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ICE Council update July 2023

27 July 2023

In its July meeting, the ICE Council discussed the professional reviews survey findings, AI, and the UN SDGs.

ICE Council update July 2023
ICE President Keith Howells.

ICE Professional Reviews – survey findings

The ICE Council was pleased to welcome Alistair Hitchcock, chair of the ICE’s Professional Reviews Panel (PRP) to talk through the findings of a survey commissioned in late 2022 designed to understand a range of views, which included reviewers, current graduates, past and future candidates, supervising civil engineers and delegated engineers.

The institution is licensed by the Engineering Council to undertake professional reviews. Its Regulatory Guidance on Professional Reviews requires reviews to take place in an appropriate environment and that includes online, providing both parties have agreed in advance.

The pandemic necessitated that reviews were conducted online and post-pandemic, the vast majority are still conducted this way.

Part of the survey was to gauge the level of support, or otherwise, for the continuation of this approach.

Council heard that respondents are in agreement that the reviews process is effective and that the streamlined process introduced in 2021 is well supported.

Regarding the format of reviews, council members expressed a range of views, some of which concerned the low volume of face-to-face reviews, citing a desire for reviewers to compare notes and network, which online reviews does not make possible.

PRP is keen to ensure that a balanced outcome, which takes into account the needs and desires of all stakeholders, is achieved. Further guidance will follow later this year.

A data-driven ICE and the opportunities and risks of artificial intelligence

The ICE has a long-standing aim of being a data-driven organisation, and one which is open to the opportunities that harnessing data can offer to improving its offer to members.

Council received a presentation from the ICE’s chief information officer, who looked at the potential benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) to the ICE and its members.

Following the presentation, syndicate discussions took place looking into different aspects of the application of the technology, including risks and opportunities.

Broadly, council were positive about the rapidly emerging technology, looking upon it as a valuable tool that could be harnessed to the benefit of the industry, but were in agreement that small, cumulative steps were required, rather than rushed change.

Council was keen that humans must always be able to intervene where necessary to remedy situations where AI had made mistakes.

It looked at how AI could be used to produce engineering knowledge content – but cautioned that content must be accurate, and questioned whether members would see the value in AI-generated content as opposed to content prepared by an expert.

It was a fascinating conversation about a technology which is sure to impact all of our lives – ICE and its members must make sure that we keep ourselves up to date on its impacts to ensure that we are not left behind.

The ICE & the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Those who have followed my presidency will know that I have been advocating the importance of the SDGs to our work.

Council heard from Professor Priti Parikh, ICE Council member and working group chair, who offered a short overview and update of the Learning Society Committee’s UN SDGs Project, which aims to explore the impact of civil engineering on the SDGs and how best civil engineers can apply their skills and expertise to have the most impact.

The joint ICE and University College London research team conducted a literature review to map evidenced and potential links (synergies and trade-offs) between infrastructure and the SDG goals and targets using ICE publications from the last eight years.

It analysed the data to identify SDG links to engineering projects reported in these publications by ICE members, as well as gaps.

Council was invited to discuss, amongst other things, the preliminary findings and advise on next steps, including recommending where ICE member activity can impact most in areas where SDG progress is weakest, exploring and recommending where the most trade-offs are occurring, and considering how ICE members can amplify their contribution to the SDGs.

The ICE’s engineering knowledge team plans to build on the preliminary findings from this research to explore the options with a view to producing the 'State of the Nation: Infrastructure 2024' report which will explore how members operating in the key sectors of transport, water and energy can impact positively on the UN SDGs.

  • Keith Howells, president 2022/23 at Institution of Civil Engineers