Initiation of a Proposal
Anyone interested in convening a Thompson Field Forum may submit a proposal during the open submittal period,
1 November through 15 December, and at least one of the leaders must be a member of the Geological Society
The deadline for submitting a proposal for review is 15 December. The Committee reviews the proposals and
will select one Thompson Field Forum and one Penrose Conference. Field Forum leaders will receive
notification of the status of their proposal by 1 March.
In the announcement of the winning proposal, the Committee may offer advice, which in some cases may be a
condition of acceptance. Such information will be articulated in the letter of congratulations issued by the
GSA Executive Director. If there is a condition of acceptance, the Committee chair will address an advisory
letter to the Field Forum leaders calling their attention to matters that seem likely to pose problems and
that must be resolved if the Field Forum is to be successful. The Committee will select the Annual Thompson
Field Forum and Annual Penrose Conference based on scientific merit, scientific breadth, and diversity. The
Committee reserves full authority for final approval.
Once the winning annual Thompson Field Forum proposal has been selected, GSA’s professional meeting
coordinator (PMC) will assist Field Forum leaders with final budget preparation, hotel arrangements,
contract negotiations, menu selection, administrative support, and the like. The PMC also ensures the
meeting is financially viable and that logistical arrangements are consistent with Thompson Field Forum
rules and procedures. Turning over these tasks to the PMC allows the Field Forum leaders to devote their
full attention to the scientific program. In the case of Field Forums outside of the USA, the PMC generally
will work with a local field forum leader or Destination Management Company (DMC) at the site to ensure that
the same goals are met. Because financial responsibility for the Field Forum must be clearly defined, the
choice of a DMC is subject to approval by GSA.
Thompson Field Forums have a specific thematic focus, similar to Penrose Conferences, but may be more
geographically oriented. Content will be guided by a small group of leaders with logistical responsibility.
Ideal subjects for Thompson Field Forums are those earth and planetary science topics for which recent work
suggests a potential for further significant advances in the near future. Each Thompson Field Forum subject
should be under current investigation and active discussion by able researchers in the field. Topics should
be broad and multidisciplinary but with a thread of commonality so that participants can communicate and
collaborate toward resolutions. There should be a range and diversity of specialists that can discuss the
topic from several points of view, but not so broad that a lack of communication can develop. A Thompson
Field Forum award should not duplicate the subject of a recent Thompson Field Forum award.
GSA encourages Field Forum leaders to develop sponsorship and support from relevant GSA Divisions and
Associated Societies. Lists of GSA Divisions and Associated Societies can be found on the GSA website.
Field Forum Leaders
Field Forum leaders must have technical competence and be knowledgeable about current activities in the field
area to be visited. Responsibility for organizing a Field Forum should be shared by a minimum of two leaders
and no more than four leaders, one of whom has actively worked in the area. Each of the Field Forum leaders
can draw upon their own experience and expertise in developing a well-integrated, effective Field Forum that
will foster communication and stimulate research progress among experts in diverse but related fields. GSA
encourages Field Forum leaders to represent full diversity of disciplines and individuals (early, mid-, and
late career). At least one leader should be a member of GSA.
In reviewing the proposals, the Committee will give preference to those that focus on a diversity of Field
Forum leaders (early career, underrepresented groups, and gender balance) in addition to a plan for
recruiting a diverse group of Field Forum attendees. Leaders should run a Field Forum where open discussion
of different ideas and interpretations is fostered.
In addition to scientific expertise, Field Forum leaders must have experience leading field trips in general
and with the logistics involved in leading a trip to this specific area. Both organizational and
interpersonal skills are required to deal positively and effectively with potential logistical problems.
Field Forum leaders should be capable of keeping the trip on schedule by controlling the length of time at
stops to ensure that critical stops are not missed. Field Forum leaders should keep the discussion focused
on the topic and not let it be sidetracked by unrelated discussion and should be prepared to cut off
discussion until later stops more appropriate for discussion. In general, Field Forums work best where one
leader is concentrating on the science and the other on the logistics. The leaders can switch roles during
the Field Forum so that each can focus on the science related to specific stops.
Both leaders are responsible for seeing that the entire group has arrived at the outcrop before explanations
are given or discussions start. It is the responsibility of the participants to promptly go to the outcrop
and return to the vehicles and to keep up a reasonable pace.
Time and Size
Once the Committee has announced the annual Field Forum awardee, it is expected that the date of the Field
Forum will be during the next calendar year after acceptance. Care should be taken to avoid scheduling Field
Forums at the same time as other scientific meetings/field camps, especially other GSA meetings or field
camps. Field Forum leaders should check the GSA calendar of events before proposing a date. A schedule of
future approved and recommended Thompson Field Forums will be provided to prospective field trip leaders
with these general guidelines.
Typically, Field Forums have lasted four to seven days. Participants are expected to attend the entire Field
Forum. Field Forums that are longer than five days tend to force premature departure.
It is essential that the Field Forums be informal. Groups should be small enough that all participants can
examine the outcrops and be involved in the discussion and large enough to provide diversity and depth. The
size of the group will usually be dictated by the logistics related to the specific trip. As an empirical
rule, the maximum number for success is about 40 and the minimum number required to convene a Thompson Field
Forum is 20. Proposals with fewer or more than the recommended participants will need to provide
justification for their numbers.
A successful Field Forum location should take into consideration weather, visibility, accessibility, and
safety. An individual Field Forum is not restricted to a single location, although the costs associated with
multiple sites versus the scientific benefit must be weighed carefully. In-house conferencing may be a minor
component (<20%) of the Thompson Field Forum.
The timing and location of Thompson Field Forums is not tied to that of the GSA Annual Meeting, Section
Meetings, or Penrose Conferences. Field Forums can be held in any area and at any time of the year. Thompson
Field Forums may be international in scope, although logistics, costs, and other problems dictate caution in
organizing Thompson Field Forums outside North America. For a Thompson Field Forum convened outside of North
America, the cost of foreign liability insurance MUST be included in the budget. The GSA PMC can assist in
making arrangements for specific insurance coverage and will work with the GSA controller on all insurance
policies required. Costs for additional insurance should be included in your budget.
Anyone interested in attending a specific Thompson Field Forum is encouraged to submit an application. An
invitation is not required for application to participate; however, Field Forum leaders initially should
invite a few key participants to ensure the success of the Field Forum. Leaders should work with the
Committee liaisons on broad advertisement of the Field Forum with the goal of attracting a diverse group of
scientists and students. These invited participants should be other people who have worked in the area or on
similar problems, who hold opposing views, or who are necessary for leading the discussion at critical
Aside from these invitations issued in the early planning stages of a Thompson Field Forum, the rest of the
participants will be selected by the organizers from applications received in response to an announcement of
the Thompson Field Forums in GSA Today and other scientific publications. The leaders should use indications
of interest from those actively working in the field to complete the list of participants. Field Forum
leaders are expected to recruit interest from a diverse field of disciplines and individuals and should
include diversity in their decisions on participation.
The final decision on participation will be made by the Field Forum leaders, whose decision shall not be
subject to appeal. Acceptances for participation are not transferable.
All participants are expected to stay at the arranged accommodations for the Field Forum. Spouses, families,
and others who are not registered participants are requested not to attend and are not allowed to
participate in any activities.
All participants are expected to attend the entire Field Forum, and all must pay the full registration fee.
Exceptions may be made only for invited key participants whose attendance is deemed essential by the
Participants have the ethical obligation of not using, in any way, any original, unpublished information
presented by the leaders or that may be revealed in discussion by other participants.
Participation by graduate students (usually 20%) is encouraged by providing incentives such as reduced
registration fees. Students who pay a reduced registration fee may be asked to help with meeting logistics
(e.g., vehicle logistics and/or vehicle operation). A subsidy of up to US$2,000 may be available from the
GSA Foundation to permit Field Forum leaders to offer reduced registration fees to students (available funds
are dependent upon the amount of money in the Thompson Field Forum fund at the time your proposal is
accepted). The cost of supporting graduate student participation must be included in each budget.
Corporations should be encouraged to pay a special rate for participation of employees to help cover partial
costs of student participation.
Participants with Special Needs
GSA is committed to making Field Forums accessible to all people interested in attending. Leaders should be
aware and prepared for the possible use of auxiliary aids or services that may be needed by some
participants because of a disability.
Sponsorship and Cosponsorship
The Geological Society of America is the principal sponsor of the Thompson Field Forum; however, the Society
welcomes GSA Scientific Divisions and other societies, organizations, and institutions as cosponsors.
Cosponsors are encouraged to provide financial support that will lower participant costs.
Leaders must identify cosponsors in their proposals, and the Committee reserves the right to approve
cosponsors at the time the proposals are being considered. Recognition is given to cosponsors in the Field
Forum announcements, as well as during the Field Forum. Sponsorship by GSA requires that these rules and
guidelines MUST be followed completely. If the cosponsor has guidelines, and if they are available, a copy
should be submitted with the proposal. It is the responsibility of the Field Forum leaders to check those
guidelines for compatibility with the GSA rules and guidelines.
Cosponsorship is usually in name only—not operational. All budgetary and non-program planning and execution
are handled through GSA’s PMC. For conferences outside of the USA, the PMC generally will collaborate with a
local coordinator or DMC at the meeting site.
GSA accepts fiscal responsibility for a conference. Any surplus funds generated by the meeting must be
returned to the GSA Foundation to be used for student support for a future Thompson Field Forum.
Each Field Forum must be self-supporting. GSA will provide administrative support through the early stages of
the process. GSA and the GSA Foundation (GSAF) will provide a total of US$20,000 in unrestricted funds for
the Thompson Field Forum that is accepted.
The Society accepts fiscal responsibility for Thompson Field Forums. GSA’s PMC is employed to assist with
maintaining financial control since GSA is financially responsible for the Field Forum. The winning annual
proposal must clearly outline from where additional funds will come to cover the full Field Forum costs.
Field Forum leaders must prudently budget their Field Forum funds in such a way as to break even. A
preliminary budget must be submitted with the initial proposal. Field Forum leaders are expected to include
with their proposal all anticipated expenses; i.e., personal, institutional, or miscellaneous. These will be
included in the Field Forum budget. Only those expenses included in this budget may be paid from Field Forum
funds. If surplus funds are generated, they must be deposited in the GSAF’s Thompson Field Forum Fund for
future student support.
All sponsorship or additional grants from private and/or corporate sources or governmental agencies for the
support of Thompson Field Forums should be arranged through the GSA business office and the PMC. Any other
grants besides the GSA Thompson Field Forum grant should be clearly identified for the specific Field Forum,
and adequate paperwork submitted to the GSA business office for record keeping and financial administration.
Everyone attending the Thompson Field Forum, including Field Forum leaders, is expected to pay the full
registration fee. Reasonable costs for Field Forum leaders may be built into the budget to defray the cost
of their travel and registration. We recommend no more than two complimentary registrations for any Thompson
Field Forum. With more than two complimentary registrations, the costs are usually not sustainable in the
budget. Field Forum leaders should obtain institutional or other support for their individual travel and
registration expenses when possible. Receipts are required for all expenditures.
Field Forum funds may be used to assist graduate students whose thesis research is relevant to a Field Forum
subject. Students who qualify are urged to make an application to attend.
Honoraria will not be paid to any participant or speaker.
At the conclusion of a Field Forum, a financial report will be provided to the PMC, and it will be submitted
to the Executive Director.
Care must be taken not to overload the Field Forum with too many stops in order to allow sufficient time for
free discussion by all participants. Stops should be selected with care to provide the best exposures to aid
the discussion of the scientific problems or to demonstrate critical relationships. The quality and
appropriateness of the outcrops and minimizing travel distance must be considered when planning the trip.
Outcrops must be visible and accessible to all participants, which may dictate the size of the proposed
In some cases it makes logistical sense to have the Field Forum begin and end at the same meeting site, or,
if the ending point is somewhere else, transportation back to the original starting point must be made
available and included in your budget.
GSA has a Field Safety Policy that should be followed and adhered to at all times. All leaders and
participants are required to sign the appropriate forms prior to participating in any Field Forum. Forms
include: Events Code of Conduct; Field Safety Code of Conduct; and Participant Waiver. All documents are on
the GSA website.
Please keep in mind no personal vehicles are allowed on the Field Forum. Only university vans (12-passengers
or smaller), rental SUVs/vans, motor coaches, etc., can be used to transport attendees. GSA’s insurance DOES
NOT cover 15-passenger vans.
A guidebook will be written for each trip and is the sole responsibility of the leaders. No formal
publication is expected, but the leaders may submit a proposal to include the guidebook in GSA’s field guide
Publicity and Field Forum Reports
The Field Forum Leaders must prepare a Thompson Field Forum announcement for publication in appropriate
scientific journals. It is best to have the announcement in GSA Today a minimum of six months prior to the
Field Forum. The submission deadline for GSA Today is always the 1st of the month with a two-month lead time
for article submission and print (i.e., 1 August is the deadline for submitting an announcement for the
October issue of GSA Today).
Announcements appear in GSA Today and the GSA Connection e-newsletter. Other scientific publication may be
considered for paid advertising, including Episodes—Journal of International Geoscience, AAPG Explorer,
Eos—Earth and Space Science News. Any paid ads will need to be included in the budget.
GSA will provide a Field Forum website and work with the Field Forum leaders to populate it with the relevant
information. The PMC will work with the Field Forum leaders to arrange for any press releases or social
media outreach. All promotional items for the Thompson Field Forum must include the GSA logo. Promotional
items include websites, flyers, signage, business cards, etc. Please send these items to the GSA PMC for
approval prior to print. The main Thompson Field Forum website should be hosted as a subsection of the GSA
website (www.geosociety.org), and all promotional materials should direct attendees to the GSA website.
Post-Field Forum News Articles
As soon as the Thompson Field Forum has been completed, the Field Forum leaders are required to send to the
Executive Director a brief evaluation of the administrative and logistical aspects of the Thompson Field
Forum based on comments by the participants and the experience of the leaders, as well as suggestions for
the improvement of the Thompson Field Forum format as a whole.
Within three months after the Thompson Field Forum, the leaders are required to send a general article to the
Executive Director for publication in GSA Today, covering the most interesting scientific and technical
aspects of the Thompson Field Forum. This article will be limited to two pages, or approximately 1200 words
(plus the participant list and a group photo if available). If leaders wish to expand their remarks, the
expanded report can be posted on the GSA website.
This article should report the main trends of thought and discussions that prevailed at the Thompson Field
Forum. It should not include specific data or concepts for which individual participants expect to receive
priority through the publication of their papers in journals of their choice. In balancing the opposing
needs to inform and to preserve priority, the leaders must perform this task with responsibility and
Suggested guidelines for the preparation of the article are:
- Tell where and when the Thompson Field Forum was held, what the objective was and whether it was
achieved, and what happened at the Field Forum.
- Avoid discussion of the weather, food, accommodations, and the like.
- Include a list of the participants.
- Articles must be brief and concise.
Thompson Field Forum Guidebooks
The leaders of each Thompson Field Forum have the option, if they desire, to publish the guidebook, with the
first right of refusal of this publication to be given to GSA. Once a Thompson Field Forum is approved,
leaders may submit a proposal to include the guidebook in GSA’s field guide series. If the leaders plan to
publish from the inception, it should be so stated in the proposal.
Post-Thompson Field Forum Symposia
It is anticipated that symposia at GSA meetings or elsewhere may develop from some Thompson Field Forums.
These should consist of a related series of formal papers, each reflecting the author’s own ideas, rather
than a synthesis of what was presented at a particular Thompson Field Forum.
Post-Thompson Field Forum Discussions
The Society hopes and expects that all participants will freely discuss with their colleagues the significant
results of their participation. The intent is that the Thompson Field Forums shall promote the generation of
new concepts and nurture new research efforts in all phases of the earth sciences.
Adherence to Guidelines
These guidelines, formulated by the Committee and approved by GSA Council, provide rules based on experience
gained from past Field Forums. Changes and improvements will be incorporated as experience dictates. Once
approval of a proposal has been given by the Society, the leaders are fully responsible for the Thompson
Field Forum in accordance with the guidelines, and their acceptance implies agreement to abide by them.
Changes After a Proposal Has Been Approved
The following policies relate to changes in Thompson Field Forums that have already received formal approval:
1. If one of the Field Forum leaders withdraws during the formative stages of an approved Thompson Field
Forum, the question MUST be referred back to the Committee for approval of the substitute Field Forum
2. An itinerary that has been significantly altered AFTER the approval of a proposal MUST be referred back to
the Committee for reconsideration and approval.
In cases of flagrant violation of the guidelines, the Executive Director is empowered to take appropriate
action, including postponement or cancellation of the Thompson Field Forum.
For additional questions please contact:
Becky Sundeen, email@example.com
The Geological Society of America
3300 Penrose Place, P.O. Box 9140
Boulder, CO 80301-9140
Revised April 2019