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Looking back: the Geological Survey of New South Wales 1970–2017

On 1 October 1970, the first issue of Quarterly Notes was published by the Geological Survey of New South Wales (GSNSW). It featured an article on the age of the Billabong Creek Limestone by Lawrie Sherwin (who has gone on to be the most-published author across the first 150 issues) and a synthesis of Narrabeen Group nomenclature by Chris Herbert.

Quarterly Notes issue one (QN1) included an Editorial Note that stated:

'Quarterly Notes of the Geological Survey of New South Wales have been introduced to enable rapid publication of short notes and progress reports. They will be issued on the first day of January, April, July and October each year.'

A little over 47 years on from that first issue, Quarterly Notes remains true to that initial aim of rapid publication of GSNSW's latest results and interpretations of the state's geology. However, the goal of quarterly publication has fallen away since the 1990s. It took only 26 years to reach QN100 (again featuring a paper co-authored by Lawrie Sherwin) in 1996, but the ensuing 50 issues have spanned 21 years.

Although Quarterly Notes typically focuses on the GSNSW's recent and ongoing work, as head of NSW's oldest continuously operating government agency, with a history extending back to 1875, I'm conscious of the contribution and the legacy of the leaders and staff who have preceded me. There is a truism in all science that we 'stand on the shoulders of giants' and that is also true of any scientific organisation. We have therefore decided to make QN150 a retrospective issue, which tracks some of the major advances and developments in geoscience, technology and data systems in the near half-century  since QN1 was published. The issue also features the recollections of 6 of the 7 individuals who have occupied my current role, or its equivalent, since the publication of the first Quarterly Notes in 1970. It's fascinating to read that as much as things have changed, some challenges, such as availability and security of funding, and government’s never-ending fascination with organisational restructures, are constants through the years.

Looking back over the past few issues of Quarterly Notes (I arrived at GSNSW shortly after the publication of QN143 in May 2015), it's clear that the geoscience being undertaken by staff and published in Quarterly Notes is as strong as it's ever been. The production values of the newsletter are also outstanding and are a credit to our Publication and Outreach team, now led by Simone Meakin, with production managed by Geneve Cox.

With outstanding staff, (relatively) secure funding and world-class programs, data systems, publications and products; GSNSW is well placed to continue to undertake great geoscience and contribute to our state's prosperity well into the future. In a world where the delivery of information is evolving at an unprecedented pace, it's unlikely that Quarterly Notes in its current form will still be with us in another half century, but I’m confident that whatever it evolves into will continue to contribute to our reputation and legacy as one of the world's leading geological surveys.

- Dr Chris Yeats, Executive Director, Geological Survey of New South Wales