Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The artificial barrier of licensing, a GIS/Surveying example

There was news recently of a feature story pulled from a professional survey magazine because the work in question was, according to the State Licensing Board, depicting activities that should only be done by licensed surveyors rather than GIS professionals or anyone else. James Fee doesn't know what part of this mess is the worst, but I'd like to take an amateur stab at it. The artificial barrier that government licenses produce can in fact be a good thing when the occupation is such that a minimum standard is required to avoid large-scale fraud, but in so many cases could probably be done by private organizations. Many are put in place by a vocal and monied minority in an attempt to create what amounts to a cartel. I believe one example involved a manicure license that costed thousands of dollars. Professional survey licensing may fall under this, but my limited knowledge of that industry compels me to limit such rhetoric. This isn't the biggest problem with what occurred. Actually, the biggest problem wasn't even the suggestion GIS professionals - or for that matter, simply knowledgable members of the public with increasingly cheap GPS devices - are not competent to do location based field work. For so much geographic data, a 10m resolution is a godsend where previously no one was collecting data. And as more nations put up satellites it will likely become even finer resolution for smaller and more casual devices. This is not to suggest there isn't a place for professional surveyors - both for ultimate liability responsibility and expertise with the more effective tools and procedures. But the percieved elitism is somewhat disconserting. As a GIS/programming guy, I don't find anything I do so absurdly difficult that it would pain my eyes to read an article about an amatuer trying it. The biggest problem is that a state licensing board can effectively kill an article. There isn't any way in which this is a good thing, and I hope whoever has their hands on it leaks it to the internet.

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