The President of the Society provides leadership of the Council and of the Society in pursuit of its Objectives. The President holds a pivotal role at the Society upholding the values, and reputation of the Society as well as the interests of the members. The President is an Ambassador of the Society representing us at key engagements, influencing the global standing of the Society in furthering the advancement of aeronautical art, science and engineering.
Membership is currently healthly, at around 22,500 members and growing at roughly 2% annually but Council can take nothing for granted."
Prof Chris Atkin CEng FRAeS
President's Message: March 2017
Last month I summarised some of the challenges faced by the Society internationally. Many of these, unsurprisingly, are the same as those faced by UK Branches, and also emerged from the review of membership commissioned by then-President Bill Tyack FRAeS in 2014. Periodic membership reviews are important for ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Society. Membership is currently healthy, at around 22,500 members and growing at roughly 2% annually but Council can take nothing for granted. What follows is a distillation of a smaller number of key thrusts from a somewhat broader set of recommendations arising from the membership review.
One important membership objective is to make sure the Society maintains a broad appeal. To cite one example, we are not bad at attracting senior figures in positions of responsibility but we lose too many student and apprentice members when they enter professional life. A steady intake of younger members, who will help re-shape the Society for the future, is a matter of importance to all of us: those who have read my columns over the past few months (these were recently described to me, by an old friend, as my ‘sermons’) will know that I firmly believe that younger members need to be actively encouraged by their senior colleagues in this respect. We also need to increase our efforts to diversify our membership at all grades; again, I believe that we would take great strides towards this objective by improving our retention of these early-career members.
Professional development is something the Society could make more of: we should enhance our peer-to-peer mentoring support both for IPD and CPD (sounds like a call for volunteers); while we could also consider adapting our proven approaches to professional development and registration (for engineers) to non-engineering career paths, possibly aiming at a ‘Chartered Aerospace Professional’ title or similar.
Unsurprisingly, the list of digital opportunities remains long, with support for remote attendance at meetings a priority, followed by assistance to our Branch network to make the most of the Society’s website and social media outlets.
A theme which has been popular in previous membership reviews and questionnaires is the ‘value for money’ question, also known as ‘what’s in it for me?’ I’m going to delight you by opining that this question is meaningless in the context of a professional and learned society: the benefits of joining accrue to the existing membership as
much as to the new joiner; likewise, most of the value to a new member lies in the quality of the community he or she is joining. Yes, ‘the Society’ provides (excellent) services to members but in my view this isn’t really the principal selling point, which is about the peer-to-peer value of membership. Worse, focusing too much on the
‘value for money’ question at HQ distracts us from nurturing that peer-to-peer activity, for example in developing the relationships between our Corporate Partners and their local Branches, so that each can provide opportunities and support for the other.
Just before I started this piece, I was reflecting on how different each topic was from month to month. Now, of course, I realise that the upshot of both the membership and the international strategy reviews is that the Society has to innovate in the way it interacts with members and delegates activities to Branches and Divisions/Regions.
So it is, in the end, all about innovation and fresh thinking; and the message from 2016 is that there are lots of new ideas out there which can become the norm with sufficient support from members.
On which subject, may I conclude with a request to please lend your support to the forthcoming Council election which, I am pleased to say, offers a very difficult choice between a set of excellent candidates.
Prof Chris Atkin CEng FRAeS
The President's Biography
Chris Atkin was educated at Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, and St John’s College, Cambridge. He read Engineering as an undergraduate, winning the Royal Aeronautical Society prize in 1986, and then studied for a PhD in transonic aerodynamics. In 1991 Chris joined British Aerospace Commercial Aircraft Ltd at Hatfield to work on boundary layer control. Chris relocated to BAe Woodford a year later, before joining the Defence Research Agency at Farnborough in 1994 where he continued to work on aircraft drag reduction in support of both industry and the Ministry of Defence. Chris was promoted to PSO in 1997 and, following the formation of QinetiQ plc, became a QinetiQ Fellow in 2003, eventually being appointed Technical Manager for Aerodynamics and Aeromechanical Systems. After a spell at QinetiQ Bedford, in 2008 Chris took up the chair in Aeronautical Engineering at City University London and, over the next five years, served first as department head and then Head of School, during which appointment he co-ordinated significant investment in the University’s engineering laboratory and workshop facilities. Returning to a more traditional academic role in 2013, Chris continues to focus his research on aircraft efficiency, with support from UK industry, the Aerospace Technology Institute, the UK Research Councils and the European Union. Chris has been a member of numerous national committees over the years and is presently a member of the Aerospace Growth Partnership Strategy Working Group. Chris attended his first lecture at the RAeS in his early teens and has been a Fellow of the Society since 2002. Chris was first elected to Council in 2010, helped to re-shape the governance of the Society in 2011 and was chair of the Professional Standards Board from 2012-2015. Chris has also served on the Registration Standards Committee of the Engineering Council, contributing to the recent review of UK-SPEC. Chris supports the Bedford branch of the Society.