The ASCE Board of Direction approved a sound fiscal operating budget for 2013, which will help sustain ASCE as a financially stable organization for the foreseeable future while providing for investment in numerous new services and programs to enhance member value. At the meeting, held July 19-20 in New York City, the board also moved to further strengthen and reorganize ASCE by approving bylaw amendments that would eliminate the existing standing board committees and establish four new standing board committees and five new standing Society committees.
Financial stability was at the top of the board’s agenda when it approved an essentially balanced budget for fiscal 2013, with operating revenue of $49,446,000 and expenses totaling $49,656.000. The budget includes a $1,050,000 contribution from the ASCE Foundation to support programs. Anticipating a continued slow economic recovery in the U.S. and throughout the world, the board made a series of prudent decisions by reducing low-priority program expenditures, minimizing overall committee and staff expenses for travel and meetings, and increasing member dues by $15 a year. The dues increase is only the second since 2006.
The budget will continue to fund and support the development and implementation of literally dozens of new member services and programs. Some of those include myLearning, a continuing education management system tool and pdh registry that will launch this fall; Civil Engineering magazine’s new mobile app, Web content, and digital edition; such outreach programs as the new ASCEville webpage, which helps kids explore civil engineering; eLearning, which provides members with live webinars; anticorruption education training, the centerpiece of which is Ethicana, a 42-minute ASCE-produced film that promotes ethical decision making for engineers in the construction industry; Envision, the new ASCE-sponsored Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) rating tool; myASCE, the new personal online social media community that connects members to each other; the ASCE Library, a new portal—which now includes a mobile edition—through which members can access 33 ASCE journals, (1983 to present), 190 volumes of conference proceedings (2000 to present), more than 80,000 journal articles and proceedings papers, and more than 690,000 pages of content; ASCE postdisaster safety evaluation training workshops, which help train civil engineers to become members of local, state, and federal disaster response teams; and the new 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, which is scheduled for release in March and will include a mobile app and highlight civil engineering success stories.
Another important item on the board’s agenda was the approval of a bylaw amendment, following the report from the Task Committee on Committee Restructuring, to eliminate the 27 existing standing board-level committees and replace them with four standing board committees and five standing Society committees. The new standing board committees will be the Audit Committee, the Executive Committee, the Program and Finance Committee, and the Nominating Committee. And the new standing Society committees are the Committee on Education, the Members Communities Committee, the Committee on Advancing the Profession, the Public Policy Committee, and the Committee on Technical Advancement. The board also approved committee member appointments for this new structure. The restructuring will become effective on October 20 in conjunction with ASCE’s annual business meeting and the installation of new officers and board members at ASCE’s 142nd Annual Civil Engineering Conference, in Montreal, Canada.
In addition, the board approved the recommendation of the Task Committee on Committee Restructuring to sunset ASCE’s International Activities Committee (IAC) and appoint an interim task committee, which will continue the IAC’s duties and report directly to the Executive Committee. In the interim, the Task Committee on Global Strategy will determine whether ASCE needs a standing board-level international committee to guide the future direction of ASCE’s global strategy. The committee will report to the board at its October 2013 meeting, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
One of the key tasks of the board is to reexamine the Society’s policy statements every three years. A total of 53 Policy Statements were reviewed and, where required, revised and amended. Two new policy statements were approved by the Public Policy Committee on May 4, and adopted by the board.
Hydraulic fracturing is a well-stimulation process used to maximize the extraction of underground resources, including oil, natural gas, and water. Given the fact that many civil engineers are involved in the hydraulic fracturing process, the board approved the new Hydraulic Fracturing Policy Statement. To ensure sound engineering and industry practices, the policy statement recommends among other things: full disclosure of all chemicals and other propping agents in the fracturing fluids, control the handling and disposal of chemicals in hydraulic fracturing, establish construction and decommissioning standards to protect underground sources of drinking water and prevent methane loss, establish site closure and restoration standards, ensure adequate controls over storm-water runoff or overflow from the well site, promote hydraulic fracturing research, and protect in-stream water flows and determine the impact of multiple drilling operations within a single groundwater basin or watershed. The statement reads in part: “The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the exploration and production of oil and natural gas energy by means of hydraulic fracturing when based upon sound engineering and industry practices that protect public health, safety, and the environment.”
ASCE is concerned that the process to mandate open, free access to publicly funded research could undermine the Society’s obligation to the scientific community and the American public to publish scholarly, peer-reviewed articles in its peer-reviewed journals, as well as its conference proceedings, standards, manuals of practice, committee reports, and monographs. The Publication of Publicly Funded Research Policy Statement endorses the principle of providing public access to federally funded research, but at the same time states that the peer review process needs to be preserved and that scientific and technical information must be protected from potential abuse and misuse. ASCE believes that its peer review process is what distinguishes top-flight research, and agrees with a number of other scholarly journal publishers that the peer reviewer works as that “gatekeeper.” However, the cost of peer review and the editing and indexing of articles requires economic resources not supplied under an open access model.
Upon learning that Envision has registered 180 individuals for the ISI Envision training course and that more than 50 individuals have received the ISI ENV PV (provisional) sustainability credentialing as of July 9, the board approved a motion to communicate with the ISI Board of Directors for the purpose of establishing an ASCE program for sustainable engineering certification that includes ISI’s Envision PV or SP (sustainability professional) certification as a package.
Finally, the board adopted a modified definition of “civil engineering” as follows: “Civil engineering is the profession that utilizes the materials and forces of nature to create, maintain, and improve the built environment, and protect and enhance the natural environment for the progressive well-being of humanity. The practice of civil engineering is founded on the creative analysis and synthesis of scientific, mathematical, and economic principles gained by study, experience, and practice and guided by the imperative to protect the public health, safety, and welfare.”