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Background

Technical Project Groups (Study Groups) are at the core of the Society’s range of activities. The technical documents produced by these groups are keenly sought after by earthquake engineering practitioners – both members and non-members.

Traditionally, Study Groups have been formed in response to issues of the day. A more proactive approach is currently being adopted, with the Management Committee seeking new proposals from members. Study Groups were also previously based largely on voluntary inputs. However there is now recognition that the voluntary approach to inputs from members is no longer sustainable, and that at least part of the time component of projects must be funded.

Taking these factors into account, the Society’s Strategic & Financial Plan for the period 2000 to 2004 features significantly increased expenditure on Technical Project Group activities.

It is nevertheless important that new groups need to (i) satisfy appropriate criteria before they are established, and (ii) once established must be managed within a defined structure with agreed budgets, target outputs and time frames. A more systematic approach will benefit participating Society members, and significantly enhance the likelihood of a successful project outcome.

This document summarises the purpose and function of Technical Project Groups, sets out the criteria for their establishment and recommends a basic management framework.

Purpose and Function of Technical Project Groups

The principal purpose of NZSEE Technical Project Groups can be summarised as taking recent research or findings and packaging them in a form that can be readily understood and applied by practitioners.

Key functions that are commonly involved in this are

  • summarising available scientific or engineering knowledge;
  • developing a process or methodology to apply theoretical material; and
  • preparing a technical report

This is typically in contrast to Standards Committees, where the emphasis is on formalising the use of known or established technology. NZSEE Technical Project Group documents can in many cases be regarded as ‘pre-standards’ – guidelines to assist practitioners become familiar with new material before it becomes ‘codified’.

Establishment of New Groups

Criteria that need to be addressed and where possible satisfied prior to the formal establishment of new groups are:

  • Breadth of interest to members
  • Commitment of Project Leader(s)
  • Availability of Society members (including ‘new faces’)
  • Linkage with current international developments/activities
  • Funding sources (industry or sector interests)

These criteria represent the key elements of a Project Plan that needs to be prepared and signed off by the Management Committee before the commencement of a new Group.

The target time frame/ duration of new Groups should be two years, unless there is good reason to vary this.

While a defined linkage with current international activities is not essential for all new Groups, this criterion is intended to ensure that the ‘bigger picture’ is kept in mind in looking for new areas to work in.

The process for establishing a new group is to:

There are two annual closing dates: Round 1 closes 1 March and Round 2 closes 1 September. Proposals will be considered at the next scheduled meeting of the Management Committee.

Funding

A standard funding allowance of $5,000 per year is available for Technical Project Groups. As this represents only a small contribution towards likely time costs and expenses of Group members, Leaders are encouraged to work with the Management Committee to seek additional external funding from industry sources or sectors that would benefit from the resulting technical document.

It is acknowledged that not all Technical Project Groups are externally marketable, and so other funding sources may not be available. Groups that are internally focused (ie. technical ‘tools’ needed by members) will need to have additional funding inputs from the Society’s reserves. The Management Committee may allocate additional funding as it sees fit, having due regard to the Strategic & Financial Plan objectives and the funding demands of other projects.

Management Processes

Technical Project Group Leaders are required to provide brief two page progress reports to each meeting of the Society’s Management Committee which cover aspects such as:

  • Technical developments and progress
  • Immediate activity focus
  • External liaison (with funders, industry groups, etc)
  • Time frame for completion
  • Budget update (funding obtained, key items of expenditure, overall projection)

These aspects can adequately be covered by notes from meetings of the Technical Project Group.

Group Leaders are required to prepare and deliver an annual report at the Society’s Annual Technical Conference.