The British Caving Association

Speleology Magazine
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Author:  David Gibson [ Fri 12 Jun 2015 12:20 ]
Post subject:  Speleology Magazine

Speleology Report for BCA AGM on 14 June 2015

Report by David Gibson, 29 May 2015
This version is a slightly revised edit to the text that I sent to the BCA secretary.

Clearly, I am having difficulty in keeping to schedule with Speleology and no issue has appeared since January 2014. Personally, I must apologise to the authors and contributors who are still sending me material. At the very least, I want to clear this backlog of material, even it if means placing it in an online-only version of the magazine.

In any debate on Speleology, I would highlight three salient points. 1) BCA advertised for a paid editor in January 2012 but failed to find a suitable candidate. 2) BCA Council’s action 142, “to look at the future of Speleology”, from the meeting of 11 October 2014, has not been followed up. 3) My comment to the 2014 AGM that “reliable volunteers, prepared to put in the considerable amount of time that is required, must step forward to implement any plan” has not resulted in anyone stepping forward.

Speleology is actually a BCRA publication (although it is largely funded by BCA) and the situation was discussed at the last BCRA Council meeting where Council indicated that if I did not produce a proof version of issue 20 by the date of the BCA AGM (still a few days to go!), it would be time to “consider the future of the magazine”. Judging from the debate at the last BCRA Council meeting I think it likely that if I dont produce issue 20 then Council will wish to fomally 'wind-up' Speleology and to seek an alternative way of communicating with members. Hence it may be wise for BCA to also consider how best to service its membership. Does the membership need a publication like Speleology? What purpose is it supposed to serve? I (and others) have asked those questions, but they remain largely unanswered. It is becoming imperative that they are answered.

To answer those points, one must also consider BCA’s other ‘services’ – a paper newsletter and a paper handbook are being replaced by online information. Should BCA start up its own online publication, to replace Speleology? If BCA were to abandon the concept of an in-house magazine and reduce the membership fees accordingly, would that be such a bad thing? Although my own interest lies in a high-quality paper production, I do think that an online publication – well managed (and not by me) – could be successful, with contributors posting their material directly online.

Author:  David Gibson [ Wed 17 Jun 2015 13:40 ]
Post subject:  Re: Speleology Magazine

Update to Speleology Report for BCA AGM

Wednesday 10 June, 2015

In my report to the BCA AGM I said that BCRA Council had "indicated that if I did not produce a proof version of issue 20 by the date of the BCA AGM, it would be time to 'consider the future of the magazine' ".

It's clear that Im not going to have time to do that. I have therefore spoken to John Gunn [BCRA Chairman] and we have agreed that the most likely scenario, now, is that BCRA Council will vote to cease to produce it as a "periodical, for issuing to our members" and will start to investigate how BCRA's needs could be met in other ways. (Possibly by making Speleology an ad-hoc online-only publication, but I shouldnt pre-judge the debate).

Although this may seem to leave BCA "in the lurch", the situation is, in reality, no worse than it is currently. BCA still has the option of funding a Speleology-style of publication of its own (under a different title, of course).

I still want to try to find time to clear the backlog of articles. My current plan is to put the issue 20 material online (previous issues of Speleology are all now online), perhaps with an option for people to order a print-on-demand pay-as-you-go paper copy. But this will be "off list" as it were – not an official action.

The crucial point is that – still! – nobody has put forward a convincing argument as to why BCA [sic] requires Speleology. BCRA Council believes there is a case for BCRA [sic] requiring a Speleology-like reporting mechanism (and this is something BCRA will consider in the immediate future) but nobody on BCA has, to my knowledge, ever made such a case.
Although this action, in closing down Speleology, may seem drastic – and I am personally disappointed that it has reached this point – I think it is the right thing to do, for several reasons...

  • A formal action like this ends uncertainty, and there is a chance that it will encourage a volunteer to step forward with a fresh proposal. I am of the view that “going were a volunteer leads” is likely to be more successful than trying to recruit someone to a role pre-defined by what BCA/BCRA Councils think they need.
  • This action ends the complication of BCA funding a BCRA publication. It leaves BCRA and BCA both free to investigate the outcomes that would best suit their own membership.
  • BCA's newsletter and handbook have both ceased paper production, so this action for Speleology may (depending on BCA's decision on its replacement) help us to move towards a simplification of BCA's membership structure; particularly the DIM/CIM rates.

Author:  David Gibson [ Wed 17 Jun 2015 13:41 ]
Post subject:  Re: Speleology Magazine

The next announcement will appear after BCRA's forthcoming Council meeting on 5 July.

Author:  David Gibson [ Mon 20 Jul 2015 11:51 ]
Post subject:  Re: Speleology Magazine

An update: BCRA Council met on 5 July and it was decided to cease production of Speleology magazine. Over the next few weeks, I will be contacting the authors who have submitted material, and you can expect further updates, here, in due course.

Author:  David Gibson [ Tue 25 Aug 2015 11:15 ]
Post subject:  Re: Speleology Magazine

I have been asked...

Could you please confirm if publication ceasing is effective immediately or as of the end of 2015?

We are looking at the possibility of producing a final issue at some time, but it would be best to view the situation as "publication ceasing immediately".

I will be writing to all subscribers, later in the year, to let them know what is happening. Clearly, we will be offering refunds - you will have the choice of a cash payment, or a credit against other BCRA periodicals.

I apologise for the delay in informing authors and subscribers, but it is definitely my intention to update everyone before the end of the year.

Author:  David Gibson [ Mon 26 Oct 2015 11:22 ]
Post subject:  Re: Speleology Magazine

As reported in our newsletter, in October...

Back-issues of Speleology now online
Back-issues of Speleology are now available online. Thanks are owed to Adam Walmsley for preparing the contents lists. The remaining contents lists will be available before too long. To access this online publication you will need a valid BCRA user-id. Non-members can purchase one for £8/month.

Speleology No Longer Published
AS mentioned previously in this Forum, BCRA Council recently decided to cease to produce Speleology as a “periodical, for issuing to our members”, because of the difficulty of doing this using largely volunteer, part-time effort. BCRA will now start to investigate how BCRA’s needs could be met in other ways.

We will be writing to the contributors to the magazine to explain the situation and to suggest what might happen to their contribu-tions. It is obviously very regrettable that people have spent valuable time and effort preparing material, which has not seen the light of day.

There are a few non-member subscribers to Speleology – mostly international subscription agencies and institutions – and BCRA will be writing to them, in due course, to offer refunds on their subscription fees. The situation for BCRA members (and BCA members) is slightly different because, whilst BCA will be reviewing its fees for 2016, the fact is that an element of the membership fee was only notionally allocated to Speleology, and has actually gone towards the general running of BCA. If Speleology had been produced regularly over the last two years, the BCA membership fee would probably have had to rise; instead of which it has been pegged for some time.

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