September, 2000

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Professional Licensing & Code Carry
Ethics Beyond Personal Standards

As an active volunteer in the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (CSEG) and APEGGA, Elaine Honsberger, P.Geoph., considers the two organizations to have critical, but distinct, roles.

The APEGGA Councillor believes CSEG as a technical society is geared toward improving and building members' technical skills. APEGGA's core mandate is to serve society and protect of the public by regulating the professions.

In the case of a geoscientist, the risk posed to public well-being may seem less immediate than in the case of negligence by an engineer designing a bridge.

However, geoscientists' work also affects the public safety -- for instance, in avoiding and mitigating environmental degradation. Also important is ensuring that public welfare -- including that of shareholders -- is not imperiled through shoddy work or unethical conduct when appraising or evaluating companies' assets or prospects.

"As geoscientists we are involved in the presentation of data, and the reviewing of data, including quick assessments, on the value of companies," Elaine Honsberger notes.

She is confident most geoscientists act ethically, even when they are not meeting the legal requirement of belonging to APEGGA. But she sees added value in belonging to an organization with a legislated Code of Ethics, something grounded in more than one individual's personal values.

"APEGGA gives me a Code of Ethics which I have agreed to follow. That's valuable to me if I come into a situation where I or someone else is asked to do something which I perceive to be unethical. It is one thing to say 'Elaine Honsberger's ethics don't allow that'. That really doesn't matter. It's a different thing for me to say 'I'm a member of a professional organization and the activities you are suggesting my colleagues or I conduct are unethical according to our professional association.' It's quite defendable and that's very helpful."

She adds: "Being a professional member is not going to stop all unethical conduct in Alberta. While most of us are law-abiding citizens, if we're in a situation where we know that our actions could come under scrutiny and our livelihood could be at stake, we might reconsider some of our actions. For me it should be reassuring to others knowing I've promised to live up to the standards."

Beyond providing a standard for personal behaviour, APEGGA also should be where geoscientists turn once they see others acting unethically.

"I think we, as geoscientists, should be using APEGGA more to follow up and to question how we conduct ourselves. We have to use the processes more if we want to see what APEGGA's influence can be. We should use the Association for what it's there for. I don't think we are doing that enough."

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