The difference and distinction between professional consultancy work and independent academic research is of particular importance to the field of safety. Traditionally, the role of the safety professional, working either for a Government body or as a consultant to industry, has, with some notable exceptions, been one of limited influence and marginal status. For instance, the field of occupational safety is, in many countries, seen either as a side-show to overriding industrial relations issues, or as a nice but secondary result of good technical reliability.
One important aspect to these limitations has been the notorious lack of good academic standing of the subject of safety science with the technical, social and medical faculties. There has been some applications of safety science at a few Universities (eg. epidemiology and technical risk analysis) but the overall volume of teaching and research in the area has been modest.
Against this background, an electronic communications network between university departments and researchers in the area of safety science is important. Such a communications network has the potential to increase the cooperation in, and the development of, safety research and improve the rate of publication of original, post-graduate research papers.
There is also a need to link tertiary research and publication to the different organisations of safety professionals. The potential of electronic communication and publication should be realised in bringing the latest development in safety science to the safety professionals and to provide an academic publication venue for those among the ranks of the profession who would consider further tertiary merits.
Many countries, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, are undergoing rapid industrial and economic development. The importance of linking safety research to applied hazard management in coping with occupational and environmental risks in times of drastic and dynamic change, cannot be overstated. Many hazards encountered and managed in the earlier industrialised countries re-emerge and pose new challenges. Patchy systems of control and lack of experience are notoroiusly associated with rapid social and economic growth. The role of scientific communication in view of this becomes crucial.
It is important for regional industrial and social development to benefit from the academic progress of safety science, and it is equally important that the safety professionals develop and maintain a close relation with the leading academic institutions in their area.
The competence level of the safety professionals is directly related to the communication of academic research and development, and it is vital that current topics and problems are discussed in the professional organisation and that qualified safety professionals are encouraged to seek academic recognition in the field of safety science through international and peer-reviewed publication.
The birth of national professional safety organisations in the developing countries will see further need for this dialectic relation between academic research and social practice.
A new journal
The purpose of the 'Safety Science Monitor' is to encourage tertiary, doctoral and post-doctorate academics, particularly in Australia, New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific region, and potentially in the rest of the world, to submit their papers for publication in the Monitor, and for the Monitor, in cooperation with the professional body (eg. in Australia the Safety Institute of Australia) and with representatives of the Universities involved, to publish original papers, dissertations and theses, provide a forum for debate, reviews and communication between academics and professionals in the region.
Co-operation has been established with 'Safety Science', published by Elsevier, since the aim is not to compete, but to combine and complement. The point of the exercise is to increase the volume of publishing and to improve the standing of safety science. However, the Monitor will be an edited publication, not a notice-board, and during 1997 the Monitor Editors will vet all submitted papers in a simplified review process. Authors eager for a full, three independent referees review of their papers, will be advised to submit their papers to Journals with such procedures in place during 1997.
Tore J Larsson