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History of the Founding of the Association of Earth Science Editors

The following, from AESE’s Web site, was written by Thomas F. Rafter, Jr., one of the charter members of AESE and designer of AESE’s logo. It has been slightly modified here to remove the first person voice and to add a couple of photos.

The time was May 1966. The place was the campus of the University of Notre Dame. The occasion, the 10th Annual Conference of Biology Editors (CBE), now Council of Science Editors (CSE). A truly significant event for AESE? Yes, when you realize that the idea to create a new association specifically for Earth science editors was initiated right then and there.

As the story goes, the American Geological Institute (AGI) was asked by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to invite 12 outstanding geologist/editors to attend the CSE meeting as observers. In addition, a two-day workshop would follow the general meeting, at which the 12 geologist/editors would meet with an equal number of their counterparts from CSE. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss problems common to editors, from the receipt of a manuscript to the dissemination of the printed work, without regard to the peculiarities of the different science fields involved.

This unique opportunity to observe an established organization in action and to meet with fellow editors in special sessions impressed the Earth science editors. They realized that, aside from chance meetings, no common forum existed for Earth science editors to gather, exchange views, and discuss the myriad of problems associated with publication of the scientific information for which each was responsible.

The biology editors suggested that the Earth science editors attending should and could form a similar group. It was agreed by those present to have John S. Adams (then editor for the Geochemical Society) take the first step toward organizing a Council of Earth Science Editors.

John A. S. Adams. Photo courtesy of Houston Geological Society.

A report of the CSE meeting and the names of the 12 participants were published in Geotimes in 1966 (v.11, no.1, pp. 24-25). The report closed with an invitation for anyone in Earth science disciplines interested in the proposed new organization to write in care of AGI. The response was immediate and positive.

An informal organizational meeting was held in a small hotel room during the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in November 1966, in San Francisco. It was agreed that a Council of Earth Science Editors should be formed. Those attending appointed William A. Oliver, Jr., then editor of the Journal of Paleontology; A. A. Meyerhoff, publications manager for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists; Martin Russell, then managing editor for GSA; and Thomas F. Rafter, Jr., AGI, as an ad hoc committee to organize the first meeting of the proposed Council (Geotimes, 1967, v.12, no.3, p. 27).

William A. Oliver, Jr. Photo courtesy of the American Geological Institute

Arthur A. Meyerhoff. Photo courtesy of the Geological Society of America

Six months and much hard work later, the July–August 1967 issue of Geotimes (v.12, no.6, p. 28) carried the announcement of the first meeting, which would be held in October 1967, and the host would be the Chemical Abstracts Service in Columbus, Ohio.

The time between the announcement and the meeting was short. The committee used all its energies to assure an interesting and successful meeting. AGI was sympathetic to the plight of the unborn association and requested, on behalf of this new group, a small grant from NSF to support the first conference. The Foundation responded immediately and favorably.

The organizing committee's efforts were successful. The 38 Earth science editors attending voted unanimously that the Association of Earth Science Editors be formed, a constitution prepared, and a slate of candidates be proposed for officers of AESE. The members of the ad hoc committee were asked to serve as temporary officers of the association, to manage its affairs, and to arrange for the next meeting of AESE.

The inevitable report had to be written to AGI, NSF, and the Earth scientists attending, as well as to those not in attendance but interested in the proceedings and results. For want of a better name, the first report was dubbed the Blueline.

The second meeting was chaired by William A. Oliver, Jr., and the hosts were the Oklahoma Geological Survey in Norman. Again, the program was excellent, with interesting topics and speakers and, in addition, a substantial increase in attendance. The important events to the association, occurring at this meeting, were the adoption of the AESE Constitution and Bylaws, the acceptance of the proposed slate, and the unanimous election of the officers. AESE was officially launched.

Compared to CSE, founded in 1956, AESE was a latecomer. The 1966 organizers of the association were not the sole proprietors nor innovators of the idea. The same thought had occurred to Anders Martinsson of Uppsala, Sweden, editor of Lethaia. His efforts resulted in the formation of the European Earth Science Editors (Editerra). In 1969, an agreement of mutual cooperation was signed between AESE and Editerra at AESE’s next meeting, in Houston. Editerra approved the agreement at its First General Assembly in December of that year in Ghent, Belgium. In 1982, Editerra combined with the European Life Science Editors' Association (ELSE) to become the European Association of Science Editors (EASE), with which AESE continues to maintain close ties.

A record of AESE's successive and successful meetings has been reported in past issues of the Blueline. From its beginning days, the association has seen a steady increase and diversity in activities and, more importantly, a growth in membership. Each meeting has been more exciting than the last. The exchange of ideas and points of view, and the discussion of new versus old publication methods are spirited, continuous, and paramount from beginning to end.

The Association of Earth Science Editors is certainly more than just an annual conference. This group of dedicated earth scientists takes its responsibilities to author and reader seriously. The objectives are to disseminate the information of our science quickly, inexpensively, and in the best possible form.

Charter Members of AESE

George E. Becraft

Wendell Cochran

Kenneth L. Coe

Patricia W. Dickerson

Richard V. Dietrich

Robert J. Floyd

Gerald M. Friedman

Jerry W. Henry

Mary R. Hill

Jean M. Spencer Jenness

Stuart E. Jenness

Walter P. Ketterer

John W. Koenig

Ira A. Lutsey

Robert McAfee, Jr.

Harold L. Mensch

Arthur A. Meyerhoff

Thomas F. Rafter, Jr.

William D. Rose

Martin Russell

Carl H. Savit

Marie Siegrist

Thomas F. Rafter Jr. was one of the founders of the Association of Earth Science Editors (AESE) and a longtime staff member at the American Geological Institute (AGI).

In establishing the AESE, Rafter recognized the importance of promoting effective communication and publications programs in the earth sciences. He served as the association’s third president and was a lifetime honor member.

Rafter began working at AGI in 1959. During the '60s and '70s, he developed the institute’s translations program into a full-blown publications series which included such titles as International Geology Review, Paleontological Journal, Doklady, and Geochimica. He was particularly instrumental in making English translations of Russian-language research papers available to the global earth-science community.

After leaving AGI in 1981, Rafter joined the staff of the American Geophysical Union, where he contributed to that organization’s efforts for more than a decade.

An accomplished musician, Rafter’s passion for minerals and geology began when he gave up a promising career as a double bassist to join his family’s jewelry business. This new interest eventually developed into a lifelong career in earth-science publishing. Rafter died in April 1996.

From Geotimes Obituary, February 1997.

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