Point of Beginning

Contributing Editor's Note

January 26, 2001
Mark E. Meade, PE, PLS, CP, is vice president of Photo Science in its Lexington, Ky., office.
How long has it been since you gave a lot of thought to the definition of surveying? You work in the profession every day, but if you are like most in our profession, you take the full definition of surveying for granted. While many of the areas covered by this definition are black and white, there are considerable gray areas.

As the national guideline, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) Model Law includes the following words in its definition of surveying: “…relative to the location, size, shape or physical features of the earth, improvements on the earth, the space above the earth, or any part of the earth.” What does this mean to you? Differences of interpretation abound in the industry. And the lines between surveying and other related professions are becoming blurred.

Should photogrammetrists or mapping professionals be required to hold licensure as surveyors in every state in which they produce mapping? Should the same requirements be placed on GIS professionals? Let me cloud the issue a little more; if you agree that a GIS professional should fall under the licensing act in your state as a surveyor, then the definition of GIS has to be tied down. And that is an incredibly complex task. The answers to these questions are simple if any boundary or property evidence is included in the mapping or the geographic information system. But, is it less clear when no such information is included?

A diverse task force formed by NCEES has worked hard over the last several years to address changes and concerns in the industry such as these and implement them into the Model Law. Leaders in the industry have taken the reigns to provide a clearer standard. The task force includes representatives from these prominent associations: the American Congress of Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS), the Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS), the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS), the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC), and the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA).

Our profession has seen substantial change in the last decade. The changes brought on by technology, including GPS, robotic total stations, improved computing power and automated systems in the office, have been immense. Our clients demand more and expect results in less time. These changes along with the questions I left open have prompted the NCEES to consider a complete overhaul of its Model Law for surveying. Some proposed changes were outlined at an October meeting co-sponsored by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and MAPPS in New Orleans. These proposed changes are quite significant in defining some gray area of the industry. You may want to review these changes (detailed information is available online at www.asprs.org/news.html). One way or another, they will affect you and your profession.