MTS President’s Column – October 2019

October 16, 2019

A Global Society

Rick Spinrad, PhD, CMarSci
MTS President

I was talking with a colleague recently who asked me what we did at the “American Marine Technology Society”.  I was, of course, quick to correct him that our name is simply the Marine Technology Society, and that we are truly a global organization.  I shared with him that we have members from 29 countries, we conduct an annual conference in Europe or Asia with our partners at IEEE/OES, and that we have society Sections (including Student Sections) in a dozen different non-US geographies. But his question wasn’t all that unusual. After all, most of our membership is from the US, and all of our current Board members are Americans. As far as I can tell, every one of our Society’s Presidents has been from the US as well (someone please let me know if I’m wrong). 

As a result, I wonder if we’re doing enough to play the international game.  Consider the fact that the domain in which we work is inherently global; as people are fond of saying, “What happens in the Arctic, doesn’t stay in the Arctic”. And the same can be said for the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Southern Oceans as well!  Many of our corporate members are, themselves, transnational.  Because their clients are working in areas like oil & gas, or shipping, it is incumbent on them to be nimble in working with multiple cultures, economies, and governments.  And nowadays, the way we educate the next generation of technologists is often transparent to national borders (in the US alone there are over 1 million international university students enrolled). Implicit in the argument thus far has been that our community would benefit from broader international engagement. I think that’s a straightforward and valid assumption, made evident by the impact MTS has had for its members and the broader community for 60 years.

So should we be doing anything differently, and if so, what?  I welcome your thoughts.

By the time this column goes to print I will have completed a short, but whirlwind tour of the West Pacific. I’ll visit colleagues in Hawaii, Singapore and Australia. Part of my motivation is to stimulate interest in MTS activities where, heretofore, we’ve been absent, or we haven’t worked up to our potential. There are many such areas in the world: Australia, South America, the Middle East, and Africa, to name a few. Working in these areas might not be as challenging as one might think, especially if we can team up with partners, such as our peers at the Society for Underwater Technology (SUT). As MTS members know, we signed a Memorandum of Agreement with SUT last year, and one of our objectives was to find ways to work collectively in under-represented parts of the world. I look forward to pursuing that possibility.

I don’t think we need to change the name of the Society to the International Marine Technology Society, but perhaps there’s more that we can do to strengthen the global nature of our work.

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