Scientific Professions and their Societies
Professional scientific societies combine a number of key attributes. They advance and promote the knowledge base of science and technology and in so doing serve the public interest. They set standards of educational training, of competence, and of ethical professional conduct. They assist their members in lifelong career development and concern themselves with attracting and educating new entrants into the field.
Is IFT a professional scientific society? It possesses the above attributes; professionalism has been an important topic with IFT from its inception. One of several essential features of any professional scientific society is the acceptance by the members of a code that outlines desirable behavior and specifies obligations of members to each other, to their science, and to the public. In 1970, the Institute adopted a professional code (published on p. 112 of the July 1970 issue of Food Technology), which was updated and approved by the Executive Committee of the Institute in March 1999. The “Code of Professional Conduct “ is prominently displayed on the inside back cover of the 2000 IFT Membership Directory.
As members of IFT, we accept the responsibility to serve the public interest and strive to be aware of our professional and scientific responsibilities in the community and the society in which we work and live. We should use our skills and knowledge for the advancement of human welfare. We should accept the responsibility to be honest and impartial in our interaction with the public, our colleagues, and others we are involved with as part of our professional and scientific activities. We should avoid injury and negative consequence to others. We should fully disclose any professional relationship or action when circumstances might give rise to a conflict of interest. We should avoid scientific misconduct and expose and condemn it when recognized. This includes plagiarism and knowingly misrepresenting data, experimental procedure, or data analysis.
Professionalism is not determined by one’s position or function in an organization, be it at a university or in government or industry, but rather by:
• One’s knowledge and the competent, businesslike, methodical and systematic use of it;
• One’s willingness to learn and to reach out and to teach others; and, most important,
• One’s application of the highest ethical standards of personal integrity, by commitment to oneself, to one’s work, to one’s students, to one’s profession, by not abusing the power that special knowledge affords, and by a giving back to one’s community and the world in general.
People have an unlimited capacity to learn, change, and grow when they are involved in a process that provides proper methods, guidelines, and support. We must believe in and practice a lifelong process of learning that enables us to embrace change, recognize opportunities, and maximize our potential.
The International Scene
I have been invited to represent the United States in a session on “The Formation of the Food Professional” at the 11th International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) World Congress to be held in April in Seoul, Korea. Other countries represented in that session include Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Professionalism is an important concern for food science and technology worldwide.
My presentation will show how new academically qualified U.S. food scientists and technologists entering the workplace develop into food professionals; what help or encouragement is provided by industry, government, educational centers; and the role of IFT in the development and fostering of food professionals.
IFT contains members who are food science professionals, members who will become food science professionals, and members who may be professionals in related activities but not in food science itself. It was to delineate the criteria for a food science professional that the Professional Member category was established within the IFT Constitution.
IFT has a Task Force on Professional Membership. Its charge includes “to look at the credentialing process and create a plan for enhancing new levels of membership.” Not an easy assignment! It has been successful in many areas, but the issue of professional membership criteria is still unresolved and remains controversial with the membership. The proposal to the IFT Council in June 2000 attempted to broaden the routes and requirements to become a Professional Member. Discussion was wide-ranging, from the fact that IFT is a nonprofit scientific-based organization and should not jeopardize its standing on the one hand, to requests for more detailed definitions and more information on what it means to have demonstrated “contributions to the profession” on the other hand.
Yes, clarification is needed! If you have an idea that should be considered by the Task Force or Council, please share it with any Councilor and me, or have your Section or Division Councilor put it on the Council listserv. We want to hear from you.
by MARY K. SCHMIDL
IFT President, 2000–01