GSA Medals & Awards

2005 GSA Distinguished Service Award

Ben A. van der Pluijm
Ben A. van der Pluijm
University of Michigan

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Presented to Ben A. van der Pluijm

 Citation by David E. Fastovsky

It is relatively easy to accumulate a distinguished dossier of service to a Society; it is a more noteworthy accomplishment to make contributions that truly change the way the Society and its membership do business. Ben van der Pluijm has the dossier but more significantly, Ben changed the way that the Society and its membership do business.

Briefly reviewing that dossier, Ben was on the Editorial Board of Geology (1991–1993); he served on the Committee on Research Grants (1992–1994); he served on the Committee on External Awards (1995); he co-convened a Penrose Conference (1997); and as co-editor of Geology (1999–2004), he also served on the Publications Committee.

Ben brought unshakeable integrity coupled with a fierce independence to the Geology editorship. His explicit goal was to see papers in Geology accorded the prestige of publications in Science or Nature. Increases in submissions brought aggressive pressure from many quarters to increase acceptance rates. Though pejoratively dubbed a “cowboy” at the time, ultimately Ben’s vision of a highly prestigious, selective journal carried the day. Submission, citation, and subscription rates continue to climb at Geology, affirming Ben’s fundamental insights.

Geology is now a different journal from the one that Ben first inherited. Ben saw it through the growing pains of electronic submission, Ben moved the Forum online (anticipating the trend toward electronic publishing), and Ben’s vision ensured that Geology is now the premier geosciences journal in the world. For these signal contributions, he deserves the 2005 Distinguished Service Award.

 top 2005 Distinguished Service Award - Response by Ben A. van der Pluijm

Thank you Dave for these kind words, sorry you cannot be here, and Rob for reading them, and thank you GSA for this recognition. After several thousand manuscripts, untold emails, many GSA committee meetings, outrageous anecdotes and the occasional Geology cover indulgence (slide: Feb 2003 “white issue”), limiting these comments to a few words is difficult. But, as I wrote so many times myself, it’ll have to meet our firm page constraint. Only a few items will therefore be highlighted.

Working with GSA Publications, we ushered the publications process into the electronic era. Geology went cold turkey in 2001, so was among the first to reap the benefits of the Internet. Without snail mail we cut 2 months of the editorial cycle and gained much greater access to overseas scientists, leading to a truly international journal that, today, rapidly delivers exciting papers to a global readership. Combined with Geology growing prestige (slide: Jon Stewart with Geology), the electronic system also led to an increase in submissions from ~650 to ~1000 per year, which, in turn, led to the addition of a 3rd editor and a new internal management system.

Any regrets? I am already missing the copious free drinks from colleagues during my Geology days. More truthfully, I wish I could remember many more of the papers I handled. I also wish that I could have published some of the insightful reviews we received. The peer review system may have weaknesses, but it easily beats the alternatives, regardless whether reviewers are identified or anonymous.

In closing, I want to thank my fellow editors, Lee Kump and Hugh Jenkyns, and especially Dave Fastovsky, the entire GSA publications staff, particularly Anika Burkard and Jon Olsen, and many entertaining colleagues who must remain anonymous. A special thanks to my Geology assistant Carol Traynor who kept me afloat for > 5 years with her dedication, care and humor. I look forward continuing my involvement with GSA, and hopefully seeing more of my papers accepted in its wonderful publications.

Thank you.