Professional Image Committee

Professional Image Committee

1. COMPOSITION

The PIC will be composed of the following members:

  • Chair: Ikuo Towhata
  • Vice Chair: To be decided
  • Committee Secretary: To be decided
  • 14 Members (approximately): To be decided by considering the geographic balance of the six regions of the 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.

2. TASK

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: Dissemination of Contribution to the Public Welfare Made by Geotechnical Engineering.

Geotechnical engineering has been making significant contributions to the welfare of people throughout the history of modern human beings. Typical examples of this contribution are found in irrigation projects, foundation of houses and buildings, transportation infrastructures, water and sewage systems, disaster mitigation and many others. The supply of good drinking water has saved millions of people from epidemic diseases. It is a pity that most of those achievements are hidden underground and not visible. Certainly, many of us have been making great efforts to improve this situation. However, other fields of science and technology have been making similar efforts more successfully than us. It is necessary to propose a better way, and share these conclusions with the Member Societies. In this regard, the content of Objective 2 seems one of the promising future directions.

Objective 2: Mitigation of Geo-Risk

There is a universal and misplaced misunderstanding that the ground is completely stable and immoveable. In spite of the many reports in the news media on ground depression and landslides as well as other natural disasters under the ground, this belief is still held by the public. People are shocked when they are affected by ground failure. Furthermore, when poor soil is unexpectedly encountered during construction, the resulting additional cost and delay in time make the project unsatisfactory. These unfortunate situations are called geo-risk.

When ground was formed in nature, the uniformity of its condition and quality of soils was not a consideration, and so any problems encountered are a consequence of human activity. As in-situ soil is not visible, we cannot inspect ground conditions directly, and therefore project clients and coordinators have to allow more time and budget to be spent on a more detailed investigation of ground conditions. In reality, many clients themselves misunderstand the nature of ground, and tend to reduce the soil investigation budget.

PIC will produce case history records to illustrate where thorough subsoil investigation has made projects safer and more profitable, and compare them to others where insufficient soil investigation resulted in increased costs and time-wastage.  The mission of geotechnical engineers should be similar to that of medical doctors who examine the conditions of their patients reasonably carefully and then provide relevant treatment.  PIC understands that there are many technologies and codes on the significance of subsoil investigation. It is not the PIC’s intention to recommend any one of them above another. PIC will emphasize the importance of the 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. Ground conditions are too complicated for probability. The risk can be reduced by running more detailed investigations over the site. 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.  After reasonable in-situ investigation, a probabilistic approach will be useful.

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

Objective 3: 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 beings 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. The deterioration of old water-supplies and sewage lifelines is now critical in big cities.
  • Natural disasters are unfortunate phenomena but provide an important opportunity for people to learn of risk in nature. People should understand that geo-risk can be reduced by installing relevant technology.

More examples of future issues are the 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 4: Production of Materials

(Material 1)  Past successes in geotechnical engineering will be collated with input from Member Societies.

(Material 2) Collection of cases in which good and detailed ground investigation made the project satisfactory;  attention should be paid to cost-benefit issues as PIC would like clients to allocate more budget on soil investigation. "More budget on investigation in order to reduce geo-risk."

(Material 3) Collecting examples showing where geotechnical engineering saved the community from catastrophic natural disasters; dikes, soil improvement, slope stabilization, etc.

(Material 4) 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.
  • Dams are an important source of electric energy and, at the same time, control flood risk.

(Material 5) 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 and development of new water resources
  • Population increase → more food production → irrigation
  • Population increase → more water resource → Underground dam near coast line
  • Decreasing fossil fuel → development of new energy resources → underground or submarine activities
  • Decay of old infrastructures → restoration and rehabilitation of existing structures; tunnels, metros, 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 5: Communication with Public

“Public” herein means people, media and policy makers. The above mentioned Materials 1, 2, 4 and 5 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. The 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 the media.

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

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

Objective 6: Communication with Clients

Clients want two things from geotechnical engineers. First is the completion of project in time. Encountering unexpected problematic soil causes delay in the project. Additional costs may also be necessary. Such geo-risks can be avoided or, at least, reduced by running relevant soil investigation all over the project site prior to design and construction. The above-mentioned Material 2 collects examples of such geo-risk management and advises clients to allocate appropriate budget for soil investigation. 

Moreover, in the case of any supplementary budget requested in terms of soil investigation, the geotechnical engineer should also be able to make aware and quantify to the client the different optimization possibilities of the final design in terms of safety, performance and overall cost reduction.

Because risk avoidance aims to reduce total expenditure, both the media and the public will be supportive.

Objective 6 will be based on the achievements of Objective 2. Material 2 should be prepared in a book style (hard copy) and distributed among top leaders of clients.

Objective 7: 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 8: Other relevant activities to promote the value of geotechnical engineering among the public

Positive proposals and discussion are welcome at any time with the ISSMGE Board, PIC Members, Technical Committees, and Member Societies.

3. COLLABORATION

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 earthquakes, TC304 on risk and JTC1 on landslides, among many others. Collaboration with geotechnical consultant groups is indispensable.

4. MEETINGS

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 individual member.

5. EVALUATION

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).

6. MEMBERS

a. Chair
b. Vice-Chair
c. Secretary
d. Members: Approximately 14

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