I have just finished reading the April issue of POB again, while sipping a hot beverage. Milton Denny and Chris Ogier pushed my buttons and therefore this response.

Their articles raise a question for surveyors today: Are you “old school” or “new school?” Second question: Are you surveying or collecting data? Third question: Are you measuring or surveying? These in my view are serious questions that all of us need to evaluate and respond to for the future of the profession. In their respective columns, Chris is lobbying for licensing as a surveyor in his capacity as a mapper, while Milton is forecasting the future.  I have met Milton, while traveling the surveying circuit of conferences; Chris and I have never met.

Surveying and surveyors are in serious need of a reality check right about now. Our most recent attempt was instead a “circle the wagons” reaction when the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) replaced the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM). Some of you may recall a lone voice suggesting it was the perfect time to integrate Geographic Information Systems (GIS) into the fold and combine these two forces into a national voice. The GIS people extended a hand and reached out; we didn’t even respond. There will be some loud voices indicating surprise and suggest that such an occurrence was not brought to the attention of the ACSM Board, but I was there. It was the usual “defend our turf” reaction. We surveyors gave away our future many years ago, when we thumbed our collective nose at GIS. You recall the oft-repeated phrase: “Git It Surveyed.” Well, survey all you want, while the data collectors map miles of pipeline, lay out large construction sites, build huge buildings, and the list goes on …

So, now what?  In my view, we need a new national congress with the simple goal of bringing surveyors into the 22nd Century or, as some say, the real world. How?

  1. No more licensure by experience. We need a strong education requirement with a good mathematics core. There are few surveying programs, so we need to expand the coverage and include GIS, geography, etc. We will need a new test that includes the use of and application of new technology being used today, and how these relate to surveying.
  2. A multi-tiered licensing structure, as advocated by myself and others, similar to engineering. It must have a reciprocity component, again like engineering. With the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), we are almost there from a records keeping and tracking component.
  3. A better continuing education program. Haven’t we had enough regurgitated presentations on “corners” in land surveying? How about 3D technology for the sole proprietor? LiDAR and the market? These sessions should have college credits and a test at the end to qualify. Why else do we sit for hours on end in these sessions?
  4. A uniform national measurement (NOT measuring) standard: metric-based, LAT/LONG-centered and doing away with the international and U.S. foot. I would even go so far as to propose a spherical datum basis. Isn’t this just raw GPS data after all? Don’t you see a huge market for surveyors to do the conversions for public agencies?

I must remind us here that surveying is NOT measuring. Measuring is certainly what surveyors must do, but on the list of “stuff” we consider, measurements are down toward the bottom of the list. Technology has given us a paradise of measuring tools, and we have lost sight of the basic component of surveying, which is evidence. The questions of what is it, where is it and who does it affect are mostly ignored in today’s “surveying.” How many “corners” did you find on your last field endeavor? Worst yet, did you set a “corner” next to one already in the ground?

What then? Professionals in surveying, mapping and GIS, along with data collectors and developers of systems that use these tools, need to unite under one national professional body. Geospatialist is one generic label; geometrician is another; land surveyor is still my preference. We will need to define our various specializations (mapping, construction surveying, geodesy, etc.), so that we are in fact professionals embodied by a formal structure organized to protect the public and convey a recognized capability to provide a structured service.

I am mostly retired now, so this is for you who are still out there or are starting out in this fabulous world known as surveying. I came into the profession when measuring was done by “pulling chain” and am now in the GPS world. My first GPS experience was sitting on a hill at 3 o’clock in the morning since that was when the satellites were overhead. Now those things tell me where the restaurant is in downtown Boise. It is embarrassing to have that thing tell me I missed the turn and now needs to “recalculate.”

Some of you know me, some of you have heard me at various conferences as a voice in the back of the room, and a few of you are dear friends around the country. Where we are headed is still in our collective hands, but time is running out on us.

“Is we is or is we isn’t?” That is the profound question for us.