NEXT MONTH'S meeting between the ICE and the American Society of Civil Engineers marks the beginning of a new collaboration. For the past 15 years, the two organisations have met every three years, the visit being linked to a big prestige project, most recently the Channel Tunnel.
But there is concern that the number of members attending has been falling and few new faces have been drawn in.
Senior ICE vice-president Professor George Fleming visited the Washington headquarters of the ASCE in March to lay the groundwork for a new partnership.
Next month's visit to Great George Street by ASCE President Dan Turner and his party will form part of his Presidential tour of Europe.
Turner will be accompanied by his successor Delon Hampton, who will be the first African American to be elected ASCE President.
Fleming's plan is that an annual meeting for the two societies' members should be held on the back of a major conference. As an example he cites next year's Millennium Link Forth and Clyde canal meeting. This could prove an appropriate choice since the project may be considered for the Society's Historic Engineering award.
Closer co-operation between the two bodies makes sense, says Fleming. Both have similar aims and visions and are experiencing similar problems. Raising the profile of the profession both in Government and among the population at large is a concern in Washington and London.
However, the Americans may have an edge here since one of the ASCE's past presidents is said to be putting his name forward as a candidate for the US presidency.
The future of the profession, education and training and a faster road to qualification are concerns for both bodies.
The ASCE, however, is not a qualifying institution. Moves to recognise mutual qualifications are on the agenda.
Both the ASCE and ICE are also wrestling with the problem of how to attract and interest younger members and convince them that they have a part to play in the conduct of their respective institutions. And both bodies have publicly stated their aim to be perceived internationally as the leading or premier society in civil engineering.
With 80,000 members of the ICE and 120,000 of the ASCE working in partnership, the two bodies could form what Fleming describes as 'a powerful network'.
The June meeting aims to explore ways in which the two bodies could learn from each other and discover how to work together to the mutual benefit of both societies and their members.