Shaping the Future of the BCS

— 7th April 2017

First and foremost, the British Cartographic Society is a registered charity (No.240034) whose central aim is to promote maps and mapmaking. Apart from the administration of the Society and the coordination of Restless Earth, the Society is managed and run entirely by volunteers. We work hard to ensure that the Society looks after the interests of its Members and recognise that we constantly need to keep in tune with the technological changes that influence the way we work. These changes are fast-paced and we should always be open to new ways to achieve our objectives. We welcome involvement from those who can work with us to achieve this.

The evolution of the Society is a process and recent initiatives such as the rebranding and new website form part of our ongoing orientation towards new generations of mapmakers, while serving the needs of our existing Members. We need to respond to the changing needs of those making maps and are continuing to expand our online resources, but at the same time we recognise that developments largely rely on voluntary support.

The Society is particularly pleased and honoured to represent and provide a community for those working or interested in all aspects of cartography, including map art, GIS, map libraries, publishing, design and many more.

We launched our Members’ Survey in winter 2016 to identify what our Members value about belonging to the Society and to invite ideas for enhancing what we offer through membership. In particular, this revealed that our Members value the Society’s publications and their membership of a Special Interest Group (SIG). Our bestselling book, Cartography – An Introduction, has sold out after several reprintings and a second edition is in preparation. We are continually developing our online content to offer new resources, but recognise at the same time that our book contextualises knowledge in a way that online solutions do not.

Special Interest Groups (SIGs) are a valuable element of the organisation of the BCS because they bring together people who share a common focus. Anyone can join a SIG (you don’t even have to be a Member of the Society) and new SIGs can be proposed and established at any time. The activities are directed by each Convener. Regional meetings and events were mentioned in the Members’ Survey and we are looking to develop a richer programme as we move forward.

The Society has undergone a major change in its staffing and administration since November 2015, with several new people who have become involved in running the Society, and in key roles, including the Secretary, Chair of Programme Committee, SIG Conveners (Design and GIS) and Awards Officer. Adding to this the change in the Vice President, half of our Trustees are new-in-post compared with two years ago. With the new (and younger!) faces joining Council, we are demonstrating that we are investing in new generations and supporting the future growth of the discipline.

The Society is a democratic organisation whose decision making is founded upon transparency and open debate amongst elected members of Council. We have found that there is nothing so effective for getting decisions made than meeting together face to face, which also facilities networking and spontaneous discussion before, during and after meetings. We are conscious that these activities and meetings require financial support and accountability and responsibility are key pillars of the Society. We have found that virtual meeting facilities can work best for small, one-to-one meetings and we take advantage of these where appropriate.

Restless Earth, our programme of workshops for Years 9 and 10 students studying GCSE Geography, supports one of our charitable objectives to further education in cartography, and has been delivered in over 180 schools to over 14,000 students. Scenarios include the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster and, more recently, the flooding in Cumbria. We are delighted that Restless Earth has successfully attracted some financial support from external organisations, such as the Japan Society and the Sasakawa Foundation. It is also an initiative that makes proper use of Society monies previously held in reserve and in line with Charity Commission guidance, to both further our purposes and provide greater benefit to our Members.

Better Mapping, our programme of seminars promoting best practice across the cartographic industry, has been completely revised to focus on improving cartography using specific software and by particular groups of map makers (we have recently run sessions designed expressly for   university students and for local authorities). It is important that we continue to establish a wide range of methods in delivering this material and are developing resources to enable this via the website. Cartography is an exciting and dynamic industry and we aim to offer events that are relevant to the breadth of our membership, which includes those who make, sell, use, study, curate and buy maps.

We are actively working with the Society of Cartographers to ensure that the future of cartography in the UK is strong and serves the needs of all who enjoy maps. Our annual symposium continues to evolve to meet and exceed delegates’ expectations and since joining forces with the Society of Cartographers to host the joint BCS-SoC Conference in 2015, we have delivered a reinvigorated programme which delivers a good blend of talks and workshops that bring together key academic and commercial contributors and advances.

Membership numbers fluctuate throughout the year and annual comparisons always need to rely on like-for-like data. As stated in our Annual Reports, which are usually published in the last Issue of the year of The Cartographic Journal, the number of paid-up members has increased to 753 from the previous totals of 711 and 664. However, it is important that we remain committed to listening to the needs of current and future Members in order to maintain this positive trajectory.

The Cartographic Journal, our quarterly peer-reviewed periodical, is a leading ICA-affiliated journal that covers the full breadth of the discipline. It attracts increasing numbers of submissions from all around the world and its impact factor is on a strong upward trajectory. After the acquisition of Maney Publishing by Taylor & Francis in 2015, Council decided to retain the services of Taylor & Francis to publish The Cartographic Journal, ensuring that the transition of papers in process ran smoothly. We value the reputation and services that our publisher brings and appreciate their commitment to ensuring the Journal’s return to publication on schedule following the transition, thanks to the efforts of the editorial team. Our Members’ Survey highlighted the value of the Journal and also our triannual magazine, Maplines, to our membership. The latest edition is available to BCS Members and previous editions are available to the public, all via our website.

Looking forward, our intention is to create an online forum for Members to discuss new ideas as they emerge regarding the future of the BCS. This will enable the Society to keep in better touch with changing needs of Members and Council to discuss and explore how they may best be implemented. Instructions for using this initiative will be communicated to Members soon.

The British Cartographic Society is committed to furthering its charitable objectives and welcomes the views of all its Members as we shape the Society’s future together.

Published by: Paul Naylor

Paul Naylor

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