10.01.04 Know Thyself
Last Friday, AIArchitect published an article by the co-founders of ArchVoices, titled “Further Research Indicates that 693–not 1,525–New Architects Joined AIA in 2003.” After this article was published, we checked the AIA’s revised list of 693 names and discovered that this new number is itself 15-20% off.
We did not insist on verifying this list before publishing the article, and we apologize to AIArchitect readers for not doing so.
The real concern isn’t in what caused the errors in the first place, but rather in what made it difficult for the AIA to verify their data after the fact: namely, the entire profession’s lack of information about interns and young architects. As a profession, we simply don’t know very much about ourselves.
Measure twice, cut once
It was remarkably easy for us at ArchVoices to uncover the AIA’s error by spot-checking with a couple state boards last Friday. The image at the beginning of this issue is a fax from the Louisiana state licensing board, with the handwriting confirming the date of initial registration for each of the names on the AIA’s corrected list. A similar fax from the Kansas state board appears at right. These documents and similar correspondence with 13 state boards illustrate that the AIA’s numbers are still 15-20% off.
Again, it took us one phone call to realize that there was still a problem. But it would have been extremely tedious for the AIA to check each name on their list this way. To do so, someone would have had to verify almost 700 names (1,525 the first time around) with 55 individual licensing boards. However, if there were a single clearinghouse for licensure information and data across the country, it would have been far easier to verify the AIA’s list of names–either for our ArchVoices volunteers, or for the AIA itself.
Managing a changing profession
Simply put, there is no clearinghouse or database with information about architects who got licensed in 2003 or any other year. As a profession, we don’t know when those people graduated, how many are minorities or women, how many went to international schools, where they live now, whether they have NAAB-accredited degrees, how many completed IDP, how many had to re-take which divisions of the ARE, what type of work they do, or anything else that might be useful in competently managing a changing profession. Again, we don’t even know how many of them joined the AIA. And we certainly don’t know whether any of these numbers are increasing or decreasing.
All anyone in the profession knows about the architects who got licensed in the U.S. last year is that there were 2,470 of them, representing a 12% decrease from 2002–the very first year NCARB started reporting even this overall number. This aggregate statistic is buried in a 100+ page printed document that many state licensing board members don’t even read.
What do other professions do?
National Council of Bar Examiners
By comparison, for at least the past 23 years, the law profession has produced an annual document with bar exam and admission statistics. All of these documents are available online. The document for 2003 is 22-pages long, and examines trends dating back as far as 1972. Similarly, the nursing profession annually publishes a “Licensure and Examination Statistics” report. The 2001 report (the most recent available for free) is a stunning 63-pages long–and also available online.
National Council of State Boards for Nursing
How would that help?
Statistical reports like those mentioned above would not by themselves have helped the AIA verify how many newly-licensed architects joined in 2003. However, were such detailed data regularly collected, publicized, and tracked over time, the AIA would have been far more likely to notice the problem in the first place.
The AIA’s recent error is both an example of a much larger problem in the profession and a consequence of that problem. If architecture is ever to become a truly knowledge-based profession, we should start by getting serious about knowing ourselves.
2,500 years ago, Socrates used this phrase to make the point that we need to understand the extent of our own ignorance. In that regard, it is important to first acknowledge what the profession doesn’t know about its newest members, and by extension, its future.
As always, we welcome your thoughts by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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