A strong identity and a sense of community are two of the most important aspects of any niche industry.
Geotechnics is no exception.It is one of the most active sectors in construction, organising regular, wellattended meetings and encouraging involvement of members both on an individual and corporate basis.
Recently geotechnical societies and associations have joined forces in a number of ways.In the UK, industry bodies have run joint conferences and meetings, created the Ground Forum to lobby the wider construction industry and government, and are working together on the big issues such as the skills shortage and registration of geotechnical professionals.
Apart from providing opportunities for the geotechnical community to meet regularly, the main aims of these initiatives are to get the message across to clients that geotechnics can offer cost and time savings on almost every construction project and that some very innovative techniques have been developed to deal with that most unpredictable of construction materials, the ground.
Collaboration is the key to the future of the geotechnical sector.With falling student numbers on both undergraduate and taught postgraduate courses, reduced funding of the latter and experienced engineers leaving the industry for pastures new, it is crucial for geotechnics finds a long-term solution to the skills shortage and raises the profile and status of geotechnical professionals.
Ground Engineering has an important part to play in these initiatives.Since it was first published in 1968, the underlying aim of the magazine has been to provide a vehicle for the international geotechnical community to share practical information on all aspects of the field.
The magazine has changed dramatically since the early days, with a switch in emphasis from refereed papers to news, project information and technical innovation.It is not intended to compete with other, more 'learned'journals.Those papers published in GE are refereed with a practitioner's (hard) hat on.
Editorially, the magazine has to be dynamic to reflect the way the industry changes and to highlight the issues affecting it.In the last couple of years, for example, we have featured many articles on the skills shortage, education and training, professional registration, European legislation and design codes and professional indemnity insurance, while - we hope - maintaining the balance with technical features and papers.
Focusing on these issues brings them not only to the attention of the geotechnical community but to the wider construction industry.This is where GE has another, equally important, role.
Because our international readership is not solely based in geotechnics, we have the opportunity to get the issues in front of a much wider audience - not only the direct clients of geotechnics but also their clients.
The further up the supply chain the messages are pushed, the better.
Over the last three years, the magazine has run one-day conferences on subjects ranging from foundations to bio-engineering.As well as providing high quality speakers and technical content, the conferences serve as networking events.They are also intended to encourage clients to come along and speak to the people who can help them - the geotechnical industry.
Against this background Ground Engineering has undergone a redesign, the first since 1996.The intention of the new look is to make the magazine brighter and easier to read.Gone are the 'rules'the vertical lines between columns.The new typeface is 'cleaner'and, we hope, easier to read.
Of course, one of the most striking changes is the logo which is now simpler and more colourful than its black and white predecessor.
There are no big changes in content.GE will still produce high quality, independent editorial coverage of the latest projects, innovations, contracts and research, as well as previewing upcoming events and publishing reports from meetings and refereed papers.
However, there are some innovations.We are running a monthly careers page, with advice and information for people working at all levels and in all professions under the geotechnical umbrella.We will have regular articles on less technical issues affecting the sector, such as legal and insurance matters, written by experts in these fields.
I want to encourage more readers to write in.If you feel strongly about issues raised in the Talking Point, or any of the articles in the magazine, or just have a burning issue that needs airing, please tell us.A healthy letters page shows the magazine is doing its job - stirring things up and stimulating debate.
If we are not covering the issues that matter, or you have any other comments, let me know.Those of you attending Civils 2004 in Birmingham this month are welcome to come along to our stand, No C72, and do so in person - but please be gentle!
Max Soudain, editor