Professional Practice - Principles,
Practices and Techniques
There is an abundance of published material available on professional
practice as it relates to the engineering profession. Similar material
applicable to the professions of geology and geophysics has been
very limited. Perhaps this is because geology, and to a greater
extent geophysics, have historically had less impact on public safety
than engineering, and have been regarded more as pure rather than
applied sciences. But because they are professions (Chapter 1),
and have a definite impact on the public interest (Chapter 3), the
establishment of professional practice guidelines that are specific
to these two professions is a desirable goal. The scope of geophysical
and geological activities, the development of new technologies in
these fields, and the increasing number of persons entering the
professions are additional reasons in favour of setting out some
general principles and techniques. Awareness of professional liability,
a knowledge of professionalism and ethics are also areas which are
important for geologists and geophysicists.
This chapter approaches the topic by making some general remarks
about the need and scope of professional practice guidelines for
the geology and geophysics professions, describing some general
principles that should be followed, and concludes with articles
by senior professionals on three specific areas of practice.
Need and Scope of Professional Practice Guidelines
Many geologists and geophysicists, either individually or by team
effort, provide professional services which consist of investigations,
conclusions and recommendations. Clients spend money to achieve
desired goals which often are associated with public welfare, such
as health, housing, transportation or mineral extraction. It is
of prime importance to the profession that they understand the impact
of their work on society. Geologists and geophysicists must provide
professional work in a form that is thorough and accurate within
the limitations of current professional practice. Geological and
geophysical work which meets these goals may be considered a means
of reducing liability exposure and an aid in loss prevention.
5.4 Professional liability should be an important issue to all professional
geologists and geophysicists, since the recourse to legal action
has unfortunately become commonplace in the settlement of disagreements
which may arise during or after a project is completed. It has become
abundantly clear that most of the legal actions which are involved,
or may potentially involve, geologists or geophysicists concern
either the quality and/or competence of a work product, or are of
the "third-party" variety. In third-party suits, all parties
to the contract are brought to court in the plaintiff's efforts
to find monetary redress through blanket suits.
The best protection that professional geologists and geophysicists
can have in effectively reducing liability exposure, and costly
and time-consuming involvement in legal actions, is to maintain
professional standards in practice and to develop an awareness of
professional liability. A job prudently conducted at the state-of-the-art
level of technical competence, according to well-defined items of
scope, and in good communication with the client, serves both as
a measure of the competency of the practising professional and as
an aid in reduction of liability exposure and loss prevention.
From the very start of professional practice, whether as an independent
consultant or as an employed geologist or geophysicist, it is advisable
that each evaluate his or her technical competence, in terms of
abilities, experience, educational background, and chart a personal
plan of ongoing professional development.
An important aspect of self-evaluation of technical competence is
that each geologist and geophysicist should establish the technical
bounds of his or her competence. They can be held liable for not
recognizing their own shortcomings and should either refrain from
practice in certain applied fields, or strive to increase technical
competence where necessary. Competence is gained through background
study, participation in instruction or technical meetings, careful
application of the techniques in practice, close cooperation with
more knowledgeable colleagues and demonstration of this understanding
with and before others, such as writing and giving papers. Friendships
and acquaintances developed in APEGGA and technical societies should
be pursued in the form of discussions or cooperative field work.
Personal professional development should be undertaken by assessing
the key elements of professional practice important to each person's
career and then establishing the means of attaining sequential goals
in the area of key elements. A plan for professional development
should address all of the elements of professional practice. The
key elements include:
the techniques of technical practice;
a personal philosophy of application of each technique;
an ability to communicate with others;
a willingness to establish and meet deadlines;
a commitment to meet the full letter of agreements; and
an effort towards continuing education.
Techniques of Professional Practice
Professional geologists and geophysicists are expected to be knowledgeable
of current techniques in their field of practice and be capable
of applying these techniques to the satisfactory solution of problems
or other needs of the client or employer. An understanding of the
basic theories and practices of allied fields and disciplines or
specialities, provides a familiarity with what data is required
by each type of client or the employer, and the ability to provide
answers and solutions.
Philosophy of Application The professional geologist and geophysicist
should develop personal philosophies of understanding and application
of each technique, theory or procedure that is used in daily practice.
This may provide a basis for supplying expert testimony that is
ethical, accurate, understandable and to the point.
Communication Effective communication is vital in professional practice.
No matter the extent of one's knowledge, the inability to communicate
it clearly and succinctly makes that knowledge of limited use. Endeavours
in which job-related communicative skills are exercised include
public speaking, effective coordination for group meetings, record-keeping
practices and clear and objective writing.
Establish and Meet Deadlines One element of good professional practice
is to understand the client's or employer's needs and then to satisfy
those needs in a competent manner, on time and within budget. Learned
project management skills may be applied to achieve goals and objectives.
Meeting the established deadlines within the budgetary restrictions
of a project is aided by such management skills as organizing, administering
and controlling staff member participation.
5.13 Commitment to Agreements Incidents related to professional
liability leading to disciplinary proceedings have generally been
linked to a misunderstanding of the client's needs, poorly prepared
proposals, negotiations and contracts, and work products which,
in some way, did not meet the client's objectives of the terms of
the contract. In this connection, Chapter 18 of the text "Law
for Professional Engineers" provides appropriate guidelines
on this subject. A standard form of client/consultant agreement
developed by APEGGA for use as a guide by APEGGA geologist and geophysicst
members is in Appendix B.
A program of continuing education which includes pursuit of graduate
degrees, attending APEGGA's Professional Development Seminars, attending
special or short courses and technical meetings, participation in
field trips, home study of journals and textbooks and membership
in geological/geophysical societies provides a means for geologists
and geophysicists to grow professionally for the entire tenure of
their professional practice. The continuing education programs organized
by the CSPG and CSEG are especially noteworthy (see Chapter 6).
Additionally, each should acquire and maintain a professional library
of reference material that should be used continually as the basis
of his or her state-of-the-art technical assistance to the client
or employer. If personal resources are limited, access to a good
library is invaluable and usage of it is essential.
Geologists and geophysicists must recognize participation in the
profession as a serious undertaking, which requires continued and
substantial commitment beyond the baccalaureate degree. With a plan
for professional development, they will be in a position to further
recognize that continued professional development is absolutely
essential as a means of effectively reducing professional liability
and of maintaining a professional standing.
Every professional geologist and geophysicist should strive to practice
the profession in accordance with ethical standards of conduct,
whatever organizational level, employment sector or specific activity
he or she may be categorized or engaged in. APEGGA's Code of Ethics
should be used as a basis for ethical practice.
Some of the geological and geophysical technical societies and institutes
have codes of ethics. While the phraseology and wording is different,
the general principles are essentially the same as the principles
reflected in the APEGGA Code. Both the CSEG and CSPG expect ethical
conduct on the part of their members - CSEG members are expected
to "conform with established principles of professional ethics";
CSPG members should be "guided by the highest standards of
ethics, personal honours, scientific integrity and personal conduct."
Many of those US states which have legislation to regulate the practice
of geology also have codes of ethics embodied in their legislation
(see Chapter 7).
The APEGGA Code of Ethics, as revised in 1987, is contained in Schedule
A of the Regulations accompanying the Engineering, Geological and
Geophysical Professions Act, and is repeated in Appendix
C. It consists of brief statements of ethical principles in
the form of a Preamble and 11 enforceable Rules of Conduct. Supplementary
to the Code, APEGGA has published a "Manual of Professional
Practice under the Code of Ethics" which is an interpretive
document that exemplifies the Code. In it each article of the Preamble
and the Rules of Conduct is repeated, followed by further guidelines
and commentary to assist APEGGA members in dealing with ethical
situations and to assist all professionals in their understanding
and application of the Code. After the commentary on each rule,
case studies of typical ethical examples are included.
The codes of ethics of two major US geoscience organizations, the
Society of Exploration Geophysicists and the American Institute
of Professional Geologists, are reproduced in Appendices D and E.
The introductory portions of these codes are worth repeating:
of Exploration Geophysicists
Constitution of the SEG, Article IV, Section 1, states that "Membership
of any class shall be contingent upon conformance with the established
principles of professional ethics". As an elaboration of these
principles, the following Code of Ethics is enunciated. It shall
be your duty as a geophysicist, in order to maintain the dignity
of your chosen profession: (followed by nine articles).
American Institute of Professional Geologists - Parts of the Preamble:
of the American Institute of Professional Geologists are dedicated
to the highest standards of personal integrity and professional
conduct. The Institute's Code of Ethics comprises three parts: the
Canons, which are broad principles of conduct; the Ethical Standards,
which are goals to which Members aspire; and the Rules of Conduct.
Code of Ethics applies to all professional activities of Members,
wherever and whenever they occur. A Member shall not be relieved
of any ethical responsibility by virtue of his or her employment,
because the Member has delegated an assignment to a subordinate,
or because the Member was not involved in performing services for
Submission of Reports for Securities Commissions
Geologists and geophysicists are frequently involved in preparing
and submitting reports on mineral and oil and gas properties to
Canadian Securities Administrators. Detailed policies covering such
submissions are contained in National Securities Policies No. 2-A
and 2-B which are reproduced in Appendix
F. Policy 2-B, which was issued in 1982, was a direct result
of the deliberations of an APEGGA Task Force chaired by G. J. De
Sorcy, P. Eng., of the Energy Resources Conservation Board. A summary
of the major points stated in these policies is given below. Complete
details are contained in Appendix F.
on Mining Properties (Policy 2-A)
Reports must be factual and the recommendations must be warranted
based on the information and data contained therein. The author
must state that in his judgement, the venture is of sufficient merit
to make it a worthwhile undertaking. Authors with professional affiliations
will use their seal. Where the proceeds of the issue are being applied
to the property being reported upon, the person making the report
must be free of any association with the issuer.
Source of Information If any of the information is not based on
the author's own observations and investigations, their source should
be clearly stated, giving the exact reference to reports and records,
with copies attached as appropriate. Whenever reasonable and practicable,
reports must be based on the author's personal inspection of the
property being reported upon.
Content A complete report should include a description of the properties
of the issuer in accordance with the requirements of the appropriate
provincial legislation and should contain all pertinent exploration
data including plans and sections. (Headings, format and detailed
content of the report are described in the policy.) The information
supplied in the report should be sufficient and positive enough
to warrant the recommendations made. An estimate of the costs for
the proposed program should be included. Reports must be well illustrated
by plans and by sections to give an adequate picture of the property.
In case the potential merit of a property is predicated on geophysical
or geochemical results, maps showing results of the surveys and
the interpretation should be submitted.
Consent to Use of Name in Prospectus Where the author of the report
or valuation is named as having prepared or certified any part of
a prospectus or is named as having prepared or certified a report
or valuation used in connection with a prospectus, the written consent
of such author to its inclusion shall accompany the report on valuation.
It is the responsibility of the author when giving such consent
to have assured himself that it can properly be given.
and Gas Reports (Policy 2-B)
As for mining reports, reports must be factual and the recommendations
must be warranted based on the information and data contained therein.
The author must state that in his judgement, the venture is of sufficient
merit to make it a worthwhile undertaking. If any of the information
is not based on the author's own investigations and observations,
their source shall be clearly stated, and reference made to records
and reports with the author stating the degree of reliance he has
placed on them. (Headings, format and detailed content of the report
are described in the policy.)
If principals in an independent consulting firm which prepared the
report have or will acquire direct or indirect interests in properties
or securities of the issuer or any associate or affiliate of the
issuer, such interests must be clearly disclosed in the report.
Reports shall be prepared only by a registered professional engineer
or a registered professional geologist who is independent of the
issuer or any associate or affiliate of the issuer. Notwithstanding,
in-house reports may be accepted at the discretion of the Director
of the Securities Commission, but only for large well-established
Employees as Professionals
The viewpoint is often expressed that geologists and geophysicists
who are employees in large corporations need not be registered.
These excerpts from an article by David T. Irving, P. Eng., President
of APEGGA 1989-90, provides a different view and conveys APEGGA's
position on this matter.
Our Association is made up of some 25,000 members with over 80%
of them being what would be referred to as employee members - members
who report directly to an employer rather than to the public at
large. This large segment of our membership consists of members
in a diverse range of positions, from the new graduate to the chairman
of the board of a corporation. The size of employer varies dramatically
from small businesses with fewer than five employees to multi-billion
dollar corporations with many thousand employees.
members are also trained in different disciplines within their individual
profession. Many have gone down the management path rather than
the technical path in their careers - some still supervising or
managing professionals, but not carrying out directly, the activities
of the profession with hands-on effort. These employees very often
work within guidelines set by their organization and have little
exposure or involvement with their Association.
Government of Alberta has delegated the responsibility to the Association
to regulate and control our own membership entrance requirements,
the activities of our members and most importantly, to ensure to
the public that the quality of service that they are receiving from
a member of the Association is of high standard and comes from a
person who is fully trained in the area of expertise claimed by
employee member, while not offering services to the general public
in a direct manner, certainly undertakes professional activities
within the corporation that fall within the Code of Ethics under
which all members must operate. The practices of engineering, geology
and geophysics are defined in our Act and are broad enough to include
most of the technical activities carried out by professional members
who are employees of organizations. As professionals, we must take
responsibility for our own work and ensure that it is accurate and
acceptable by the organization while being safe for the public at
is also the responsibility of each engineer, geologist or geophysicist
to recognize that his or her employer has certain goals which must
be reached, whether these be goals of profitability, efficient operation,
personal satisfaction, service of customers, effective public relations
and good employee relationships. The engineer, geologist and geophysicist
must realize that "professional" is not just status which
is automatically attained by the granting of a certificate by the
Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists
of Alberta, but a personal standard of performance which must be
demonstrated through enthusiasm, ability, leadership and willingness
to accept responsibility. The fact that he or she is talented or
well-educated will earn no personal recognition unless his or her
education and abilities are satisfactorily applied to the good of
the employer's organization. Recognition as a true professional
can only come through effort and contribution. Employee members
need to adopt the employer's mission as their own and dedicate their
entire working energies to the employer. If they cannot accept,
for various reasons, the employer's raison d'etre, the professionals
have no choice but to change employers.
a professional, the employee engineer, geologist and geophysicist
also has certain expectations of the employer. These goals include
the need for personal achievement, opportunity for advancement,
a satisfactory salary level based on their contribution to the organization
and the responsibilities he or she is required to assume, and the
necessity to be considered a person of stature among other employees.
It is the definite responsibility of the employer to show an intention
to recognize professionalism in the employees, and that careers
can be supplied which will give adequate challenges.
employer must recognize that a professional engineer, geologist
and geophysicist has a Code of Ethics set by the professions and
under which the professional must work. If there is conflict with
the Code of Ethics and what the employer wants the professional
to do, then the Code must prevail.
the public may not be aware that the regulatory authority for our
professions is APEGGA - rather than the provincial government -
the public has an appreciation that individuals who hold themselves
out to be Professional Engineers, Professional Geologists or Professional
Geophysicists operate under a Code of Ethics and follow high professional
standards. The use of the title P. Eng., P. Geoph. or P. Geol. after
their name shows the public that they have high ethical standards
in their work and hopefully in their personal life. This creates
a status for them and their organization.
public also recognizes that members of a professional organization
who do not live up to the standards set by their professional organization
are subject to disciplinary action and corrective directional coaching.
employed registered engineer, geologist or geophysicist can proudly
say "I have obtained qualifications which have been examined
by my peers and found adequate, and I have undertaken to practice
my profession in the best interest of my client, employer and the
public in accordance with the Code of Ethics adopted and enforced
by my own profession."
Expert Witness Duty
Serving as an expert witness is an activity which professional geologists
and geophysicists are likely to encounter in their practice. Mr.
James R. Dunn, CPG, Chairman of a New York consulting geology firm,
wrote a pertinent article in Geotimes on this subject. Excerpts
from his article are repeated below:
needs the special knowledge of geoscientists for public hearings,
litigation, making laws and regulations. Competent professionals
can contribute significantly by giving expert testimony in their
fields of specialization. Without their input, judicial and administrative
decisions may result in ineffective regulations. Too often, only
non-scientists with good intentions offer their opinions when scientific
information is needed.
Most geoscientists do not feel comfortable in the public arena.
Explaining a technical subject to those unfamiliar with it can be
frustrating and may seem demeaning.
information is often critical in public hearings about environmental
issues; legislative staff briefings and committee hearings; administrative
agency hearings on regulations; and civil trials that involve such
things as environmental conflicts, eminent-domain cases, personal
injury and damage or value disputes.
you be a witness? First, are you an expert? The subject on which
you testify must be one in which you are an authority. Although
you know more about most areas of the physical sciences than judges,
juries, or legislators, you should testify only in your field of
specialization. There will usually be another authority on the other
side of any conflict. That person is the most critical part of your
audience and will know when you are stretching beyond your expertise.
Clearly, the more secure you are with your opinions, the more effective
you are likely to be.
do you feel comfortable on your side of the conflict? In nearly
all cases, you will be expected to give your opinion as an expert,
and theoretically, that opinion would be the same whichever side
you are on. No reputable legislator or lawyer will ask or expect
you to be dishonest. If such a situation occurs, you should withdraw
from the case immediately. Personal doubts will usually mean that
you will not be effective, and you should decline to testify.
can an expert witness expect for ground rules? Environments in which
you may give testimony have many things in common. For example,
you will be talking to lawyers and to the general public. Your audience
will want you to defend your opinions clearly, simply, and in detail.
As a geoscientist you will serve yourself and your client best by
remaining detached from any emotional conflicts and by presenting
only the facts as you understand them.
Professional Practice in the Universities
In a paper presented by Dr. Lee C. Gerhard, CPG, to the 1983 AIPG
Annual Meeting, some very pertinent advice is provided to geologists
engaged in teaching activities. Excerpts from the paper are repeated
geologic academicians, whatever level, are learning, if they indeed,
are professional geologists as well as being professional in education.
Closed minds and dogmatism have no place in academic professionalism,
although we all suffer the malady on occasion. Continued renewal
of the learning process is part of the professional responsibility
of the educator. Paraphrased, to educate is to learn.
integrity of science and ethics is as crucial to the academician,
student or professor, as learning itself. Without integrity of science,
graduates will have little reference base upon which to model their
professional standards. The ethical integrity of the faculty is
the role model of the student. We do well never to forget that bond.
Integrity includes the meeting of professional requirements as well,
whether student coursework and field exercises or simply the proper
faculty preparation for classes. Integrity means proper regard and
reference to the work of others.
geologists in the academic world have an obligation to teach and
defend the standards of professional behaviour. It is incumbent
upon the academician to stand and be counted when these standards
are challenged or denigrated; to defend highest quality and standards
in education, research and student guidance. Participation in professional
society and community affairs is an integral part of professional
behaviour in the academic world. In this respect academicians have
identical responsibilities with all geologists.
professional geologist must be dedicated to education and science
and have considerable patience. Here are some suggestions that are
both old and new, but which can serve to distinguish truly professional
geologic service from that of lesser stature.
The geological professional will bring the real world into the classroom.
Despite other's opinions to the contrary, I strongly encourage use
of real models and data in the classroom, including the financial
, legal and ethical problems of the geologic industries. We have
a responsibility to the students to give them a fair appraisal of
life after school. Our job includes ensuring that they have the
knowledge and tools to be effective for at least five years after
they leave our care, and the foundations to learn additionally during
those five years so that they remain competitive for the rest of
their career. Some of my colleagues from other institutions protest
that the job of the university is to educate, that they are not
faculty members in a 'Trade School', and other such arguments. Nonsense.
Our responsibility is education, but in the world today the students
have the right to expect training that will enable them to be competitive
in the job market. The days of the 'Gentlemen's Degree' in geology
are gone. We must face the world and our market if we are to do
an effective job of education.
The geological professional is a professor. Professors must profess,
not merely recite. Proper classroom preparation is not only a survey
of the appropriate literature and text books which reflect what
others have thought and interpreted, it must include what the faculty
member believes, backed by the data and rationale that leads to
these ideas. Be honest - if your idea is pure air, say so, but don't
either hide the concept nor pretend it is data-supported. Encourage
discussion of your ideas as well as those of the literature - that
is why you are there. Ph.D. degrees are not necessary to recite
literature. Do not back away from scientific controversy, but plunge
ahead with your students, helping them to become creative by exploring
and critiquing ideas - including your own. Be prepared to have your
balloons burst frequently.
Set professional standards of excellence for yourself and your students,
including participation in public affairs as a scientist. As difficult
as it is to be verbally critical of others' work, it is necessary
to be objective and demanding in appraising the performance of others
and to expect them to be equally demanding of you. If you expect
excellence, it is likely to occur. If you expect mediocrity, the
best that you will receive is mediocrity. The challenge exists in
all levels of work, including the challenge to graduate study and
research. 'We both know that you are intellectually capable of better
than this!' is one approach. It is not necessary to be blunt, in
fact tact is a blessing as long as the message is clear. Lead students
into excellence rather than permit the system to reward mediocrity.
and productive people infused with the spirit to succeed and excel
are the strength of the free world. Professionalism in geology in
the academic world must produce these people, or we all ultimately
fail. All of us, in academia or business, share responsibility for
excellence in our field.