Professional Image Committee

Professional Image Committee


The PIC will be composed of the following members:

  • Chair : Ikuo Towhata
  • Vice Chair : To be decided
  • Committee Secretary : To be decided
  • 12 Members (approximately) : To be decided; at least one representative each from 6 regions of ISSMGE.

Collaboration with Corporate Associates and related technical Committees is important. The members will be suggested to the President and Board of ISSMGE and will be appointed by the President. All the members are expected to serve until ICSMGE in Sydney, 2021. Efforts will be made to represent all continents but participation of concerned Technical Committees and Corporate Associates will be sought for. The Board will have the right to discontinue the membership of a PIC member in case of poor performance. A Vice-Chair and a Secretary will be selected by the PIC Chair and suggested to the ISSMGE President and Board.


The most important task of the PIC (Professional Image Committee) is to demonstrate to the general public, media and decision makers (both public and private) that geotechnical engineering is an indispensable part of the modern world and deserves more public respect. To achieve this goal, the activities of the ISSMGE Professional Image Committee will address the following objectives:

Objective 1: Importance of Soil Investigation for Mitigation of Geo Risk

There is a universal misunderstanding and poor optimism that ground is stable and does not move. In spite of many reports on ground depression, landslide and other natural disasters under the ground, such an idea is still believed by the public. People are shocked when they are affected by ground failure. Furthermore, when poor soil is unexpectedly encountered during construction, additional cost and delay in time make the project unsatisfactory. These unfortunate situations are called geo risk.

When ground was made by nature, no care was taken of the uniformity of ground condition and quality of soils. Therefore, all the problems are responsibility of human. Because in-situ soil is not visible, we cannot inspect the ground condition directly. Therefore, project clients and coordinators have to allow more time and budget to be spent on more detailed investigation of ground condition. In reality, many clients believe in the unfortunate misunderstanding on ground and tend to reduce the soil investigation budget.

 PIC will produce case history records in which good efforts of subsoil investigation made the project safer and more profitable while insufficient soil investigation made the project very costly and time wasting.

 PIC understands that there are many technologies and codes on significance of subsoil investigation. It is not the PIC’s intention to recommend any of them out of others. PIC will emphasize the importance of precise understanding of the subsoil conditions so that geo-risk may be avoided.

Geo risk in the hidden underground world cannot be mitigated by probabilistic theories. The ground condition is too complicated for probability. The risk can be reduced by paying cost for more detailed investigations. Some people imagine that subsurface uncertainty can be handled by probabilistic theory. The reality is that the non-uniformity exceeds the range of probabilistic treatment; e.g., identifying clay-sand-gravel layers. Detailed soil investigation can solve the problem.

PIC should do efforts to change the world as described above.

Objective 2: Future Possibility of Geotechnical Engineering

 Traditionally, geotechnical engineering has been working for good quality of ground and underground structures. In addition to this, it is possible to open new horizons of geotechnical engineering by considering it as technology that deals with mass of geo-material and geo-environment. Then geotechnical engineering can mitigate many difficulties that human being will face in the coming decades. For example, the human world is facing the following problems;

  • Decay of infrastructure should not be overlooked. In the field of geotechnical engineering, old tunnels, lifelines and slope stabilization measures are prone to ageing effects. Deterioration of old water-supply and sewage lifelines is now critical in big cities.
  • Natural disaster is an unfortunate phenomenon but is an important opportunity for people to learn the risk in nature. People should understand that geo risk can be reduced by installing relevant technology.

More examples of future issues are final treatment of nuclear waste and development of new water resource in arid regions where population is increasing. Geotechnical engineering should not remain a stress-strain calculator but should become technology developer.

Objective 3: Production of Materials

(Material 1) Collection of cases in which good and detailed ground investigation made the project satisfactory; attention should be paid to cost-benefit issue because PIC wants clients to spend more money on soil investigation. “More budget on investigation in order to reduce geo risk.”

(Material 2) Collecting examples that geotechnical engineering saved the community from catastrophic natural disasters; dikes, soil improvement, slope stabilization, etc.

(Material 3) Historical view:

  • Irrigation increased food production.
  • Water treatment reduced epidemics in cities.
  • Transportation infrastructures reduced the size of the world: airports, high-speed railways, motorways etc.
  • Dam is an important source of electric energy and, at the same time, controls the flood risk.

(Material 4) Future scope

PIC attempts to foresee the future world and associating needs of geotechnical engineering. For example,

  • Climate change → frequent heavy rain → slope disasters → mitigation
  • Climate change → drought → more water storage
  • Population increase → more food production → irrigation
  • Population increase → More water resource → Underground dam near coast line
  • Decreasing fossil fuel → development of new resource → underground or submarine activities
  • Decay of old infrastructures → restoration and rehabilitation of existing structures; tunnel, metro, lifelines etc.

All the materials will be written in English but ISSMGE member societies will be able to translate them entirely or partially into local languages.

Objective 4: Communication with Public

“Public” herein means people, media and policy makers. The above mentioned Materials 1, 3 and 4 will be made available to the public. PIC’s own website will be a good and inexpensive tool for communication. Book publication is another choice, but cost-effectiveness should be carefully examined.

Disaster response is very important. Media wants to know why the disaster happened and when and where the next one will happen. ISSMGE and member societies should jointly make an emergency collaboration with media.

The first response to the media has to be made as quickly as possible. Follow-up a few weeks later is a good idea. Care must be taken, however, to avoid panics and irresponsibility. Collaboration with member societies is very important.

To facilitate communication with the public, PIC will have its own website.

Objective 5: Communication with Clients

Clients want two things from geotechnical engineers. First is the completion of project in time. Encountering with unexpected problematic soil makes the project delay. Additional cost may be necessary as well. Such geo risks can be avoided or, at least reduced, by running relevant soil investigation prior to design and construction. The above-mentioned Material 1 collects examples of such geo-risk management and advises clients allocate more budget on soil investigation. Because risk avoidance aims to reduce the total expenditure, media and people will be supportive.

 The Objective 5 will be based on the achievements of Objective 1. Material 1 should be prepared in a book style (hard copy) and distributed among top leaders of clients.

Objective 6: Awards

An award is given to an individual who distinguished himself or herself in reporting and/or promoting geotechnical activities. This is to be coordinated to fit within current ISSMGE framework / AWAC.

Objective 7: Other relevant activities to promote the value of geotechnical engineering among public


Obviously, PIC should work together with TCs and CAs of ISSMGE. PIC should work together with relevant technical committees such as TC102 on field investigation, TC203 on earthquake, TC304 on risk and JTC1 on landslide among many others. Collaboration with geotechnical consultant group is indispensable.


The PIC will meet 4 times a year by teleconference or in person. An in-person meeting once a year is encouraged. Expenses for the meetings will be the responsibility of the Member's country or the member.


The PIC will prepare a short report to brief the Board on the status of the committee, each time there is a meeting of the Board in person (twice a year, in principle).


a. Chair
b. Vice-Chair
c. Secretary
d. Members: Approximately 12, inclusive of those from TCs and CAs

SW, RF - update : Feb, 2014
SW - update: Jan, 2015
CPP - update: Feb 2016
IT – update: Feb 2018