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The professional scientist in Canada.

What is the identity of the scientists in Canada? What professional identity has been established? Does it have any significance for the scientific community?

Many professions in Canada have self-regulating statutes. The protection of the public interest has a critical bearing on whether the regulation of a profession is granted. Clearly there are many instances where scientists may be in a position to protect the public interest, based on their knowledge and experience. However, in addition to the public interest, one of the most important reasons for addressing the professional identity of the scientists is simply one of survival amongst all the other established professions. Scientists need to consider their future as other professions grow stronger in this country.

Establishment of a Professional identity

An identity for those in a particular occupation or profession is created by forming societies, associations, colleges or other bodies. There are two major types in Canada, which may be created:

* the learned society promoting the

development of the subject,

* the professional society regulating

the profession.

Some learned societies may take on some of the roles of a professional society and vice versa, so the above description is a simplified one. There may be also umbrella bodies representing groups of societies.

A learned society is usually established by federal charter. The society's prime purpose is to promote a particular subject. The society provides a forum for members, organizes annual congresses, local meetings and committees, and will usually have its own internal newsletter or bulletin.

A professional society is established by provincial or territorial statute. The society's prime purpose is the selfregulation of the profession. These societies are established to protect the public interest and authority is delegated to the profession by a legislature through enabling legislation. Professions in Canada and the impact on Scientists The impact of the professional statutes on the scientific community is immense. It is blatant when professional engineers write to those reviewing statutes that scientists should be supervised by them, or that legislation should result in professional engineers supervising scientists, or that university staff, such as those in a physics department, must be professional engineers to teach engineers. It is subtle when the engineering faculty is called the applied science faculty or the medical building is the medical science building. It is subtle in university brochures where the professions are given a special chapter and sciences are hidden in some all encompassing chapter or the odds and ends. The presence of the existing professional statutes undermines the identity and the practice of the scientist in Canada.

Scientists are very much creative professional individuals, where the word professional' means that they have special knowledge and skills. However, this does not make scientists professionals' in the legal sense. The word professionals' means, in the legal sense, that the individuals are members of a professional society that protects and regulates their practice. The practices of professionals are covered under statutes. All others are not professionals, and will be ignored in the professional arena. An identity is needed for survival.

The existence of professional statutes establishing licensure regimes is having a major impact on the scientific community, and will continue to do so unless scientists establish a presence collectively in the professional arena.

Available Options

Clearly scientists in Canada need to establish a strong professional identity. Should there be a professional group that includes all scientists as potential members, or should there be many professional groups for individual sciences? What is the route that should be adopted? The current route appears to be leading to a fragmentation of science when there is the clear opportunity to develop a strong identity for the professional scientist.

A nation-wide membership of at least 10,000 and ideally 100,000 is needed to establish professional societies of scientists throughout Canada, with sufficient members to fund and run the societies. However, some of the provincial or territorial societies would have less than 1,000 members.

These requirements on membership rule out the options of establishing professional societies for any individual science. There would be insufficient members in many provinces to establish a professional society for that science. Two other options are for groups of scientists to form joint professional societies, or for scientists collectively to form professional societies for all scientists. In relationship to the established professions, the preferred option is clearly the establishment of professional societies representing all scientists.

The Committee on Professionalism for CAP considers that the pivotal point, for the scientific community in Canada, is that there be agreement to proceed with the establishment of professional societies covering all scientists. Councils and members of established learned societies should recognize that the role of the professional society is totally different from that of the learned society. There is no threat that the status of the established learned societies will be undermined by the establishment of professional societies for all scientists.

If No Action is Taken

A major consequence, should no action be taken by the scientific community, is that the practice of the professional scientist will continue to be eroded. This will occur both by licensure regimes, such as that of the professional engineers, and by certification regimes, such as technologists.

Another consequence, that will be seen by university staff, is that students will seek professional' areas rather than science.

The above consequences, alone, will reduce the numbers of those entering the sciences and reduce the opportunities of those who elect to pursue a scientific career. It clearly has an impact on the health of science in Canada.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Chemical Institute of Canada
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Viewpoint
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Article Type:column
Date:Jun 1, 1991
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