6. PRINCIPLES of APPLICATION
The Principles of Application accommodate the laws, theories and rules of the underlying sciences. While the sciences remain unchanged so, too, will the principles, regardless of changes in technology. Principles are proposed:
5.1 First, Consider The Whole
This principle may be stated in other ways: Work From the Whole to the Part, Start With the End in Mind. Considerations of scale, congruence and design demand observance this principle.
‘Working from the whole to the part” is a well recognised surveying principle – working within the control system, extrapolating from the longest baseline. Interpolation contains errors, extrapolation grows them. The principle seems self-evident. Yet, it is not always easy to apply. Modern measuring technologies are such that the ‘whole’ – the control system - may be found deficient. The assembled parts may be more accurate than the ‘whole’. This may require the surveyor to consider changing the ‘whole’ to fit the ‘parts’, raising questions of other data which are related to the ‘whole’, and other users who rely on the data. Resolving issues arising from non-congruence of the parts and the whole demands wise professional judgment.
Considering the part-within-the-whole is essential for the maker of any set of spatially related information. Design wisely precedes creation. Without a clear vision of the ‘end’, the exercise will be compromised.
Remote sensing specialists and GIS developers consider “part’ and ‘whole’ when assessing the scope and scalability requirements of the project or phase. Scalability impacts infrastructure requirements such as computational intensity, data storage capacity, data administration and network requirements. Professional judgment based on experience will indicate an optimal solution given the client’s vision, budget and risk aversion. The practitioner reflects on the part (current project specific requirements) and the whole (parallel complementary or future projects).
5.2 Know The Tools
This principle is more important than ever before. Within half of a lifetime, the tools of our professions have become opaque, automatic, capable of high rates of production. Modern tools are subject to improvement and change on a regular basis. New versions appear. Surprises lurk. Maker’s claims require validation. The tools must be capable of delivering the results required.
The imperative to ‘know’ the tool on which one relies can be understood when imagining the earlier barrister’s question. It would be wise for the professional to not rely only on a manufacturer’s claim without ascertaining that the tool performs as expected, and is calibrated.
As the tools become more opaque, their workings not so well known, the necessity for empirical methods of testing and calibrating increase.
5.3 Consider and Analyse Contributing Errors
In most applications there will be an expected accuracy of object in space. Errors come from a number of sources. Errors need to be assessed and analysed as part of the design process.
Photogrammetrists assess and propagate the contributing errors of ground control, aerial GPS control, aerial triangulation, camera and capture to design their processes to achieve objective accuracy. Remote sensing scientists consider raw or pre-processed data from various sensors with varying resolutions in analysing land change phenomena. GIS implementers, in integrating data of variable thematic and spatial standards, consider the resultant reliability to be expected by the user of the merged information.
Experienced professionals may do this instinctively. There are traps . The processes and technologies that contribute errors are ever in change. Some new technologies improve accuracy or precision, others worsen them. It is sensible to consider each error separately.
In a competitive, litigious and time - sensitive world, surveyors and spatial scientists will heed this principle to ensure that their process designs are not so robust as to well exceed the target, be price - uncompetitive or delivered late; or, more importantly, that they do not fail to achieve the required accuracy.
5.4 Record the Defining Parameters
Today’s spatial data becomes tomorrow’s evidence of change. Spatial Reference Systems are amended, corrected and changed. In Australia we are fortunate to have a spatial reference system of the high quality. Yet, lurking in it are residual mistakes and deficiencies. Many other countries are not so fortunate, having reference systems in transition, or even decay. Some countries have crustal movement that defies the notion of a stable reference system. Attributing a spatial data set with only the name of map grid and geodetic datum is inadequate if this principle is to be honoured. Reference to specific monuments and their ordinate values can overcome this deficiency. Hydrographic surveyors’ descriptions and recordings of Chart Datum parameters provide a good example for honouring this principle.
Environmental projects of state and national significance are establishing baseline data sets for current and future analyses. Due to the magnitude of these projects, future users working at the local scale need to confirm the integrity of the data for their scale of project, as the surveyor checks the origin of his coordinates. The range of defining parameters - spatial, spectral, temporal - is a reflection of the diversity of the work of surveyors and spatial scientists.
Adherence to this principle is supported by the increasing use of metadata with sets of spatial information. More of our work consists of adding to or building on existing data, making this principle more pertinent as this trend continues.
5.5 Beware The Bounds of Convention
This principle may otherwise be stated: “avoid foisting the unconventional on the client or the user”; or “beware of letting your innovation become another’s confusion”. It reminds the practitioner to remain aware of convention.
This principle covers almost all parts of the spatial scientist’s professional life. It can be applied to records, physical monuments, drawings, maps, reports. It may be better understood by considering some of the conventions we take for granted. This principle gives a reminder that surveyors have clients from many industries and communities, each with its own language, jargon and conventions. A mine surveyor would be ill advised to change the thirty year – established vertical reference datum of a mine to the national datum without good reason and careful consultation.
This principle is probably most important in the field of geo-visualisation or cartography and the employment of symbolisation. Consider a fanciful revision of the symbols for the channel markers on a hydrographic chart! Having said this, strengthened or improved conventions would not evolve without critical review and continual improvement.
5.6 Build Proof Into The Process
Users expect reliability and accuracy. Understanding this, surveyors make provisions to ensure expected levels of reliability and accuracy are achieved.
Proof of achievement comes from the external check. Redundant measurements built in to the process provide confidence in the process and a measure of proof. Repetition does not constitute proof. The external check stands alone because it can reveal failure to detect some hitherto overlooked blunder or systematic fault.
The remote sensing scientist producing land clearing maps for court
should incorporate both spatial and attribute redundancy. Surveyors
routinely ‘close’ between control and compare new measurements with adjacent
or previous surveys, so providing the external check.
5.7 Engage The User
This principle is based on the notion that all of the foregoing is relevant only if the outcome is understood by the user.
Modern methods of creating data move toward virtual reality. High resolution terrestrial and aerial sensors give the potential for virtual 3D worlds. Yet the existing paradigm for geo-visualisation is grounded in the assumption that abstraction is needed for achieving insight (ICACI 2003). There is tension between the data (the truth) and the designer of the information. This is recognised in The Principles of Cartographic Design (Cartographic Society 2002) some of which are drawn on here:-
How is the user engaged? If not by a virtual world, engagement will be enhanced by:
Fra Mauro, a Renaissance cartographer to the Court of Venice, imagined in ‘The Mapmaker’s Dream’ (Cowan 1997) reflects on the purpose of his craft as a Cartographer: the craftsman’s task is to extract a form from what has been given to him, and to make of it something that appeals to the heart as to the mind.
Engagement of the user goes beyond spatial information to the language of the user. Scientific jargon, unexplained acronyms and legal terms may baffle. Metadata (5.4) are unlikely to provide engagement with a user other than another professional. Two codes are needed – our technical language for our colleagues and peers, and the common language of the user.
Of all the Application Principles, this one relies most on professional judgment and experience, even intuition, and a sound foundation of knowledge.
6. PRINCIPLES of BEHAVIOUR
Professional societies have Codes of Ethics. Most share a common base of the values of competence, truth and social justice. The following section is drawn from the Code of Ethics of the Australian Spatial Sciences Institute (Spatial Sciences Institute 2003). The separate sections reflect tenets of the code. Ethical dilemmas occur when one tenet of the Code can not be honoured without apparent breach of another. In a professional life, ethical dilemmas will inevitably surface.
6.1 First Responsibility Is To The Community
The welfare and rights of the community come before professional, personal or sectional interests. The community includes employees, colleagues, all other people. The tenet reminds us that the professional needs to be aware of the wider consequences of actions and advice. Sometimes the objectives of a client and community interests may be different, creating a dilemma.
6.2 Act Well and With Honesty
This tenet hardly needs explanation. A professional is not expected to receive payment from more than one source for the same service, unless revealed. Under this tenet, a professional would be expected to not damage the reputation of others, or seek to supplant another already engaged by a client.
6.3 Stay Within Competence
This tenet would seem self-evident. However there are occasions when the assignment requires the professional to try new methods or develop new processes. Principle 7.4 requires informing clients of risk. In a technology-based profession, it is easy to imagine this Principle leading to a dilemma.
6.4 Develop and Maintain Knowledge and Skills
Any professional is expected to stay up-to-date and adequately skilled; and to encourage staff to do the same. Most professional societies have measurable CPD programs intended to keep members informed and competent.
6.5 Act In The Interests of Client or Employer
The professional is expected to take an active interest in the interests of the client or employer. It is only when these interests clash with other principles that dilemmas arise. This tenet reminds us that every professional, regardless of employment circumstances, has a client. Identification of the client is considered in 7.1. Confidentiality of employer or client information is expected.
6.6 Inform Clients and Employers
The professional not only looks out for the interest of the client or employer, but also informs the client about risks, potential difficulties, matters that may impact on interests - issues of environment, regulation, law or relationship.
6.7 Reveal Conflict of Interest
The professional is careful to reveal any conflict of interest – real or apprehended. Any external relationship which may be seen to compromise the impartiality or objectivity of a professional is best disclosed at the start, or as soon as it becomes evident. A common saying is: ”if conflict of interest is questioned, it probably exists”.
7. PRINCIPLES of CONTEXT
The Principles of Context guide surveyors in their communications and immediate relationships in carrying out their work. The Principles of Context and Conduct will be found to overlap. They may be expected to change as society and relationships between its sectors change. Principles are proposed:-
7.1 Confirm The Client and Interested Others
There is always a client, regardless of one’s employment status. If we consider that the Client is the one to be satisfied by our actions or our product, it will become apparent that identification of the client is not always as simple as may at first appear. The client is not necessarily the one who pays. There may be a multiple client, or common clients. They may have different objectives. There may be other interested parties. Cadastral surveyors are familiar with the need to take into account the rights and needs of adjacent title holders.
So the question “who is the client?’ followed by “are there other interested parties?” will allow this principle to be honoured.
7.2 Define The Objective
As with the preceding principle, this one is seemingly simple, yet deceptively difficult to practice. The Objective may be better termed the ‘Business Objective’. It is the answer to the “why” question. Asking the “why” question is, by itself, a skill that does not arrive without practice. Determining the objective is an essential skill of a practitioner. If the objective is defined and satisfied, other complaints, criticisms and perceived shortfalls will fall away.
It is one thing to define an objective and another to know it has been achieved. Agreeing at the start how the outcome will be judged is wise. If the objective is subjected to a reality check, ambiguity of conformance at the completion of the project will be greatly diminished. It is sensible to document the Objective, the scope, deliverables and timing and have the client sign off before proceeding.
The ability to define the objective with the client is arguably the skill that will best foster sound business relationships.
7.3 Be Aware of External Constraints and Expectations
This principle may fall in to the category of “it goes without saying”. We include it nonetheless.
There are branches of the Spatial Sciences community that already work within the constraints of external authorities. Cadastral surveyors work within planning and land registration laws, regulations, guidelines and codes. Engineering surveyors are aware of engineering design standards. Mining surveyors are bound by regulations that are principally safety– related. Hydrographic surveyors understand that their work will be scrutinized by a higher authority and relied on by many. The spatial scientist rarely does work without being in the shadow of some external authority. These shadows can be legal, financial, political, technical or ethical. Some are implied in other parts of this work
In contrast to the work of the various surveying branches mentioned here, a GIS developer, remote sensing scientist or cartographer does not require license or accreditation to operate.
Remote Sensing specialists working on a statewide, baseline vegetation mapping project operate in the shadow of current ‘technical best practice’ in preprocessing, analysis and accuracy assessment. There are no statutes or guidelines or requirements to lodge this information in connection with land title. (This may change in future when biota rights become more well defined and concern for the environment escalates. )
It is not difficult to imagine a time when the work of spatial scientists other than surveyors will be more regulated, more subject to external constraint. The practitioner would be wise to remain aware of the ever-present external constraint of ‘reasonable standards of practice’.
7.4 Assess and Share The Risks
There is always risk of failing to meet technical or time requirements; of finding unknown circumstances in a greenfield site; of atmospheric or physical conditions frustrating the mission. There may be a risk of not being able to find all the underground services. Access to the site may not be granted, or the planning authority may refuse the application.
If the risks are identified at the start there will be less likelihood of dissatisfaction or dispute when the possible becomes reality. There are times in professional life when “I told you so” has to be said, preferably not in those words.
7.5 Define The Critical Terms
This principle might otherwise be called “agree on a common technical language”. While others of the contextual fundaments apply equally well to many other disciplines and industries, this one is nearer to being exclusive to the spatial sciences.
There is a word in our lexicon that is particularly problematical - “accuracy”. By itself it has little other meaning than ‘nearness to the truth’. It has no specific meaning in error discourse. Yet it has been and still is used to define the spatial quality of our work. It might variously be interpreted as Standard Error or RMS, or as ‘the error unlikely to be exceeded’, or ‘tolerance’. A factor of three separates the extremes. Finding and adopting common definitions of error which have less chance of ending in client dissatisfaction have been discussed (Jonas and Byrne 2003).
Until industry expressions of error are standardised, and even well after, this principle remains one to be kept in mind always.
7.6 Test Processes Against Project Scope
Having defined the objectives, the scope and the processes to achieve them; and having shared the excitement of being awarded the contract; the work starts. On projects that last over long periods it is not unusual for objective and scope to be reconsidered and adjusted. If the spatial professional does not consider the chosen processes against the new scope or timeline, there is a possibility of not delivering to specification, on time or to budget. The effects of incremental scope change must be considered and compensated. This principle might be re-named “Beware of Scope Creep”.
7.7 Attribute Contributions By Others
Easily overlooked and likely to become more common as data sets are more available and accessible, it is important to attribute the authorship or provenance of all data used. This is not only demonstrates good manners and respect for others, it may avoid embarrassment, or even claims for damages, should data from other sources be found deficient.
8. PRESENTING AND EXTENDING THE WORK
The first public presentation of ‘The ABC of x,y,z’ (Byrne and Kelly 2005) generated an encouraging level of enthusiasm among younger professionals. (The emergence of ‘Young Spatial Professionals’ as an energetic and influential part of the surveying and spatial sciences community in Australia is a noteworthy story of its own). Consequently, workshops and presentations were undertaken in four Australian states in the following year.
The first lesson came from the young professionals: make a ‘pocket edition’. Almost immediately one page versions of the work were made. One compiled in question form is appended here.
As presentations and workshops developed, lessons were learned:
From this last point, the value of the work has been confirmed. One of the most common comments has been in relation to every professional, regardless of occupation or station, having a client and the occasional difficulty of identification of the client. For many the Contextual Principles have been identified as being particularly useful. Younger participants have remarked on their better understanding of the complexity of the demands of professional life. Others have found stimulation in coming to terms with the abstract nature of Principles, particularly those of ethics. The authors have been encouraged to hear that versions of the ‘pocket edition’ have appeared on office walls; and that dilemma-resolving processes developed in the workshops have been used in real-life circumstances.
The most memorable line of feedback came in the words: “ ‘the ABC of x,y,z’ will add to my confidence in standing up to my boss”.
The principles as have emerged through this work are not clear laws or rules which any person involved in the spatial sciences can be expected to follow. Simple in their framing and written in the abstract, Principles depend on expert knowledge and experience in their application. In other words, the principles lead us to the domain of the professional. They separate the professional from the ‘average’ practitioner or the layperson.
Being constructed in abstract terms, Principles defy codification. They can have many meanings. The question: “how can Principles be passed from the experienced to the less experienced?” was asked earlier. And having being compiled by just two authors (with the help of their reviewers), the Principles proposed here are not authoritative, yet have not been challenged so far.
Recent experiences of discussing Principles in a collegiate or ‘workshop’ environment lead us to think that the Principles can be nurtured and carried on by the asking of the simple question of each of the participants: “what does this principle mean to you?” Answers may be initially based in the abstract but will shift to experience – stories which illustrate meaning. The many shared answers allow the sharing of wisdom, embedding Principles in the consciousness of the group members.
“The Ten Canoes” (de Heer 2006), a remarkable film of myth, metaphor and cautionary tale, set in Arnhem Land in Australia’s far north, provides a useful analogy. Firstly, the story is not short. Learning occurs during the story as well as its conclusion. Secondly, the sharing of a story raises a wide number of related issues and achieves a range of outcomes depending on the life experiences of the listener. For some, the story refreshes the listeners’ lessons of the past; for others, the story provides new insight into aspects of life not fully considered.
Sharing the 21 Principles in the way described here is about as close to the campfire conversation that we can expect to get in the 21st Century. In light of our experiences, it would be appropriate to rename ‘Principles’ as ‘Questions’ as questions invariably lead from the abstract to the tangible by way of stories.
Story-telling, the most ancient form of communicating and development of understanding has its place in modern professional development.
Byrne, P and Kelly, G. 2005. The ABC of x,y,z – Principle-Based
Success for the Geospatial Professional.
Proceedings of Spatial Sciences Conference, 2005, Melbourne, Australia,
Peter Byrne commenced surveying in 1960 and stood down from his position of Managing Director of AAM Surveys Pty limited, an Australian surveying and mapping company, in 2001. He represented his profession as President of the Institution of Surveyors Australia and Vice President of the Federation Internationale des Geometres (FIG). While maintaining his interest and involvement in the spatial sciences, he practices as an arbitrator, mediator and conciliator.
Gail Kelly is the Business Development Manager of AAMHatch Pty Limited, a Director of the Australian Spatial Information Business Association (ASIBA) and Patron of the Australian Spatial Sciences Institute’s Young Spatial Professionals (YSPs). She has worked in all industry sectors (academia, government and the private sector) and as such has a broad view of the spatial information industry.
Mr Peter Byrne