Letter to the President
More thoughts on webcasting
I read with interest your letter in the last Geochemical News raising the notion of web-casting portions of Goldschmidt Conferences. Your presentation is well balanced, and I think compelling.
The July 2002 Geochemical News published a letter from me to the Society ("Geochemistry in a sustainable world" pdf) concerning both the actual financial costs of Goldschmidt (and other Society business), but also the issues raised by such matters in terms of international development. I think the then-current officers took it seriously; it was discussed at the next Executive Committee meeting (in Davos, I recall). Since then, the Society has staged Goldschmidts at some more modest venues, and moved them around the world, both steps that I think help equilibrate the burden a bit. Also, Elsevier published the Treatise on Geochemistry in paper editions on a volume-by-volume basis, which makes that work much more accessible. Progress, and much appreciated in places where I do much of my work (e.g., Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Laos, Brazil, South Africa).
Your leadership in raising the web-casting option is great. I strongly support the notion of making web-casts of selected sessions available to geochemists (including students!) in economically disadvantaged countries. I wonder whether there would not be a case to be made for both the general membership (in our annual registration) and the registrants for the meeting being asked to check a box that would add a nominal sum (US$5?) to the fee to be used specifically for international-outreach activities such as this. Voluntary. If half the membership and half the registrants contributed the cost of a couple cups of coffee, you would have the funding you estimate and leave the meeting revenue-neutral with respect to this.
One additional thought on your articulation of the the costs for a meeting such as Goldschmidt. I have greatly enjoyed, and I think profited intellectually, from the Goldschmidts that I have attended. But we might also consider the opportunity costs. I haven't done the detailed costs analysis, but I would guess that, all in, a week in Davos would cost me about $5,000, and somewhat more than that again in foregone revenue - all out-of-pocket for some of us who do not have grants with travel budgets. That's a lot of money, and the impact of that much (or even a portion of it) applied in other ways might have many environmental and social benefits. It would pay for the web-cast, for a full set of the Treatise for the Library at University of Papua New Guinea, or provide enough treated mosquito-netting or antidiarrheal solution to save a thousand children...
Keep up the good work.
Mark J. Logsdon
Aptos, California 95003