Improved Professionalism: A Critical Need
- John M. Campbell Sr.
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- March 1990
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 338 - 341
- 1990. Society of Petroleum Engineers
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The availability of good technology does not automatically produce profit(or comparable goals). produce profit (or comparable goals). The necessary"bridge" between the two is how professionally the technology is used.A growing number of knowledgeable persons believe that the general level ofprofessionalism must be elevated if we are to improve the "health" ofour industries. The petroleum industry is not unique in petroleum industry isnot unique in this regard. This paper discusses professionalism issues fromcurrent professionalism issues from current and historical perspectives, thenproposes concrete actions for industry, proposes concrete actions for industry,educators, and SPE to consider.
Taft-Hartley Definition of a Professional
"The term professional employee means (a) any employee engaged in work(i) predominantly intellectual and varied in character as opposed to routinemental, mechanical, manual, or physical work; (h) involving the consistentexercise of discretion and judgment in its performance; (iii) of such acharacter that the output produced or the result accomplished produced or theresult accomplished cannot be standardized in relation to a given period oftime; (iv) requiring a knowledge period of time; (iv) requiring a knowledge ofan advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by aprolonged course of specialized intellectual prolonged course of specializedintellectual instruction and study in an institution of higher learning or ahospital, as distinguished from a general academic education or from anapprenticeship or from training in the performance of routine mental, manual,or physical processes; or (b) any employee who (i) has completed the courses ofspecialized intellectual instruction and study described in clause (iv) ofparagraph (a), and (ii) is performing related work under the performing relatedwork under the supervision of a professional person to qualify himself (orherself) to become a professional employee as defined in (a)." professionalemployee as defined in (a)." Introduction
What is a true professional? What are the necessary ingredients for trueprofessional practice?
Detailed answers to these questions vary among professional disciplines andthe duties of persons within those disciplines, but general criteria apply toall. The Taft-Hartley Definition of a Professional governing U.S. laborrelations is not a complete definition because it addresses only thequalifications required to be a professional, not how to practice as one.professional, not how to practice as one. These basic requirements include thequantity and level of education, characterize the work as nonroutine, andrequire that consistent discretion and judgment be exercised and that one mustserve an internship under a professional's supervision. Note that generalprofessional's supervision. Note that general academic education and/or themere possession of the required specialized degree does not qualify one as aprofessional. Some additional supervised experience is necessary. Note alsothat job title is not necessarily a criterion. It is estimated that almost halfthe job titles containing "engineer" in the U.S. are held by peoplewithout higher education in any engineering or scientific discipline.
Definitions of "profession" and "professionalism" abound,but like a lot of definitions, they serve a limited purpose. Let us take adifferent tack.
There are two general categories of engineers: (1) those who produce data,correlations of data, and procedures for using them, and (2) those who applythe output from Category I to produce meaningful decisions that benefit boththe client and society in general. A person may work in both categories duringhis or her career, but those who can do both functions simultaneously areextremely rare.
Both categories must possess many common skills, but the manner in whichthese are used varies. Category I would include research, most academics, and amajority of those in centralized technical service staffs, which we will callengineering scientists. In professional practice, they have the followingresponsibilities.
1. Possess detailed knowledge of the principles and laws of science thatgovern the behavior of the system under study.
2. Have available the measured data and other factual information thatpresumably govern system performance.
3. Be familiar with available correlative techniques and theircharacteristics and utility for the subject application.
4. Possess general awareness of practical system characteristics and thenonscientific factors that should be considered in the subject application.
5. Develop procedures and reference materials that are applicable in atimely and efficient manner for those who are charged with that responsibilityin Category 2.
6. Be intellectually honest and not confuse measured facts with calculatedconclusions or mere judgment.
7. Present the output in a manner that is designed to serve the needs andtechnical requirements of the users-i.e., have true transfer of technology.
Compare this list with the following professional responsibilities ofengineers professional responsibilities of engineers in Category 2.
1. Possess an awareness of the principles and scientific laws governing thesystem involved.
2. Be familiar with the operating characteristics of the system involved,including available information unique to that system.
3. Be familiar with the correlative techniques available and determine whichare most applicable to the specific application based on experience andjudgment.
4. Determine and then include the nonengineering factors unique to theproblem at hand, including, but not limited to, political, economic, cultural,legal, and geographical factors.
5. Possess sufficient calculation skills to use all information available ina timely and effective manner.
6. Include all quantitative and nonquantitative information in theconclusions presented so that there are no "errors of omission" in thedecision process. Be objective, clear, and unambiguous.
This clarification of roles is important. It is unrealistic to expect mostprofessionals to be proficient in both Categories 1 and 2.
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