Councillor Candidate

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J. H. (Jens) Weber, P.Eng. | Victoria, BC

I first became conscious of my responsibility as a programmer when working on industrial control software in a German engineering firm. Learning that the new system was replacing a previous one that exploded gave me pause. I had just graduated from high school and was working until I would enter computer science at a local university. The experiences during that summer job changed my trajectory. I realized the potential risks associated with software in our society. The concept of Software Engineering as a discipline was still in its infancy, but I was fortunate to find a different (not so local) university starting such a program. I was able to switch and join the first cohort.

When I came to Canada, I was impressed by what I found to be a mature regulatory system to protect the public. I also learned that it was not without controversy, particularly in the software industry. I am aware of various concerns about the potential negative effects of regulation. Several of these stem from misconceptions, and the organization needs to continue improving communication with relevant stakeholders to address them. Other concerns may have merit in the light of emerging fields of practice (e.g., intelligent and autonomous systems), which require new or adapted approaches to governance and regulation. I am running for Council to help define and implement these approaches.

I am a firm proponent of increasing equity, diversity and inclusivity in our professions and the public they serve. I believe that EGBC can and must be instrumental in furthering this goal.

Education

Ph.D. (Computer Science), University of Paderborn, 1999
Dipl. Inform. (Software Engineering), University of Dortmund, 1994

Professional History

Professor (Director of Software Engineering, Acting Associate Dean), University of Victoria, 1999–2021
Partner, ExperEdge Technology Partners, 2001–2021
Research Associate, University of Paderborn, 1994–1999

Engineers and Geoscientists BC Activities

Member, Software Engineering Advisory Group, 2019–2021
Co-Author, Safety-Critical Software Practice Guideline, 2017–2020

Related Professional Activities

Director, OSCAR BC Board, 2014–2021
General Co-Chair, IEEE International Conference on Health Informatics, 2020–2021
Member, IEEE P1228 Working Group on Standard for Software Safety, 2019–2021
Associate Editor, Journal on Health Informatics Research, 2018–2021
Member and Section Chair, Discovery Grant Evaluation Group, Natural Science and Engineering Research Council, 2017–2021
Member, National Technical Committee, OSCAR Electronic Medical Record, 2015–2019

Community Involvement

Referee, BC Soccer, 2019–2021
Coach, Prospect Lake Soccer Club, 2013–2016
Commander, Civil Defense Unit, Germany, 1987–1995

Awards and Honours

Faculty Award, IBM Centre for Advanced Studies, 2009
Industry Research Fellowship, Advanced Systems Institute, 2001–2004
Software Engineering Prize, Denert Foundation, 2000

Q&A with Candidates

Engineers and Geoscientists BC is the regulatory authority charged with protecting the public interest with respect to the practice of engineering and geoscience in the province of BC. What is the key challenge facing the organization?

The technology sector is growing, and there are many rapidly emerging fields of professional practice related to engineering and geoscience. The public is increasingly concerned about the security and safety of cyber-physical systems, artificially intelligent systems, autonomous systems, biomedical systems, geoengineering systems, to name a few. There is great potential benefit in innovations made in these and other emerging areas. A key challenge for EGBC will be to find effective ways to regulate these emerging areas so that we can allow and even propel innovation while minimizing the risk to the public. Some of our traditional approaches to governance and regulation may not readily fit the needs of these emerging sectors. I expect that we will need to evolve our policies further to maintain their relevance and effectiveness.

A second challenge arises from the need to implement changes arising from the new Professional Governance Act and the new mandate to regulate firms and engage in continuing education. While I believe that the organization has developed a robust framework and guidance for implementing these changes, it will be crucial to communicate and manage these changes with our industry partners and all relevant stakeholders to establish support and implement an effective program. I also fully expect that adjustments to this program will be required based on lessons learned.

What are the key issues facing the engineering and/or geoscience professions?

We need to address ongoing challenges of equity, diversity, and inclusivity (EDI) in our professions. Engineering and geoscience continue to be male-dominated – and gender is only one of many aspects related to EDI concerns. I firmly believe that a profession cannot achieve its full potential of serving the public if it does not reflect the diversity and composition of the public it serves. This expressly includes the representation of indigenous values and the engagement with indigenous peoples.

Another critical issue is climate change and sustainability. I strongly believe that Engineering and Geoscience professionals can and must play a pivotal role in enabling our communities to adapt to climate change, mitigate its negative impact and potentially even restore damaging trends. More than ever, sustainability and preservation must be a primary concern for our professions. As we see the increasing effect of climate change on our communities, we will see a rising number of initiatives for engineering-based adaptations and interventions.

Looking five years ahead, what is your vision for Engineers and Geoscientists BC as a professional regulatory body in BC?

My vision for Engineers and Geoscientists BC as a regulatory body in five years is for it to become an even more inclusive, diverse, and equitable organization broadly recognized for its role in protecting the public and our environment while fostering innovation and growth. There will be more ways for professionals with diverse backgrounds and fields of practice to attain licensure and derive value from engaging with EGBC. Our system of continuing education will enable our registrants to ladder into new and emerging fields of practice. The organization will work closely with universities and other post-secondary institutions in the province to develop and promote professional development opportunities for our members, for example, by offering micro-credentials.

The government and our industry will recognize EGBC as a vital partner in fostering talent, a commitment to quality and innovation, and protecting the public interest.

For Council to achieve its goals and meet its fiduciary responsibilities, Council has identified the need for diverse voices on Council, with a blend of the following skills and competences: leadership, financial literacy, risk management, human resources, strategy, regulatory understanding, governance and technical proficiency. Please highlight the areas of strength you bring to the role.

I was the director of the province’s only Software Engineering degree program and supported accreditation and growth. I also acted as Associate Dean Undergraduate Programs at a challenging time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both positions required the management of significant human and financial resources. I was section chair and member of the Discovery Grant Evaluation Group for the Natural Science and Engineering Council. That position required a high degree of integrity, the ability to resolve conflicts, and a firm commitment to equity, diversity and inclusivity. I co-direct a joint research lab between UVic (Engineering) and the UBC (Medicine). I continuously manage projects, budgets, human resources and risks.

I have been a member of the Software Certification Consortium (SCC). The SCC includes regulators, industry and researchers from various safety-critical domains interested in certifying software quality and protecting the public. I have extensively published on this subject and consulted with Health Canada, the B.C. Auditor General, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and other stakeholders on medical device safety and security.

I have been a director on the board of OSCAR BC, a not-for-profit society with the mandate to foster quality and innovation of an open-source electronic medical record software in British Columbia. I also served on the OSCAR National Technical Management Committee, where I helped to define policies to regulate the development process for safety and security.

I served as chair and organizer of many conferences, including the 2021 IEEE International Conference on Health Informatics in Victoria.

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