What does the DPA stand for?
In one word – professionalism!
Since 1965, when the Division of Professional Affairs was formed, the term professionalism equates to membership in the Division and strict adherence to the AAPG’s Code of Ethics as found in Article IV of the AAPG’s Constitution.
The DPA is the only professional organization – at least in the United States – that specifically certifies petroleum geologists and geophysicists and coal geologists, i.e. energy resource geoscientists. With regard to its certification charge, to be a certified professional geologist, geophysicist or coal geologist, the DPA (through its Certification Committee, chaired by Royce Carr) verifies an applicant’s credentials for CPG that provides assurances to employers, clients, governmental entities and the general public that those who profess to be energy resource geoscientists are so qualified based on documented verification of educational credentials, work history/experience and character references provided from multiple sources.
But even with that certification there are ongoing responsibilities that go along with being a CPG.
Sure, you have jumped through the hoops to get your university education in the geosciences and you have obtained the requisite geoscience work experience to become a certified energy geoscientist – but just reaching those plateaus doesn’t mean that you can stop learning, stop participating in and with professional organizations nor otherwise rest on your laurels.
Another critically important aspect associated with competent professional practice and certification is ethics.
Over the past several years we all have seen and read about deviations from ethical thinking and ethical practices – I need not mention the names or unethical activities, we all know who, where and when they occurred.
The topic of ethics has become more and more of an issue, especially now with the meltdown of the worldwide economies and the questionable financial practices that have led up to the meltdown. We geoscientists need only look around and see the dismal ethical performance of other professions and the individuals who call themselves “professionals” in those sectors.
With that said, it is now more important than ever to produce geoscience reports, maps and other work products that meet the highest standards of competency.
Further, it is important to note that where those work products contain varied degrees of interpretational conclusions or inferences that they be explicitly noted – and perhaps even further grounded with some type of limitations – to ensure that those interpretations cannot be misconstrued by anyone.
Echoing other DPA presidents, I must note that it also is important and essential:
On a personal note, I am primarily employed by an agency of state government where, believe it or not, the bar of conflict of interest may be considered to be somewhat higher than other business sectors based on the continued demand by the public for transparency. Per some state-based conflict of interest laws, an individual shall not be involved in matters that are in black and white shades of conflict of interest – but some of these laws go a step further.
Specifically, some state laws specify that the individual (government employee) shall not be involved in activities that even “give the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
Perhaps that’s a high bar ethically speaking, but it’s one that each of us should carefully consider before entering into any professional endeavor.
Also critical to the professional practice of the geosciences is to know when an issue is beyond our expertise or when a particular issue or activity may be in an area of professional practice that we may be minimally qualified to address.
When those circumstances arise the geoscientist should either not accept the assignment, or inform the client/employer that s/he (the geoscientist) is minimally qualified prior to accepting that work.
In other words, when we professionals reach such a juncture the red flags should go up, both internally and externally.
With that said, consider certification and membership in the DPA – besides being a resume builder, belonging to DPA provides you with:
Until next time.
Rick L. Ericksen, of the Mississippi State Board of Registered Professional Geologists, Jackson, Mississippi, is DPA President for 2008-2009.
The Division of Professional Affairs (DPA), a division of AAPG, seeks to promote professionalism and ethical standards, provide a means for professional certification of petroleum geologists, coal geologists, and petroleum geophysicists, assist in career planning, and improve the professional well-being of AAPG members. For more information about the DPA and its activities, visit the DPA Web site.