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2022 Bye-laws review


8 March 2024

Letter from the President

Dear Fellows

In 2022 Council announced its intention to review its Byelaws, adding the Royal Charter to this process some 10 months later. These two documents are foundational to the successful operation and governance of the Geological Society, setting out both our purpose and objects in law, and the ground rules governing the way we work. The intention of the review has been to ensure that these documents of governance are fit for modern purpose, reflect best practices and are in line with current legislation. Note also that it will be necessary to review the Society’s Regulations (which govern our day to day activities) and the operation of our Standing Committees in the light of any approved changes to the Royal Charter and Byelaws.

A working group chaired by Jessica Smith (former Trustee and former Vice-President, Regional Groups) and including myself, the Society’s CEO, former Council members and former and current members of staff have been undertaking this review, reporting regularly to the Society’s Trustees. The resulting documents have the support of Council and are now being made available to Fellows for review and comment.

The Fellowship consultation will run from 8 March to 28 April 2024 after which it will close and all comments received will be reviewed. A full response to all the comments received will be made to Fellows and any necessary revisions that are approved by Council will be incorporated. Following Council approval the final versions of the new Byelaws and Royal Charter will then be proposed for adoption at a Special General Meeting on a date to be announced

The revised Royal Charter and Byelaws, and an explanation of the proposed changes to our governance, are set out in a document accessible via the link at the bottom of this letter. Please take time to read the full document which sets out the reasoning behind the proposed changes.

You can submit comments using the form accessible via the link at the bottom of this letter. Anyone wishing to make more extensive comments can send them as an attachment to In order for us to be able to take your comments into account please ensure that you include your full name and Fellowship number.

We do hope that as many as possible of you will take the time to read the documents and provide us with your views and comments.

With best wishes

Ruth Allington

President of the Geological Society, on behalf of Council

Relevant links:

16 March 2023

byelaws review committee

Members of the byelaws review group meeting in Burlington House. From left: Simon Thompson, Neal Marriott, David Norbury, Dave Jones (on screen), Jessica Smith (project Chair), Ruth Allington, Martin Griffin. Missing from the photograph: Richard Hughes.

Fellows will be familiar with the ongoing bye-laws review. As a reminder, the review was instigated in 2022 to modernise the governance of the Society, ensure we follow best practice as set out by the Charity Commission and that we fulfil all our legal obligations. The bye-laws working group has continued to make solid progress over the winter months, in particular:

  • Workshops have been held with Council members to more fully understand their motivation for volunteering and any ideas they have for governance reform.
  • An advisory group has been established and is providing valuable input during the re-drafting process.
  • Contact has been made with the Privy Council Office in relation to including the Royal Charter in the review (see below for details).
  • Discussions have been held with other organisations which have either amended their bye-laws, or which operate under different governance structure, to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of different models.
  • It is planned to seek advice from external sources with expertise in charity governance. 
Most importantly, Council considered progress at its meeting on 1 February 2023 and agreed that in order to move the review forward in the most effective manner, the Royal Charter should be included in the review. They agreed an amendment to the terms of reference which can be found here. Our current Charter dates back to 1825 and, with the exception of a limited amendment in 2006, has remained unchanged since. The Charter is the primary instrument of our governance, from which the bye-laws are derived, but it is out of line with current best practice. Furthermore, its style and language are opaque and do not paint a picture of a modern, forward-looking Society. 

The inclusion of the review of the Royal Charter may slow progress a little and a full Fellowship consultation is not now likely in the first half of 2024. A full update on the review will be provided at the Society’s AGM scheduled for Wednesday 14 June 2023.

29 September 2022

Over the summer and early autumn period the bye-laws review group has met several times and an advisory group recruited from amongst the Fellowship. Early progress has been reported to Council and the focus has been on ensuring that our bye-laws are fit for modern purpose and in line with current legislation and best practice. Work will continue in the coming months and in 2023 there will be a consultation exercise in which all Fellows will be invited to comment.

3 May 2022

Fellows will be aware that the Geological Society has a long and illustrious history. It was founded in 1807 and in 1825 was granted its Royal Charter of Incorporation, with a supplemental charter granted in 2006. Today it is a registered charity and its instruments of governance include its Royal Charter, its bye-laws and its regulations.

The bye-laws are a key instrument of governance, setting out many of the rules under which the Society operates. The current bye-laws, though, are over 20 years old and in that period much has changed, both within the Society and in the external environment within which it operates.

Council has approved a review of the bye-laws aimed at ensuring that the Society’s key instrument of governance reflects modern organisational standards, and that we have the flexibility needed to operate in a rapidly evolving and unpredictable world. A working group has been formed and its initial work will be to propose revisions which will then be the subject of a Fellowship consultation. This working group will be supported by an advisory group drawn more widely from the Fellowship.

The terms of reference and working group membership can be found here. The current bye-laws can be found at and Fellows’ comments on the review or the bye-laws themselves can be sent to If you wish to join the advisory group please contact this same address.

Jessica Smith, former Council member, Chair of the bye-laws working group.