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Professional review essay: a defence


In his letter on the essay part of the professional review (NCE letters last week) Stephen Beckett deploys a well constructed case for it to be scrapped.

I would agree with him that the review identifies a candidate's knowledge, experience, verbal communication skills and other matters to which he refers. Where I must part company with him is when he claims that the essay merely demonstrates a skill in writing essays.

As an engineer progresses through the several strata of his career and becomes more involved in management he will need the ability to write succinctly, persuasively and grammatically.

He is likely to deal with non-engineers who may well have had what might be described as a 'liberal education' where literary skills rate highly. If an engineer is to communicate with them on level terms he must also possess these skills.

I have been an examiner for a number of years and have been struck by the wide disparity in the ability of candidates to write an essay which is, after all, a presentation on a particular technical subject.

The good have been excellent, but unfortunately some have been barely literate and have produced work which an employer could not send to a client without rewriting.

The interest of the profession would not be well served by allowing such people to represent it until they have improved their skills in this area.

DF Evans (F), 7 Buckfield Avenue, Petersfield, Hants, GU32 2EF

Write skills

The purpose of an essay is to assemble a set of facts and ideas, arrange them in a logical order, and to present them clearly and simply in language appropriate to stir the intended readers into action.

It is the executive summary to a major report; it captures the design concept in a nutshell.

It informs the mind, fires the imagination of the reader and stimulates a desire to support the writer's aspirations.

Technicians may not need the skill of writing an essay; all professionals must have it.

Neil Cullen

Paris plea

As part of 'A British Celebration in Paris for the New Millennium', the British Community Committee Paris is planning to mount an exposition that will illustrate the contribution of the British community to the city.

'The British Community in Paris 1850 - 2000' will run from 13 June to 13 July 2000.

I have agreed to research the contribution of British engineers. We are trying to find out which engineers had an impact on life in Paris.

We will need sufficient information about each engineer, firm and/or project to write a paragraph or two for the proposed catalogue.

We would also like to trace any photographs or memorabilia that we could use in the exposition itself. Any information would be gratefully received.

Tony Bryan, Tony Bryan & Associates, 2 rue Felix Faure, 75015, Paris, France

Leave ICE forms alone

I would like to take issue with the letter from Movement for Innovation executive director Ian Huntingdon (NCE, 7 October). As a standing member of the CCSJC Drafting Committee for the ICE 7th and in my role of Director of Engineering for Severn Trent Water, I feel Mr Huntington's comments represent those too often heard from the misinformed.

Continually referring to the Egan initiative as the saviour for all construction ills is, I feel, too simplistic. There are major organisations delivering significant capital programmes who successfully operate within the remit of ICE 6th and fully intend to adopt ICE 7th.

I am confident there are other clients in similar positions to my organisations who prefer the well tried and tested, who operate under a co-operative framework with their contractors and cannot see any proven tangible benefits of wholesale change.

Ian Elliott BSc CEng MICE MCIWEM, Director of Engineering, Severn Trent Water Ltd, Severn Trent Headquarters, 2297 Coventry Road, Birmingham, B26 3PU

Size solution

If alliances are so successful in reducing budgeted costs (Britannia Project, NCE 21 October) then why not take the next step and merge the profit centres, creating a single project entity, thereby eliminating even more admin and contractual disputes?

The profits could be shared between the people who created the wealth on a direct equity basis. This would bind the team together even tighter and even the Inland Revenue would gain efficiency by not having to deal with so many companies.

While not advocating this view, I would be interested in the views of others, especially company directors, as to how the critical, efficient mass of a company might be determined.

Geoff Home (F), Home Corporate Services Limited

LADO functions

Mike Gardiner (NCE 7 October) claimed that Local Association Development Officers are only doing what members of committee could do. He is right in principle but, bearing in mind the daytime commitments for committee members, what he says is greatly misleading.

The main purpose of LADOs is to raise the profile of the Institution and the profession, and they are succeeding in a way in which Local Association Committees simply could not.

Between them, they are producing many more column-inches in the press, setting up and running Web sites, involving chambers of commerce, arranging major events with schools, having radio and TV briefings, producing coloured newsletters and much more.

The Institution is gaining substantially from them.

Alan Perry (M) Chairman, Development Officers Group

Reading reeds

I am writing a thesis on the construction and use of wetlands for wastewater treatment. If any readers have information and data on the design, construction, efficiency, cost or problems, relative to reed beds, I would be grateful if they would be willing to let me have a copy.

I can send a questionnaire to those who prefer this method of communicating the information.

Richard Phelps, 3 Meadow Park, Kennoway, KY8 5TZ, Scotland

Pipe problem

As a student ICE member, I am seeking help me with a project I am undertaking. It concerns the structural modelling of the 'J-Lay' method of pipe-laying and the effects of top-end twist angles on the pipe-lay span.

There are current plans for oil and gas pipelines to be laid in waters of depths greater than 3km and, for these particular depths, traditional pipe-laying methods are not practical.

Does any reader have any knowledge or practical experience of the problems that may occur as a result of the local force concentrations arising through the use of new forms of pipe-laying?

H Garcha (S),, Connaught Hall, Room 207, 41 Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9EX.

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