What is a professional and how are professional standards maintained?
A position is regarded as professional if it is governed by the technical and ethical standards of a profession which the Macquarie Dictionary defines as “a vocation requiring knowledge of some department of learning or science.”
The establishment of recognised science degrees in conjunction with the creation of professional science associations with codes of ethics and continuing professional development requirements are the mechanisms by which high standards of professional practice and the relevance and currency of the qualification and experience are maintained in science. Scientists are committed to professional standards, and have built a culture of integrity and independent enquiry around the profession.
What is deprofessionalisation?
Deprofessionalisation is the systematic deskilling of professional positions. It is a process which occurs in a workplace or industry when non-qualified or less-qualified individuals are used to perform work which is more properly performed by appropriately qualified individuals.
Instances of practices which can lead to deprofessionalisation include:
•·the devaluing of professional work by replacing the requirement for professional qualifications with generic classifications not requiring specific qualifications;
•·replacing professional scientists with non-degree qualified technical officers; and
•·practices such as not including post-nominals on business cards which can undermine the importance of ensuring scientific work is undertaken by degree-qualified professional scientists.
What is the historical context for the current wave of deprofessionalisation?
The application of commercially-driven business models to the conduct of scientific inquiry and areas of scientific application such as the health sector, as well as managers without a background in science making decisions about the recruitment and development of their science workforce are trends that have marked the last decade in science.
It is also true that, however valuable science may have been regarded in the past, the attitude of many toward the role of scientists has grown increasingly hostile in recent times – most notably with the scepticism around climate change research. This has threatened the status and integrity of the work professional scientists do.
The technological advancement in equipment used in scientific enquiry is another factor contributing to the current wave of deprofessionalisation in science – along with mechanisation and automation can come the uninformed view that a professionally-qualified scientist is no longer required to undertake the work.Why does deprofessionalisation matter?
The effects of deprofessionalisation can be profound. In the short-term, the impacts include the compromise of scientific independence, significant reductions in quality control, the diminution of ethical standards and increased exposure to risk and liability.
In the longer-term, the devaluing of professional work including replacing the requirement for professional qualifications with generic classifications can lead to what are effectively pay cuts, as well as a lack of career progression incentives embedded in classification structures for science and R&D professionals. Ultimately this can lead todisaffection and lack of job satisfaction, scientists leaving the profession and problems attracting new graduates which affects the long-term viability and sustainability of the science and R&D workforce and its capacity to support innovation.
Valuing the work of professionally-qualified scientists is fundamental to a vibrant sustainable science and R&D workforce. A commitment to ethical scientific practice and appropriately-funded scientific inquiry in line with the relevant professional standards and codes of conduct are also critical to maintaining quality and effective risk management across industry and the community. Without respect for the basic mechanisms by which high standards of professional practice are maintained – the most fundamental being the engagement of professionally qualified and appropriately experienced individuals to undertake science and R&D work – Australia’s research and development capability and reputation for high-quality scientific endeavour will be irrevocably undermined.
Professional Scientists Australia recommends that organisations engaging professional scientists demonstrate a commitment to maintaining sufficient levels of appropriately qualified and experienced staff and offering career path structures which will underpin rewarding and fulfilling careers. This will ensure high-quality service standards, independent and rigorous scientific inquiry and a sustainable science and R&D workforce. Operating from a cost base which protects these fundamentals is critical to countering deprofessionalisation – a key threat to a viable science and R&D workforce and therefore to Australia’s future innovative capability.
– See more at: http://www.professionalsaustralia.org.au/groups/scientists/advocacy/?id=3213#sthash.P1Ls00CM.dpuf