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Ballot to decide BGS/ Ground board merger

A BALLOT of British Geotechnical Society members this month will determine whether the society and the Ground Board of the Institution of Civil Engineers will merge to form the British Geotechnical Association.

For the merger to take place a quorum of 20% of BGS members must vote, with two thirds in favour. Ballot papers are due to be posted on 3 November.

The full Memorandum of Understanding for the new body is published in a special five page section of this issue of Ground Engineering, starting on page 35. This includes a commentary from British Geotechnical Society chairman Quentin Leiper, which sets out the background and reasoning behind the merger, the memorandum, financial arrange- ments and industry comment.

John Burland, professor of soil mechanics at Imperial College, who chaired the vision group set up to explore options for a single body for geotechnics and ground engineering says of the merger: 'There can be no question that there is an urgent need for a single dynamic democratic body to provide a technical, professional and educational focus for geo- technical matters in the UK and which is open to all interested persons. Such a body would act as facilitator to support and strengthen existing groups within the ICE.'

Quentin Leiper comments: 'The present fragmented arrange- ments of the BGS, Ground Board and local geotechnical groups do not provide a coherent focus for best serving the needs of geo- technical practitioners or of effectively promoting best practice and shows no signs of doing so.'

The Memorandum of Under- standing, which has been approved by the ICE executive and BGS committee, reveals significant progress has been made since 1995, when previous merger talks collapsed. Under the new proposals, the majority of seats on the BGA executive committee will be voted for by the membership (which is open to all), and the chair and vice chair will be elected by members of the executive committee, mirroring closely the present arrangements and integral democracy of the BGS.

Furthermore, the key hurdle of financing has been evolved to the satisfaction of both groups. There will be two membership rates, but the lower ICE membership rate reflects an element of ICE subscription which formerly went to the Ground Board which will be redirected to the BGA.

A timetable for the merger is fully explained on page 36. Essentially the plan, assuming the postal ballot to be in favour, will be to establish a joint BGS/Ground Board Committee in January 2000, with full transition to the British Geotechnical Association at the BGS AGM in June. New subscriptions will be effective from 2001.

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