 1977. The bylaws cover membership, how
the society is managed, meetings including technical meetings, finance,
publications, committees, honours and awards, relationships with
other societies including the US Society of Exploration Geophysicists
(SEG). Although an autonomous group, the CSEG also operates as a
section of the international SEG which, as of 1989, had about 1,550
Canadian members out of a total membership of 15,600. Of the 1,550,
most are located in Alberta.
Affairs of CSEG are managed through an Executive Committee elected
annually. The society has its headquarters in Calgary. Activities
are carried out by committees composed of volunteer members. Its
annual budget is approximately $250,000 (1988) with revenue obtained
mainly from membership dues, conventions and advertising in the
monthly publication The Recorder. In addition to its technical activities,
there are social activities and recreational programs which foster
a spirit of comradeship among the members.
Qualifications for membership in the CSEG are broad: "Active
membership may be granted to any person engaged in or interested
in the geophysical profession". An application for active membership
must be endorsed by three Active or Honorary Members of the Society
who are personally acquainted with the applicant. A comparison of
these requirements and procedures with those for registration with
APEGGA illustrates the difference in roles of a professional licensing
body and a technical society. With respect to ethics: "Membership
in any class shall be contingent upon conformance with the established
principles of professional ethics." A member who violates these
principles may be suspended or expelled.
When it feels it necessary, the CSEG makes its concerns about the
future of the geophysical industry known to government and the public.
Examples are the submission on Alleged Abuses to the Alberta Petroleum
Incentive Program (APIP) made in 1983, and a letter to the federal
Minister of Energy and Natural Resources about the 1986 downturn
in the industry resulting from reduced oil prices. But in the words
of Valerie Neilsen, P. Geoph., 1983 CSEG President, the CSEG is
"foremost a technical society, dedicated to the achievement
of its objective". It does so through an excellent technical
program consisting of:
Publications - a monthly "Recorder" and an annual "Canadian
Journal of Exploration Geophysics".
Regular technical luncheons with talks and papers on geophysical
Annual conventions with numerous technical sessions and papers.
Organizing and sponsoring continuing education courses and seminars.
An honours and awards program.
An extensive scholarship program for students at Canadian universities
and institutions planning careers in exploration geophysics.
CSEG is an excellent mechanism for its participating members to
advance their technical competence in the practice of geophysics.
Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists (CSPG)
This society, formed in 1927, was originally known as the Alberta
Society of Petroleum Geologists. Its purpose then was to serve the
professional and scientific needs of geologists in the fledgling
Western Canadian oil industry. In early 1973, the Society changed
its name to the "Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists"
in recognition of the fact that it was now an organization of national
scope, worldwide membership and represented petroleum geologists
in most sedimentary basins in Canada. At that time, its membership
had grown to just over 2,000. At the end of 1989, the CSPG had a
membership of 3,800. Of this number, approximately 2,900 resided
in Alberta, with the remainder located in other provinces (400),
USA (400) and other countries (100).
The CSPG is registered under the Societies Act, and operates under
a set of bylaws similar to those of the American Association of
Petroleum Geologists, supplemented by a detailed manual of operations.
While basically a technical society, its objectives cover a wider
range than those of the CSEG:
to advance the science of geology, especially as it relates to petroleum,
natural gas and other fossil fuels;
to promote the technology of exploration for finding and producing
these resources from the earth;
to foster the spirit of scientific research throughout its membership;
to disseminate relevant information to the public at large and to
to inspire and maintain a high standard of professional conduct
on the part of its members; and
to provide the public a means of recognition of adequately trained
and professionally responsible geologists.
Like the CSEG, the affairs and activities of the CSPG are managed
and directed through an eight person Executive Committee elected
annually from the membership. It is headquartered in Calgary with
a full-time staff. Events and activities are organized through committees
composed of over 400 Society members who volunteer their services.
General income is derived primarily from membership dues, sale of
publications, and conventions which in turn support its many other
Qualifications for membership in the CSPG are: "Any person
engaged in the work of geology or petroleum exploration or in a
related research is eligible to receive an active membership, provided
that he is a graduate of an institution of university standing,
in which institution he has done his major work in geology or related
earth science." However, these academic requirements may be
waived for persons "whose standing in the profession is well
recognized". With respect to ethics, the bylaws state that
"each member shall be guided by the highest standards of ethics,
personal honour, scientific integrity and professional conduct".
Penalties for a breach of ethics are admonishment, voluntary resignation,
suspension and expulsion. The bylaws also provide for a Discipline
Committee which deals with violations of ethical standards.
The CSPG plays a responsible role as an active and excellent technical
society through activities which include:
Publications - a quarterly journal "The Bulletin of Canadian
Petroleum Geology" and a monthly newsletter, the "Reservoir".
Hosting of and participation in international conferences and
Regular luncheon meetings with talks on topics and areas of scientific
and exploration interest. Each meeting is attended by 500 - 1,000
Continuing education courses, lectures, conferences and symposia.
CSPG members, the profession, and society benefit from these activities.
Field conferences and trips.
An awards program.
membership and participation in the CSPG, every professional geologist
engaged in the petroleum field can appreciably enhance his or her
technical competence and professional development.
Most geologists in Alberta are involved in the petroleum industry
but a significant number (10-15%) practice in other areas (mining,
geotechnical, coal, environmental, Pleistocene, teaching, government
surveys.) Membership in other Canadian geological societies, such
as the GAC, Mineralogical Association of Canada, and others listed
in paragraph 6.4 is available to these geologists.
Other Major Canadian Earth Science Societies
Geological Association of Canada (GAC) , Founded in 1947, the GAC's
purpose is to advance the science of geology and to promote a better
understanding thereof throughout Canada among both professionals
and the general public. The GAC has several classes of membership
for its 3,000 members including:
Fellows (majority) - persons holding a Bachelor's degree with
a major in geology or some closely related field, and who are
engaged in the practice, research or teaching of earth sciences
with five years experience therein. These qualifications may be
waived for persons of recognized professional standing.
Associates - geologists or other earth scientists in training
who have the academic qualifications required for Fellow but lack
experience, or other scientists who are interested directly or
indirectly in the advancement of geology and other forms of earth
GAS actively fosters the teaching of earth sciences in Canadian
high schools and contributes to research through organizing annual
and special meetings of earth scientists and publishing a wide variety
of scientific papers. Its activities also include the organization
and sponsorship of conferences, seminars, short courses, field trips,
lecture tours and student and professional awards and grants.
Mineralogical Association of Canada This association was originally
organized in 1954 for the purpose of sponsoring a publication devoted
to mineral sciences. Its present name was adopted in 1957. The purpose
of the association is to advance knowledge in crystallography, geochemistry,
mineralogy, petrology and allied sciences. Any person, corporate
body, or institution interested or engaged in the study or application
of these sciences is eligible for membership. The association publishes
a quarterly journal, "The Canadian Mineralogist", and
regularly offers a number of courses on these topics which have
included courses in Alberta of interest to petroleum geologists.
Geoscience Council (CGC)
Founded in 1972, the CGC is composed of 13 societies and associations,
with six associate member groups. Its purpose is to foster close
relations between earth science learned societies and professional
associations in Canada, to promote earth science in the best interests
of both the members of the constituent organizations and the Canadian
nation. Member societies must function nationally, either as a separate
organization or a formally established Canadian branch or division
of a larger society.
The Canadian Geoscience Council meets four times per year. Its secretariat
is at the earth sciences department of the university at which the
Council's executive director is located. For most of its 17-year
history this has been at the University of Waterloo. Its publications
are printed by the geological survey of Canada and include an annual
report. Composition of the Council is shown in Figure 2.
Through its member societies, the Council represents some 15,000
earth scientists. Its founding members include both the CSPG and
CSEG. The Council's professional activities include: annual reports;
representations on behalf of geoscience; geoscience education; advisory
committees; international geoscience; geoscience education; public
forums; statements on matters of public concern; sponsoring of international
workshops and symposia.
US Geological and Geophysical Societies
6.21 As would be expected, there are many more technical geoscience
societies in the USA than in Canada. One such organization, the
American Geological Institute, is a non-profit federation of 19
societies in geology and geophysics dedicated to "testing the
proposition that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts".
Many US organizations function as technical or learned societies,
but the scope of others is of a wider nature as well. For example,
the Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists (SIPES)
is "the only organization in the United States that is designed
for the independent or consulting earth scientist. The members are
geologists, geophysicists, geochemists, hydrologists, log analysts,
professors, environmentalists and other earth scientists".
2 (click here)
OF THE CANADIAN GEOSCIENCE COUNCIL
(reprinted with permission)
Three of the larger US organizations of interest to geologists and
geophysicists are described in more detail in the following paragraphs.
American Association of Petroleum Geologists
This US national organization, headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma,
is stated to be the world's largest geological society, having some
40,000 members in over 90 countries:
was formed in 1917 to foster the spirit of scientific research among
its members and to advance the science of geology - particularly
as it relates to petroleum and energy minerals.
achieve these goals, AAPG publishes the "Bulletin", a
monthly geologic science journal, the "Explorer" monthly
newspaper, and "Geobyte" - a quarterly computer magazine;
sponsors continuing education schools, seminars and field trips;
holds conventions; publishes special geologic books and materials;
and provides geologic information to the general public.
membership ranges from undergraduate college students to independent
oilmen and chairmen of the boards of major corporations.
The AAPG is incorporated under the laws of the State of Colorado.
Membership consists of "persons concerned with the professional
applications of the geological science"; admission to active
membership requires a Bachelor's degree in geological science from
a college of acceptable academic standards and three years of experience
in the practice or teaching of geology. The degree requirement may
be waived on the basis of adequate professional experience and standing.
The AAPG constitution contains a comprehensive code of ethics and
provides for disciplinary measures against members who violate the
code. Penalties for AAPG members whose charges of misconduct are
found to be sustained consist of admonishment, suspension, permitted
resignation or expulsion. The bylaws also provide for establishment
of a technical division (of AAPG) to conduct a program of voluntary
certification of members. A Division of Professional Affairs was
set up to implement such a program for petroleum geologists and
to improve professional well-being of AAPG members. This division
issues a certificate for the certified petroleum geologists.
of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG)
The SEG is basically a scientific and educational society that has
served exploration for more than 50 years. It has a membership of
over 19,000. Its objectives are "to promote the science of
geophysics, especially as it relates to exploration and research,
to foster the common scientific interests of geophysicists and to
maintain a high professional standing among its members". Through
its scientific journal "Geophysics", and its monthly "Geophysics:
The Leading Edge of Exploration", the SEG supplies a medium
for the dissemination of new knowledge for the profession.
The SEG is governed under a constitution and set of bylaws, which
include a code of ethics. Penalties for clear violations of the
Society's code of ethics, for any action critically disruptive of
SEG goals and purposes, or for serious misconduct or dishonesty
are suspension or expulsion, as determined by the SEG Executive
To be eligible for active membership in the SEG, a person "must
be actively engaged in practising or teaching geophysics or a related
scientific field. The applicant's work must have been of a professional
nature for not less than eight years and must have been of a responsible
nature calling for exercise of independent judgement and the application
of geological and geophysical principles during at least three years
of the total eight years professional experience".
APEGGA members Norman J. Christie, P. Geoph. and Roy O. Lindseth,
P. Geoph. served as President of the SEG during 1963-64 and 1976-77
Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG)
The AIPG is more than just a technical society. Its purposes include:
"To advance the geological sciences and profession of geology";
"To promote high standards of ethical conduct among its members
and within the profession of geology". The Institute is dedicated
to communicating to the public and to its representatives the importance
to society of the profession.
One of the AIPG's major activities is certification of members:
is an activity that provides a service to the public. Applicants
for AIPG membership undergo a peer review process in which each
applicant's educational credentials are verified and a record of
at least five years of professional experience is reviewed. Only
applicants with satisfactory educations and records of practice
that document performance in accord with high standards of technical
competence and personal integrity are admitted as members of the
Institute. These members receive the title "Certified Professional
Geologist" (CPG). When the letters "CPG" follow an
individual's name, they proclaim to the public that the individual
has voluntarily allowed his/her qualifications to be formally judged
by peers and has been found by peers to be worthy of public trust
in the practice of geology.
Representation, information and education are other major activities
of the AIPG. The interests of geology as both a science and a profession
are represented at the public and federal levels. AIPG expedites
the transfer of information that affects the profession of geology.
Information is provided to members, educators and government officials
through the monthly publication "The Professional Geologist"
and the Annual Membership Directory, and to the general public through
"Issues and Answers" booklets. Education is provided for
its members through seminars, short courses, sectional and national
meetings and publications. Educational assistance is also provided
to high schools, colleges and universities.
A voluntary individual membership association, the AIPG has more
than 4,700 members in the US and abroad. The 1989 directory listed
27 members in Canada, 14 of which were in Alberta. Qualifications
for membership as a CPG are a university degree in geology, geophysics,
geochemistry, geological engineering or their sub-divisions, five
years of experience and high standards of professional integrity
and ethics. Applications screening and approval procedures are quite
rigorous. The organization has a distinctive code of ethics. (See
Appendix E). The bylaws provide for
the Executive Committee of the Institute to exercise disciplinary
procedures against members who violate the provisions of the Code
of Ethics. Penalties include admonition and reprimand, suspension
and membership termination. The AIPG's disciplinary procedures are
Positions of American Organizations Respecting Registration
Like some members of the CSPG and CSEG, the three organizations
just described have tended to oppose the introduction by US states
of the licensing (by government) of geologists and geophysicists.
But, like early developments in the CSEG and CSPG, there were opinions
on both sides of the issue.
The Society of Exploration Geophysicists, according to its President
87-88 in an address to the Annual Meeting, had the following position:
"For the record, the SEG over the past years has been against
any effort to register and/or certify geophysicists, taking the
position that rules of this type would tend to restrict the ability
of a geophysicist to practice his profession."
The Division of Profession Affairs (DPA) of the American Association
of Petroleum Geologists was established to conduct the program of
voluntary member certification. The DPA established a committee
on state licensing in 1987, specifically with reference to petroleum
geologists, because it seemed that the freedom of petroleum geologists
to practice their profession as and where they chose may be in jeopardy.
According to a report of this committee, the AAPG Executive Committee
resolved that "the AAPG officially opposes state registration
legislation which could negate or restrict the normal practice of
petroleum geology by qualified geologists who are either residents
or non-residents of the state involved." This opposition does
not apply to geologists other than petroleum geologists, where public
safety and health are an issue.
The American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) has peer
certification as one of its main activities, and it too has tended
not to favour registration. To quote from some very informative
comments by the AIPG Executive Director:
before some of you get all stirred up about the pros and cons of
registration, let me make AIPG's position very clear. What we practice
and really favour, very strongly, is peer certification as a Certified
Professional Geologist to be recognized by the States as equivalent
to registration. Obviously, this has not occurred in most jurisdictions.
There are conditions under which geologists in a state become convinced
that registration in their state is necessary and they take steps
to bring it about. Then, we strongly encourage them to involve members
from across the entire spectrum of our profession. And, we try to
give them as much help as we can to assure that any law written
will be one with which all professional geologists can live. Our
participation in this process should not be misinterpreted as our
favouring registration per se.
The AIPG in October 1989 adopted a specific policy on registration
which is discussed in the next chapter (paragraphs 7.22 - 23).
The report from the DPA described in paragraph 6.35 generated a
number of comments from readers that were published in a later issue.
The following excerpt from one of these letters about the enhancement
or otherwise of geologic work or ethics is interesting: "This
is, I admit, a difficult question. I can only suggest that the sword
of a registration board hanging over one's head has a strong and
positive influence on quality of work due to the power behind it.
It is important to note that the mere existence of the power and
the sword encourage good performance. Geologists are intelligent
people, and the power need not be exercised broadly for them to
get the message."