Article - Issue 22, March 2005

Facing Out

Dr Scott Steedman FREng

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Dr Scott Steedman FREng

Dr Scott Steedman FREng

“Through these pages our aim is to engage in debate with the major engineering themes of the day and our role as engineers in society.”

It is striking, although understandable, that the tsunami that broke around the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004 focused more worldwide attention on the subject of disasters than the entire International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR), which the UK science and engineering community worked tirelessly to promote throughout the 1990s. Then, it was an uphill struggle to put the message across to governments and the media that engineering had a major role to play in improving the quality of people’s lives, managing the risk from the environment around them and enabling them to build prosperous, sustainable communities.

After the tsunami, media attention focused on the engineering and technology behind detection and warning systems, and the urgency of protecting the region from future inundations. Engineers and scientists throughout Europe have since been in great demand to comment on the implications for their own countries. In Italy, scientists expressed concern over the safety of the Calabrian coastline. In Sweden, engineers suggested that travel companies should award stars for the safety of tourist resorts and infrastructure based on engineering assessments. In this context, we should remember that the unfortunate city of Banda Aceh was first destroyed by the earthquake, and only then swept away by the wave that followed. Warning systems are simply one part of the story.

Getting the real message across is at the heart of the new-style Ingenia magazine, of which this is the first issue. We have redesigned the layout and adjusted the format to strengthen the presentation of the features and articles. Through these pages our aim is to engage in debate with the major engineering themes of the day and our role as engineers in society. We have taken the opportunity of the likely announcement of an election to invite the major political parties to give us their perspective on the importance of science and engineering (and of course on how they would promote it!). We have also introduced a new section profiling leading engineering figures.

Ingenia is not the only public-oriented activity of The Royal Academy of Engineering in the headlines at the moment. The recent BBC2 series Geronimo! saw Fellows advising and judging teams of young engineers from schools, universities and industry who were solving hands-on engineering challenges on camera. Engaging in other ways, the President’s New Year’s Reception and Lecture in January (see page 30) featured presentations by BAA and ARUP on the extraordinary challenges of Heathrow's new Terminal 5. The President himself will give the Reith Lectures on Radio 4 this spring on ‘The Triumph of Technology’, as he discusses with Mike Kenward in his profile on page 54. These high profile activities are changing the image of the Academy and helping us to be more public-facing, with greater reach and impact.

‘Facing out’, to use the Academy’s phrase, is critical for the profession; we have a responsibility to do all that we can to promote the importance of what we do and how we do it. My thanks are due to the Editorial Team and the Editorial Board for their commitment and hard work in creating this issue, and most particularly to the Sponsors whose generous support allows us to publish in this manner. We intend to use this new format to reach new audiences and increase the list of those who recognise our ambition for engineering and who respect our advice. We would be delighted to hear from you, and welcome your contributions.

Dr Scott Steedman FREng FICE
Editor-in-Chief

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