The American Society of Civil Engineers Geomatics Division

A surveying professional reading this may ask him- or herself, “Why in the world is information about a civil engineering society in a magazine for surveyors?” One of the more obvious answers is due to the long-standing and continuing overlap between engineering and surveying practices. These two professions have worked together for many years. (One reason I decided to earn a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and another in land surveying and geomatics engineering is that I felt a thorough understanding of each skill set would only enhance my abilities within each profession.) The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has always promoted a healthy relationship between the two professions and continues to do so. In fact, ASCE welcomes land surveyors as members.

The American Society of Civil Engineers and Architects was incorporated on November 5, 1852 at the Croton Aqueduct in New York. ASCE’s mission is “to provide essential value to our members and partners, advance civil engineering, and serve the public good.” ASCE represents “over 140,000 members of the civil engineering profession worldwide and is the oldest national engineering society.”

ASCE created the Surveying and Mapping Division in 1926; this was a full 15 years before the founding of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) in 1941. Since then ASCE has been a leader in surveying education and within the surveying profession. They were originally the lead society for survey programs receiving ABET accreditation under the Engineering Accreditation Commission (ACSM was the cooperating society). After the creation of the ABET Applied Science Accreditation Commission (then the Engineering-Related Accreditation Commission) in 1983, ACSM became the lead society for surveying criteria, and ASCE became the cooperating society. ASCE continues to be an influential leader in surveying engineering curriculums. (For an overview of ABET accreditation, see Robert J. Schultz’s article in the January 2010 issue of Professional Surveyor Magazine, “Education in Surveying: Apples, Bananas, and Cherries and ABET.”)

The ASCE Surveying Engineering Division replaced the Surveying and Mapping Division in 1986, which itself was replaced in 1997 by the Geomatics Division. The purpose of the Geomatics Division is “to provide leadership, within the engineering profession, for the acquisition and management of spatial data required as part of scientific, administrative, legal, and technical operations for surveying, cartography, photogrammetry, multi-purpose cadastre, remote sensing, and geographic information systems; to foster the development of policy, guidelines and specifications; to encourage the advancement of geomatics education; and to foster the dissemination of information.”

To learn about the Geomatics Division I contacted several members of ASCE. Most of them have inspiring resumes and are very involved with the surveying community, including the surveying professional societies. The Geomatics Division leadership consists of nine executive committee members, including a chair, past chair, secretary, two ASCE coordinators, and an ASCE technical activities committee representative. Most of the division members are licensed surveyors and/or engineers, and in fact two of the members of the executive committee are retired surveying professors who still offer continuing education courses.

What’s unique about ASCE’s Geomatics Division is that the leaders understand not only the needs of the surveying profession but also the needs of the engineering profession and how the two can serve one another. In addition, more than 6,000 members of ASCE expressed an interest in the activities of the Geomatics Division. That is more than the approximately 5,000 members of ACSM. This is most likely due to the fact that many engineers employ surveyors and want to understand the issues facing the surveying profession. In fact, engineering firms may be the largest employers of surveyors who have earned a degree from an ABET TAC- (Technology Accreditation Commission-) certified curriculum.

The ASCE Geomatics Division serves the surveying profession in many ways. For example, they publish the world-class, indexed Journal of Surveying Engineering, founded in 1956 and originally called the Journal of the Surveying and Mapping Division (it was changed in 1983). It provides a variety of articles on various geomatics-related topics.

ASCE’s Geomatics Division serves the surveying profession also through its various educational seminars. Since 2008, the division schedules one or two workshops every year teaching state-of-the art methodologies covering subjects as diverse as modern frame transformations, GPS georeferencing, OPUS, GEOID09, 3D geospatial solutions, and RTK surveys. The next ASCE-hosted seminar is scheduled in March in conjunction with the SPAR annual convention in The Woodlands, Texas.

I believe ASCE’s Geomatics Division’s most important contribution has been to surveying education. It is difficult to discuss the future of surveying education without addressing the issues currently faced by the surveying profession, including the possible withdrawal of the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) from ACSM. As I wrote above, ACSM is currently the lead society for all ABET-accredited surveying programs, which include those accredited under the Engineering Accreditation Commission (EAC), the Applied Science Accreditation Commission (ASAC), and the Technology Accreditation Commission (TAC). The ASCE Geomatics Division has an interest in maintaining the engineering-level survey programs and the goal of becoming the lead society for EAC programs. If ASCE’s Geomatics Division ever became that lead society, they would then encourage ACSM to continue to be the lead society for survey programs accredited under the ASAC and the TAC, so long as the title of the program does not lead members to believe that it is an engineering degree.

I am especially curious to see what will happen to surveying education if NSPS does follow through with its possible plans to withdraw from ACSM. Will this then give the ASCE Geomatics Division the opportunity to become the lead society for ABET EAC surveying programs as is their goal? Who will then become lead society for ABET ASAC and TAC surveying programs?

I find it very interesting to learn how all of the various professional societies work together and support one another to advance our professions and perform the balancing act of trying to achieve each of their respective goals. From my research, I feel that ASCE has been a great advocate and leader for not only the engineering profession but the surveying profession as well. The future of surveying will only benefit in keeping an open and healthy relationship with the engineering profession through organizations such as the ASCE Geomatics Division.

About the Author

  • Ashley Rose-Nalin
    Ashley Rose-Nalin
    Ashley is a recent graduate in land surveying and geomatics engineering form Purdue University and a newly licensed surveyor in Tennessee.

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