MTS President’s Column – August 2019

August 21, 2019

Are we relevant?

Rick Spinrad, PhD, CMarSci
MTS President

In preparation for our upcoming MTS elections, I’ve had some interesting discussions with MTS members, and others, about the importance of what we – as marine technologists – do, in the eyes of the broader public.  Suffice it to say that while marine technology did not come up in the recent 2019 European Parliament elections, and, so far, it has not emerged as a debate topic among the candidates for the 2020 US Presidential campaigns, maybe it’s time for us to engage a bit more. 

I recall past years when the OCEANS conferences (both the North American autumn conference, and the Europe/Pacific spring conference) included active participation by politicians and governmental representatives.  My own informal poll has shown less and less of that kind of engagement lately.  Sure, we’ll have a few representatives occasionally talk about specific projects or programs, but we’re missing an opportunity to insert ourselves into the broader debate at a higher level. 

Some examples where our efforts can play an important role:

  • How does marine technology influence the ability to mitigate or adapt to climate change?
  • Where are the job opportunities for the next generation of marine technologists?
  • Does marine technology have a role to play in sustainable development of the oceans?

These are hot button topics for those working in public policy and government.  And, quite honestly, marine technology tends to be a bit of an ‘afterthought’ in their consideration.  At MTS we have an upcoming election which includes two excellent candidates for the position of Vice President for Government and Public Affairs.  Please look at those candidates and think hard about how you’d like to see your society engage more actively and aggressively in issues of concern to global citizens. 

But the opportunities go well beyond the people we elect to serve on the MTS Board of Directors.  I would argue that every Local Organizing Committee for OCEANS conferences should look into attracting publicly elected and appointed officials for some form of participation.  MTS Committees and Sections, also, have the opportunity to engage similarly.  In fact, MTS should be working to engage these policy- and decision-makers on a more regular and broader basis in everything we do.  Maybe then we’ll see our agenda start to become more relevant.

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