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talking point

Incoming BGA chairman Barry Clarke examines the international role of the association and its role as a portal to a worldwide network of geotechnical professionals.

It is one year since the British Geotechnical Association was formed by the merger of the British Geotechnical Society with the Institution of Civil Engineers' Ground Board. The first year has been a success because of the enthusiastic support and encouragement of the members as well as the commitments and efforts of the new committee.

Although the objectives of the Ground Board and the BGS were different, they had a common aim: to serve the interests of the geotechnical community. The two complemented each other, with the BGS taking the lead in providing learned society activities and the Ground Board taking the lead in professional development. BGA is continuing to pursue both these objectives to ensure that the geotechnical community is kept informed and that its voice is heard.

One of BGS's key roles, now the responsibility of the BGA, was to represent the UK within the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering (ISSMGE).

The international society is made up of six regional groups representing the six regions of the world. Its aim is to promote international co-operation among engineers and scientists in the field of geotechnics and its engineering applications. Co-operation includes international and regional conferences, meetings and symposia and technical committees. There are 36 technical committees covering topics from site characterisation to piled foundations.

The British contribution extends further, with Professor Neil Taylor of City University as secretary general and Professor Robert Mair of Cambridge University a member of the board, the governing body of the ISSMGE. The board meets every four years in association with the international conference, scheduled this year for Istanbul at the end of August (see preview this month).

The BGA is also the national group for the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM), which aims to encourage international collaboration and exchange of ideas and information between rock mechanics practitioners. The society, like the ISSMGE, arranges international and regional meetings and commissions for matters of topical interest, including rock slopes and preservation of natural stone monuments.

All members of the BGA are members of either the ISSMGE or the ISRM or both.

The BGA also has international links with the International Geosynthetics Society through the UK Chapter chairman who sits on the BGA committee.

These international links have been extended since the formation of the BGA to include those of the Institution of Civil Engineers, since BGA is now an associated society. The links include the International Commission on Large Dams, the International Association of Hydrological Sciences, European Nuclear Society, International Tunnelling Association, International Association of Hydraulic Engineering and Research, International Commission on Irrigation & Drainage, International Navigation Association, International Association for Earthquake Engineering, International Association for Wind Engineering, and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Further international links are through the ICE local associations in over 30 countries. Thus, the BGA is the portal to an international network that covers both technical and professional skills in the field of geotechnical engineering.

The BGA has a national role in providing support for its members and those within the ICE with a geotechnical interest. That role includes organising the London meetings programme, the Rankine Lecture, the Touring Lecture, The Cooling Prize, and the Young Geotechnical Engineers Conference, developing specifications and guidelines, and representing geotechnical interests in the ICE.

Statements made or opinions expressed in G ROUND ENGINEERING do not necessarily reflect the views of the BGA.

While the BGA represents the national and international interests of the geotechnical community, the strength of the community is founded in the regional groups representing geotechnical interests throughout the UK. With the exception of the Midlands Geotechnical Group, these are linked to the local associations of the ICE.

The links between the BGA and the regional groups need to be strengthened to ensure that they can contribute to the development of geotechnical engineering at national and international levels and to ensure that the BGA represents their interests.

The formation of the BGA has strengthened the geotechnical community, thus creating the opportunity to promote geotechnical engineering more widely. We often complain that our profession is undervalued and underused. Now is the time to take action by joining in BGA's activities and using the network to distribute and promote our message.

Enthusiasm is the strength of the UK geotechnical community. It needs to be captured and challenged into raising the status of geotechnical engineering within other communities.

lProfessor Barry Clarke is the new chairman of the British Geotechnical Association and head of the department of civil engineering at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

C: \HoD\British Geotechnical Assoc\DRAFT. doc

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