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BGA blog: Committing time to the BGA committee

It’s that time of year again when the British Geotechnical Association (BGA) calls for nominations for elections to the BGA executive committee. In some ways committee work can seem a bit of a mystery to those not involved, so it’s worth setting out what we do and what we get out of it.

Once elected, BGA committee members serve for three years, which is extended if they are invited to become vice-chairman and then chairman. If we consider that the BGA has been around a long time – it was founded 67 years ago in 1949 – so it is not going to change direction suddenly, but during their term each committee member can make a real contribution to the development of the association in its mission to support and be relevant to the geotechnical profession in the UK.

Martin preene

Martin Preene

Martin is vice chairman of the BGA and principal at Preene Groundwater Consulting

The BGA committee meets five times a year to discuss the association’s activities and to hear reports from sub-groups working on continuing activities like planning the following year’s programme of evening meetings and nominating speakers for our annual events such as the Rankine Lecture and John Mitchell Lecture.

The committee also works on longer-term issues to keep the BGA moving forward through things like supporting our thriving Early Career Group and further developing our social media presence to communicate with members.

We operate as a charity and there are financial matters to discuss, dealing with the association’s income (which is largely in the form of membership fees) and outgoings for lecture venues, the various prizes offered by the BGA, the costs of maintaining our website, etc.

I’m not going to pretend these are the most exciting meetings I have ever attended, but at these meetings I feel we help the BGA to remain relevant and contribute to our profession.

This brings me onto another “mystery” – what do BGA committee members get out of it? We give our time freely to the BGA, to attend committee meetings, work on sub-committees, communicate with other geotechnical bodies such as the International Society for Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering , International Society for Rock Mechanics, Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and Geological Society, among others. Together with the invaluable service of the honorary officers of the BGA – the secretary, treasurer and publicity officer – and administrative support from staff at the Institution of Civil Engineers we help to keep the BGA functioning more or less smoothly.

Speaking personally, I get a lot of satisfaction from knowing I am giving up my time to contribute back into the profession that has given me my livelihood – and a lot of interesting experiences – over the last 30 years.

But I think contributing to the BGA is more than just an altruistic exercise. The BGA is at the heart of an impressive network of industry professionals, and through it the committee members get to know a lot of interesting people, and this has obvious benefits in growing their professional networks.

The other more mundane side of the BGA committee is that the time spent on BGA matters is classified as continuing professional development (CPD) and the main committee meetings are generally immediately followed by a BGA evening meeting. The practical upshot of this is that the people on the BGA committee don’t have to worry about getting enough CPD for a while!

I hope this has revealed a little about the way the BGA works and has encouraged you to consider joining the committee. Details of the nomination process are given on the BGA website and the deadline for nominations this year is 11 April 2016.

Martin Preene is vice chairman of the BGA and principal at Preene Groundwater Consulting

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