Fields Afar: Diversity in Surveying

This entry is part 9 of 9 in the series xyHt in print March 2016

Our work supports decision-making. The measurements we take, the research we conduct, the professional judgements we make—significant decisions are made based on these.

As it is now possible to rapidly consider much more data in making decisions, customers ask for more data—they’re definitely not trending to less data. Someone does not want to have to go to one store for a bolt, one for a nut, and another for washers. Customers want more data, quickly and preferably integrated. Compartmentalization is no longer acceptable—the world just does not work that way anymore. So, is it good for our respective professions to be taking steps that may result in a narrowing of our services?

The makeup of this month’s xyHt is a deliberate nod to the diversity of the various fields of surveying. If you practice in one of those fields exclusively, the others may appear to be “fields afar,” but they represent valuable markets. Our cover story on a surveyor doing work for small hydro projects in the Scottish Highlands is a prime example, as is that of the multi-discipline firm in California scanning to help their customers prepare for expected extreme weather events. Are these practitioners working too far from the core? Not at all.

Surveyors have, throughout history, been sought on all matters of authoritative positioning, measurement, mapping, boundary, utilities, transportation, environmental, construction, and more: the great many things that go into the decision-making process for managing the built and natural world. As soon as we dismiss something as not being surveying, we are encouraging (if not begging) others to do that work.

There may be more or less of certain types of work depending on market forces, but those markets are changing, and we’d better be ready to offer more than one product. The strength of a profession comes in its ability to identify and address challenges internal to the profession, to be able to respond to external influences, and to find ways to thrive in dynamic socio-economic environments. We cannot pine for the conditions of past eras when needs for certain services were more favorable but then be blind to rich opportunities that lay ahead.

On that note, a new initiative has launched: the Future of Surveying Forum. This new taskforce has representatives from the key surveying affiliated associations and has put forth an ambitious charter to look at these changes: to determine which are within the control of the profession and to propose actions moving forward.

Yes, discussions on the future of surveying seem perpetual—fodder for endless op-ed—and there have been multiple state survey conferences titled “the Future of Surveying.” The title may seem worn and might be met with a little cynicism (sadly, I read comments online sniping about this latest forum even before it started).

Let’s dare to look forward without preconceived notions and be part of the solution. The Future of Surveying Forum is well planned, broadly represented, and has the backing of some of the profession’s top thought leaders, and your respective associations are a direct mechanism for participation. If we short-change “now,” we end up with “no.”  

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