Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Geological Society of London

  The Geological Society of London is the UK's national learned and professional society for the Earth sciences, able to confer Chartered status on appropriately qualified Fellows. It is a registered charity (210161), was founded in 1807 and incorporated under Royal Charter in 1825.

    "for the purposes of investigating the mineral structure of the Earth".

  The Society achieves this object through its wide-ranging work—including:

    —  facilitating knowledge transfer by:

      —  maintaining one of the most extensive geological libraries in the world with open public access;

      —  arranging over 100 scientific meetings each year held in different parts of the country through its 23 specialist and 13 regional groups; and

      —  publishing geological books (averaging 24 a year) and four journals, as well as three others on behalf of other learned societies;

    —  promoting professionalism by:

      —  awarding the designation of Chartered Geologist to appropriately professionally qualified Fellows (currently about 2,000 of the Society's Fellows have attained this aspirational grade);

      —  providing continuing professional development for geologists some of which will shortly be Web-based;

    —  supporting education standards by:

      —  accrediting university undergraduate Earth science courses;

      —  promoting geological education through schools liaison activities, most recently via SETNET;

    —  public outreach, and parliamentary liaison by provision of the secretariat for the All-Party Group on the Earth sciences and maintaining a website that, in addition to news items, is a forum on Earth science related matters of current public or specialist interest;

    —  providing responses to Government and other inquiries on all matters relating to the teaching, research and the practice and application of the Earth sciences;

    —  providing accommodation for the leading amateur geological society in the country, the Geologists Association;

    —  discharging various international representational duties delegated to the Society by the Royal Society.

  Much of this work is described in the leaflet, Stimulating zeal.

  The Society is the oldest national geological society in the world, and the largest in Europe, with a Fellowship of over 9,000 worldwide that is still growing. The Society works closely with kindred Earth science societies in the UK and overseas and has a number of bilateral agreements covering publishing and the joint organisation of scientific meetings. Fellowship is open to all who have demonstrated a commitment to the Earth sciences, whether professional or amateur. The Society draws its Fellows from all regions of the UK, their regional spread broadly mirroring overall population density. Nearly 20 per cent of our Fellows live outside the UK.

  The average age of the Fellows is 42. Of the Society's four honorary Secretaries, two are women (External Relations, Professional Matters) and two are men (Science, Publications). Among the younger fellows roughly half are women but in the older age groups men predominate.

  Fellows pay an annual subscription that is generally graduated according to age with the maximum being reached in later middle age and then declining again. The Society receives no direct funding from Government. Its premises (in Burlington House) were, however, built in 1874 from funds granted by Parliament to create a permanent home for the Society's sole and rent-free occupation in perpetuity. It is a matter of great concern that this is now under threat from the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions.

  The DTLR is seeking to put itself in a legal position to be able to charge the Society rent which is causing the Society serious concern (as it is to our neighbouring courtyard societies who are under similar threat). Not least of these concerns are the mounting legal fees that we are incurring to contest this claim. These have to be diverted from scientific purposes within what is already a tight budget to which the largest source of income is the subscriptions from Fellows. If the Society is forced to pay an economic rent it would have to move from Burlington House. One major regrettable consequence would be that a heavily used public facility, namely the Library, would almost certainly have to be re-located at a place that was much less accessible to all.

  The Society would be most grateful for any support that the Committee felt able to offer.

April 2002

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