Author Topic: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution  (Read 3301 times)

Offline DavidGibson

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BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« on: November 27, 2019, 04:23:44 pm »
"For clarification, this post is from David Gibson, the secretary of BCRA. It is not a posting by BCA"

All members of the British Caving Association should have received an email (or a letter if your email address failed) describing the ballot that is currently taking place on constitutional amendments that would change the way voting is performed at future General Meetings of the British Caving Association. This includes a change from the present two-house voting system (groups and individuals) to a single-house system. As BCRA is a Group member of BCA, BCRA Council has had to discuss how we would cast our group vote in this ballot.

Council noted with regret that the ballot email was not clear about what was being voted on and that BCA's online documentation also lacked clarity. In particular we felt that it was poor practice to expect voters to read a 37-page document before casting their vote.

In our discussion it was noted that the proposer of the BCA motion may have missed a key point when he asked "/whether a group vote is really indicative of the feeling of the members/" as historically the Group vote has been present to cover "corporate" issues affecting Groups. Hence, it is not simply an aggregation of the votes of the group's members, which would indeed be rather un-democratic. BCA's activities are currently predicated on the existence of Groups which are given similar weight to individual members. The role of the groups, of the regional councils, of BCRA and other specialist bodies is important to British caving; and their voice needs to be heard at a "corporate" level within BCA.

During our discussion, an alternative argument was made by one member of BCRA Council who felt that Groups may have failed to live up to their responsibilities and hence we should support the BCA proposal.

However, the majority view of BCRA Council was that no good reason had been presented for a change to the "status quo" and that the situation would benefit from further thought and discussion. Council therefore decided that we would cast our group vote in a way that kept the issue open for further discussion, voting 7 to 1 to REJECT the proposed motion, with one abstention.

As BCRA is a charity, the trustees have personal legal responsibility for the running of our organisation and, whilst we do, of course, listen to our membership, the way we cast our Group vote is the sole responsibility of the trustees (i.e. BCRA Council) and not of our members. Similarly, Council will not be making a recommendation to our members on how they should vote in their own "house of individuals". However, Council would recommend that individuals try to inform themselves of the arguments. With this in mind we note that there is a commentary on the ballot at https://darknessbelow.co.uk/bca-ballotcast-or-ballotgate/ and there is discussion at https://ukcaving.com/board/index.php?topic=25709.0
« Last Edit: November 28, 2019, 04:03:24 pm by Badlad, Reason: Clarification comment inserted at beginning on request »
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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2019, 01:30:46 am »
One reasonable reason for the change is that currently 5 people can set up a group and then they have an equal "corporate say" to the British Cave Research Association.

Not only this but the current system makes it difficult for people to join the BCRA. CIMs can't join the BCRA without a amount of beaurocratic faff precisely because the membership structure (and the BCA databases etc that underpin it) are old, outdated and barely functioning.

Thanks for the post it's useful to hear another opinion. Would be good if other non-regional groups weighed in (scouts, pengelly etc)

Offline BCA Secretary

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2019, 08:35:12 am »
I would like to clarify that the opinions above expressed by David Gibson are those of the BCRA (British Cave Research Association) and not the BCA.

A few people have been in touch already with me to query this post assuming it was in some way related to the BCA (and thus finding it confusing thinking that the BCA was announcing its own stance on the proposal half way through a ballot). For clarity, the BCRA is a separate organisation to the BCA, with its own Council and its own membership (although there are some historic ties that mean the membership systems for the two organisations are partially integrated, but these links are irrelevant in this situation).

The BCRA is a constituent body of the BCA (in the same way as the regional councils, the BCRC, CDG, CHECC, NAMHO etc) and thus has a group vote in the ballot alongside all member clubs. I appreciate the BCRA Council discussing the ballot in such detail and sharing their thoughts openly on this forum.

Matt Ewles
Secretary, British Caving Association

Offline David Rose

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2019, 08:40:01 am »
I find it impossible to understand this argument, as it is presented. Please clarify it. How is it not undemocratic if a group votes on an issue without consulting its members? How is that mitigated if a vote is about a "corporate" issue?

And what do you mean by claiming that BCA activities are predicated on the existence of groups? Surely, this is simply a tautology?

Offline badger

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #4 on: November 28, 2019, 09:27:34 am »
The Scouts have asked its members of the national SASU for their opinion, we will vote for the majority. we have not tried to influence any of them one way or the other.

Offline BCA Secretary

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2019, 09:57:34 am »
It is also worth mentioning that these proposals in no way impact the makeup of BCA Council, where representatives of all BCA constituent bodies (including BCRA) have a vote and also at which four individuals are empowered to vote to represent group members. Therefore, of the 29 voting positions available on BCA Council, 17 of these votes would be from people representing group members.

Perhaps it is worth noting that of all the BCA Council meetings in 2018 and 2019 (eight meetings in total), the BCRA as a constituent body has attended (and thus utilised their vote) at only one of these eight meetings. We would be delighted to see you more often.


Offline Badlad

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2019, 10:20:34 am »
BCRA may need to consider some reforms of their own and soon.  I've always thought of BCRA quite fondly for the good work that they do, but I do think they may be perceived as a little aloof.  They did send a rep to the last BCA meeting, for the first time in my memory, and that was to ask BCA for money.  Apparently their membership numbers do not support the organisation financially and they must rely on reserves or outside support.  As clear a case for needing reform as I ever saw. 

Offline DavidGibson

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2019, 01:22:41 pm »
the current system makes it difficult for people to join the BCRA. CIMs can't join the BCRA without a amount of beaurocratic faff
I do have to point out that, for the majority of people, joining BCRA is not difficult - it amounts to clicking a couple of boxes on the DIM form. However, you are absolutely right that it's a bit of a faff for CIMs. At present, they have to upgrade to a DIM, which involves going to the DIM form and clicking a box :-)  If BCA were to implement a change that allowed CIMs to join BCRA via their club, that would be good.
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Offline DavidGibson

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2019, 01:40:13 pm »
Apparently [BCRA] membership numbers do not support the organisation financially and they must rely on reserves or outside support. As clear a case for needing reform as I ever saw.
Actually, membership numbers do support our day-to-day activities (essentially, publishing our journal and books). (And, obviously, the cost of printing a book take a while to be recouped, so the accounts can be a bit lumpy). But BCRA also issues grants, which we are able to do because of a number of bequests that we have received. The salient point is that the level of these grants outweighs anything that could ever come from membership fees. The situation is not unlike that of the Ghar Parau Foundation and, in fact, one view expressed consistently over the years is that BCRA should move towards a GPF-like operation - i.e. have no members at all. So, membership numbers is only a part of the picture.
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Offline DavidGibson

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2019, 01:56:31 pm »
I would like to clarify that the opinions above expressed by David Gibson are those of the BCRA (British Cave Research Association) and not the BCA.
If I could find an EDIT button, Id go back and make a clarification; but I cannot see one.
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Offline Badlad

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2019, 02:39:20 pm »
Apparently [BCRA] membership numbers do not support the organisation financially and they must rely on reserves or outside support. As clear a case for needing reform as I ever saw.
Actually, membership numbers do support our day-to-day activities (essentially, publishing our journal and books). (And, obviously, the cost of printing a book take a while to be recouped, so the accounts can be a bit lumpy). But BCRA also issues grants, which we are able to do because of a number of bequests that we have received. The salient point is that the level of these grants outweighs anything that could ever come from membership fees. The situation is not unlike that of the Ghar Parau Foundation and, in fact, one view expressed consistently over the years is that BCRA should move towards a GPF-like operation - i.e. have no members at all. So, membership numbers is only a part of the picture.

Hi Dave.  I was referring to the rather confused financial position of BCRA put forward at the last BCA council meeting when BCRA requested funding from BCA of something like £44,000 over four years - I may be confused over these figures too.  The BCRA submission to BCA, written by John Gunn, BCRA chairman, stated;

"Since 2011 the Association has run at a loss, averaging out at around £5400 per year. In 2018 the income was over £10,000 less than expenditure and the imbalance would have been even more were it not for some trustees forgoing expenses to which they are entitled. The year on year imbalance has only been possible because Council have made a decision to run down the reserves in order to maintain our core activities."

It was noted that the BCRA reserves were £150,000.  The request was shelved by BCA pending a better understanding of the financial position and projects requiring support.  Several BCA council members suggested that if BCA was to get more involved with BCRA then some re-organisation might be needed.

PS you can only edit your post for a short time or up to when a response is posted.  Obviously changing posts once people have responded can lead to all sorts of problems.  If you would like me to insert a specific note at the beginning to clarify please PM me and I can insert it as a moderator.  Thanks for posting your position anyway - much appreciated.

Offline DavidGibson

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2019, 03:18:25 pm »
A quick clarification
Hi Dave.  I was referring to the rather confused financial position of BCRA put forward at the last BCA council meeting when BCRA requested funding from BCA of something like £44,000 over four years - I may be confused over these figures too.
I cant remember offhand what the figure was, but that sounds about right. However, when I read the minutes I realised that BCA Council might have misunderstood what we were asking for. We were not asking for money for our own coffers - we were asking for BCA to "match-fund" some projects. That is, we were saying "BCRA is putting £X into this external project; perhaps BCA could consider doing likewise?" ... sort of thing.  If this comes back to BCA Council in the future, we'll try to clarify that. :)
Quote
The BCRA submission to BCA, written by John Gunn, BCRA chairman, stated; "Since 2011 the Association has run at a loss, averaging out at around £5400 per year. In 2018 the income was over £10,000 less than expenditure...
It depends somewhat on how you define "loss".  The £5400 figure includes fees paid to our editors (working at well below the minimum wage). I wasnt counting that, in my comment, because it arises only because Council made an active decision to use our bequests for that purpose. If "times were hard" it would not appear as an expenditure because our editors would simply have to work on a 100% voluntary basis. (In other words, it is really a "grant" but to include it as such might be seen as a dodgy accounting practice).

The £10,000 includes expenditure on volume 2 of the Yorkshire Dales book which will gradually be recouped over time. In fact, when you take volume 1 and volume 2 together, they are now showing a surplus. For publications, we do have a policy to aim for a surplus, which is why we have moved towards print-on-demand on a digital press - I doubt we would ever again print a Cave Studies booklet as a traditional "wet ink" book. And we have always said that C&KS would be available on paper "only to those who were prepared to pay for it", with the implication being that we would raise prices to cover costs - which we will be doing in 2020. So... yes, John was right, but I was applying a couple of "helpful modifiers" to the figures :).
Quote
It was noted that the BCRA reserves were £150,000.  The request was shelved by BCA pending a better understanding of the financial position and projects requiring support.  Several BCA council members suggested that if BCA was to get more involved with BCRA then some re-organisation might be needed.
The reserves are the result of bequests, and are used only for issuing grants and awards, and (as noted above) for honorariums to our editors. Viz: we receive bequests and we give out grant money (as does GPF). We would certainly welcome a greater involvement with BCA. The time is probably right for some re-organisation, too.
BCRA Secretary from 1/1/2010.

Offline blackshiver

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2019, 10:55:58 pm »
The BCRA turning up to one BCA meeting out of eight in two years says it all for me.
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Offline andrewmc

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #13 on: November 29, 2019, 12:03:43 am »
The BCRA turning up to one BCA meeting out of eight in two years says it all for me.

I should probably point out in their that BCRA Council members have probably attended the majority of BCA Council meetings but have tended to have also been representing other bodies as well (the BCA Chair sits on the BCRA Council ex officio, for example, although I believe the current incumbent sat on the BCRA Council before this anyway).

Offline andrewmc

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #14 on: November 29, 2019, 12:08:38 am »
I do have to point out that, for the majority of people, joining BCRA is not difficult - it amounts to clicking a couple of boxes on the DIM form.

The vast majority of BCA members are CIMs, not DIMs.

Quote
However, you are absolutely right that it's a bit of a faff for CIMs. At present, they have to upgrade to a DIM, which involves going to the DIM form and clicking a box :-)  If BCA were to implement a change that allowed CIMs to join BCRA via their club, that would be good.

I believe they did, and only about 3/4 years ago. There was a CIM Plus option, which allowed club secretaries to sign people up to the DIM rate (i.e. they paid more for no actual benefit, I think) and then to join the BCRA. It led to significant extra admin and a glorious total of 6 CIM Plus members (I was one of them). It required extra faff from club secretaries. It was consequently abandoned.

Offline kay

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #15 on: November 29, 2019, 07:57:08 am »
I do have to point out that, for the majority of people, joining BCRA is not difficult - it amounts to clicking a couple of boxes on the DIM form. However, you are absolutely right that it's a bit of a faff for CIMs. At present, they have to upgrade to a DIM, which involves going to the DIM form and clicking a box :-)

It also involves actually becoming a DIM when otherwise you might not wish to.

Which is a bit at odds with
Quote
  For clarity, the BCRA is a separate organisation to the BCA, with its own Council and its own membership

And, while I'm in a mood to be picky, it's not quite true to say
Quote
and its own membership
- it's not possible to be a member of BCRA without being a member of BCA, so the membership of BCRA is simply a subset of the membership of BCA.

Offline DavidGibson

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #16 on: November 29, 2019, 09:08:59 am »
On the CIM-plus category...
It led to significant extra admin and a glorious total of 6 CIM Plus members (I was one of them). It required extra faff from club secretaries. It was consequently abandoned.
Yes, there is a bit of a history of creating membership categories that almost nobody makes any use of.  :(  So, what's the answer? Presumably, (although that is perhaps an unwise thing to say) you just want a simple online form that asks you for your BCA membership number, accepts you as a BCRA member and charges you some money, which you pay online. Or are you insistent that, as a CIM member, your club secretary should collect your money?
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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #17 on: November 29, 2019, 09:43:45 am »
No that sounds like the ideal solution as then you can get rid of the cim membership at the same time ;)

Offline Madness

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #18 on: November 29, 2019, 05:59:46 pm »
Why does the BCRA need to be a separate entity from the BCA?

Could they not just join forces and work as one for the good of caves and cavers?

Offline BradW

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #19 on: November 29, 2019, 06:23:32 pm »
Could BCRA operate realistically without being a BCA member body, with no ties to it?

Offline Jenny P

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #20 on: November 29, 2019, 08:49:56 pm »
One potential complication is that BCRA is a registered charity and this severely limits how it can change its constitution or whether it can dissolve itself.  Any alteration will involve discussions with the Charity Commission and dissolution means its remaining assets can ONLY be passed to another similar charity.  I seem to remember that at one time, if BCRA dissolved itself, its remaining assets had to be passed to the National Trust! (Don't know how this came about but, at the time, there wasn't another caving charity in existence.)

Another point worth making is that not all the money held in the BCRA accounts actually "belongs" to BCRA.  For instance, a total of £21,000 is held by BCRA on behalf of the UK Cave Conservation Emergency Fund, which is administered by a panel of regional representatives plus a BCRA representative. This can make loans (of up to 15% of the capital) or grants (of up to 5% of the capital) and is open to any caver, or group of cavers, requiring money to deal with a cave conservation emergency.

Offline nearlywhite

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #21 on: November 29, 2019, 09:07:41 pm »
Could BCRA operate realistically without being a BCA member body, with no ties to it?

What is the motivation behind this question? It is inconceivable.

Perhaps trying to generate some headlines?

Offline BradW

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #22 on: November 29, 2019, 09:25:44 pm »
Could BCRA operate realistically without being a BCA member body, with no ties to it?

What is the motivation behind this question? It is inconceivable.

Perhaps trying to generate some headlines?
what an odd comment to make. It is simply a counter to the implication in Madness's post. It's not an inconceivable idea, and there may be positives in becoming totally independent.

Offline droid

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #23 on: November 29, 2019, 09:28:29 pm »
It's unlikely, but why is it inconceivable?
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Offline AR

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #24 on: November 29, 2019, 09:36:36 pm »
Over to you, Inigo Montoya....
Dirty old mines need love too....

Offline ZombieCake

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #25 on: November 29, 2019, 10:33:59 pm »
Quote
Montoya
Isn't he a Formula 1 racing driver?

Offline nearlywhite

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #26 on: November 30, 2019, 07:59:21 am »
It's unlikely, but why is it inconceivable?

Fundamentally because most cavers are still speleologists. The work the BCRA do, and influence they have (Hidden Earth glues a national community together), they do a lot in the background. The support that the British Cave Library gets is from both the BCA and BCRA - splitting it risks turning the BCA into solely a sport caving organisation.

That's why it's inconceivable, caving is not a sport.

Offline Madness

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #27 on: November 30, 2019, 10:10:33 pm »

It is simply a counter to the implication in Madness's post.

What implication would that be then?

Offline droid

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #28 on: November 30, 2019, 10:51:53 pm »
It's unlikely, but why is it inconceivable?

Fundamentally because most cavers are still speleologists. The work the BCRA do, and influence they have (Hidden Earth glues a national community together), they do a lot in the background. The support that the British Cave Library gets is from both the BCA and BCRA - splitting it risks turning the BCA into solely a sport caving organisation.

That's why it's inconceivable, caving is not a sport.

In my opinion the BCA is already a 'sport caving organisation'.

I doubt that most cavers are 'speleologists', unless it is in the pursuit of new cave.

The BCRA, as a largely academic group, would be better off on it's own. After all, the BMA doesn't ally itself with Geology groups, does it?
« Last Edit: November 30, 2019, 11:06:11 pm by droid »
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Offline nearlywhite

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #29 on: November 30, 2019, 11:28:46 pm »
In my opinion the BCA is already a 'sport caving organisation'.

I doubt that most cavers are 'speleologists', unless it is in the pursuit of new cave.

The BCRA, as a largely academic group, would be better off on it's own. After all, the BMA doesn't ally itself with Geology groups, does it?

I meant caving as a sport not sport caving - the distinction I would draw with how you're using the term is the lack of competition in the latter, more akin to hiking in the mountains and appreciating nature. Therefore I think it is more than just rigging a rope and squeezing. If you include that element under sport then you would be quite correct.

I think the general appreciation of karst processes in the caving community is pretty high, when you compare them to other sports, especially climbing. I assume you mean BMC? (As I think the British Medical Association is quite familiar with rocky ground over the last few years). I don't think the parallels between the two stack up - you could argue that the RGS would be their BCRA but again I don't think there's that scientific legacy.

As for being a speleologist, it does depend on how you define it. I'd go with an appreciation of how the cave is formed and why it looks that way. So I doubt most aren't.

There's no argument put forward for it being better off on its own.

Offline droid

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #30 on: December 01, 2019, 12:26:08 am »
Yeah. BMC. Senior moment :lol:
Mind, did you mean BGS re BMC?

I think you'll find there's plenty of climbers that are interested in the processes that gave them their crags, same as cavers interested in speleogenesis, but climbers don't use geology to find crags, whereas cavers do use karstic processes to find caves.
Whether cave formation processes are at the forefront of a cavers mind down a cave is a moot point though.
The BCRA do tend to take it to a rather higher level though, and I cannot for the life of me work out why it needs to be part of the BMC. I'd sooner see co-operation without the connection.

But that's just my opinion.
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Offline nearlywhite

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #31 on: December 01, 2019, 10:37:37 am »
BCA  ;D

I think being a part of BCA allows them to influence things and makes the financing of things like the British Cave Library far less onerous on their finances. It doesn't cost them to be members of BCA, relatively.

BGS is probably more equivalent, I put RGS to try and give a broader scope of equivalency with expedition funding. Hmmm the age old question of Geography vs Geology. Point still stands though the two (climbing and caving) are very different with relation to science. I think cavers also use knowledge of karstic processes to read the caves themselves, as a natural consequence of navigation.

Offline droid

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Re: BCA's Ballot on changes to their constitution
« Reply #32 on: December 01, 2019, 12:57:56 pm »
BCA!!!!  :lol: :lol: :lol:

That's my pathetic attempt at a cogent argument shot down in flames..... ::) :lol:

To be fair, the B....C....A is moving in a positive direction so probably best for BCRA not to rock the boat...

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