Two characteristics mark a profession and, by extension, those who practice it, i.e., professionals. First, the mastery of a specialized body of knowledge, typically requiring long academic preparation; and second, the application of that knowledge in an ethical manner for the benefit of society and financial gain. It is the combination of these two characteristics, not either one alone, that is the hallmark of a professional.
Geoscience and most geoscientists meet both characteristics most of the time. To maintain their competence (and, one can argue, their status as professionals), members of a profession must attend to both the scientific basis of their discipline and how they apply it. In this duality lies the need for both learned societies, such as CSEG and CSPG, to focus on the body of knowledge, and for professional associations, such as APEGGA, to focus on how that knowledge is applied.
To the greatest extent possible, APEGGA exists to ensure that, in Alberta, those persons practicing geology or geophysics, or holding themselves out as being qualified to practise these professions, are approximately qualified by training and experience to do so. APEGGA's paramount responsibility under the Engineering, Geological and Geophysical Professions Act (the EGGP Act), is to members of the public who, either directly or indirectly, use or are affected by geoscience services and, only secondarily, to the members of the profession. It can be argued, however, that by protecting the public from inappropriate or unskilled conduct, and by weeding out unethical and unqualified persons, the reputation, image, self-esteem and dignity of the profession and those who practise it are enhanced.
It is appropriate periodically to ask, "What has APEGGA done for me, as a geoscientist, lately?" But it is not appropriate to judge the answer by criteria that relate to the activities of learned societies, which have a different mandate.
So, what has APEGGA done for geoscientists lately?
In no particular order, and with no pretensions of completeness, the following list is a brief attempt to answer that question. Over the past several years, APEGGA has:
- Obtained the right for geologists and geophysicists in Alberta to act as guarantors for applicants for Canadian passports.
- Made it possible, through Bill 18 in the Provincial Legislature, for highly qualified technicians and technologists to become professionally registered and to practise independently as Registered Professional Technologists under a defined scope of practice. Although for geoscientists, the mechanics of how this will be accomplished have yet to be settled (Bill 18 was passed only a few months ago), provisions in the EGGP Act are there, awaiting only demand for registration from geological and geophysical technologists.
- Made strong and successful representation to the Provincial government on the need for the engineering and geoscience professions to remain self governing, rather than being under the control of a politically appointed board, as is the situation in the USA.
- Made strong, credible representations to the government on a number of issues affecting the health and future viability of the energy industry and the engineering, geological and geophysical professions in the province.
- Provided seminars on professional practice and continuing professional education, including topics such as, whether you are a consultant or an employee in the eyes of Revenue Canada; and determining your professional liability risk as a consultant, evaluating its magnitude and insuring against it?
- Undertook a major public relations campaign to educate the public about the essential roles played b y geologists and geophysicists in the health, economy, and environmental protection of our province and country.
- Provided scholarships, individual recognition and medals to students and teachers of geoscience and other sciences at Alberta universities and secondary institutions.
- Supported Science Alberta Foundation and National Science and Technology Week.
- Last, but far from least, for more than ten years, APEGGA has provided the critical initial and continuing moral, financial and organizational support for the Canadian Council of Professional Geoscientists (CCPG). CCPG is the national federation of the eight professional associations in Canada that currently register geoscientists, plus the three that are working towards registration. High priority objectives being actively addressed by CCPG include developing an inter-association mobility agreement that will make the transfer of registration from one association to another as seamless as possible; establishing mechanisms to allow geoscientists registered in one association to undertake short-term practice in another jurisdiction; and negotiating protocols by which Canadian professional geoscience qualifications can be accepted in other countries. CCPG is less than two years old and attaining these objectives will take time; nevertheless, the wheels are in motion.
Over the next few months, these and other topics will be addressed in more detail. For information on APEGGA, check the APEGGA web site at http://www.apegga.org, or call toll free at 1-800-661-7020. For information on CCPG, check the CCPG web site at http://www.ccpg.ca. or call 403-232-8511.
Gordon D. Williams, Ph.D., P.Geol.
Second Vice-President, APEGGA