Accreditation Program Development History
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Development of the AAUS OM accreditation program began in 2010. The charge to the ad hoc Accreditation Committee, led by George Peterson and Steve Clabuesch, was to evaluate options and make recommendations for an AAUS OM quality control mechanism and to produce associated materials for final approval by the Board of Directors. Almost two dozen members provided early input. (BoD Minutes Oct 2010)
The Committee acknowledged that AAUS had been 'certifying' OMs as current and in compliance with AAUS standards without a reliable mechanism to validate or verify such status through peer review; an indefensible position and imprudent fiduciary policy. Additionally, AAUS had experienced explosive and unsustainable growth in recent years and the committee noted that mentorship, quality control and compliance mechanisms needed to be developed and implemented to create a holistic approach towards quality assurance. The Accreditation Program was envisioned as a tool to positively recognize OMs that were in compliance with AAUS standards and serve as a mechanism to help manage growth in a sustainable way.
In 2011 a beta test of the site visit portion of the program was performed during the annual symposium at The University of Maine. Based on the early developments and feedback from this test, a “OM Self accreditation checklist” was released in January 2012 (Eslate January 2012). By April 2012, a timeline and proof of concept mechanism was in place to test the Accreditation Program for OMs who had specifically requested this from AAUS and 4 volunteer programs underwent the peer review process and additional beta tests in the summer of 2012. (Eslate April 2012).
Following a period of inactivity, the Accreditation program surfaced again in 2014, as the BoD decided, among other priorities, to move the accreditation process out of development/testing phase and into the implementation phase (ESlate March 2014). In 2014, as the renewed strategic planning process began, membership polling (248 members responded) and discussion at the 2014 annual symposium (ESlate October 2014) revealed that a majority of the responding AAUS membership (62%) were in favor of developing the accreditation program and it was subsequently identified as a major initiative for consideration in the 2015 AAUS Strategic Plan. Additionally in late 2014, with help from the Membership, Standards and Accreditation committees, the AAUS BoD developed a version of the “Self-accreditation checklist” which was called the Self Evaluation Form. Beginning in 2015, the Self Evaluation Form was required for review by the Membership Committee along with other application materials from all new OM applicants. (Eslate November 2014).
Using information gathered from the membership throughout the 2014 polling process, the 2015 Strategic Plan identified a number of primary pillars or goals, which were released to the community (Eslate March 2015). One of these was,
Ensure Scientific Diving Program Quality Control, through continued vetting and implementation of the Organizational Member Scientific Diving Accreditation Program, improving understanding and communication of AAUS diving standards, and development of improved program management tools.
Given the extensive groundwork that had been laid, the BoD in 2016 set an ambitious goal of conducting six program reviews, and 12 in 2017 & 18.
Frequently Asked Questions
What will it cost?
As of 2017 the cost of this program will be $2500.00. This cost is based on the costs of the beta tests already conducted. The AC will be considering the total fee structure and will inform the membership as changes occur.
Who can participate?
The accreditation program is a voluntary program. OMs will have the choice to participate or not.
What is the Accreditation process?
The Accreditation process has been designed to help the OM identify the strengths and weaknesses of their program through a multi-faceted peer review process.
1) OMs who wish to participate in this voluntary program must contact the accreditation committee.
2) The committee will provide the OM with the preliminary paperwork, including checklists and self-audits, as well as request a current copy of the OM’s Dive Safety Manual for standards review.
3) When all preliminary paperwork is completed, a date for a site visit will be set.
4) During the site visit portion of the accreditation process, the review team will look at the facilities for the diving program, record keeping, make up of the DCB, etc. They will also interview members of the DCB, the DSOs supervisor, and possibly program science divers.
5) At the end of the site visit the review team will present the DCB chair and DSO and possibly others with the review findings. Any weaknesses that are identified will be discussed and remediation options will be presented along with a timeline for the remediation.
6) Once all phases are complete and any weaknesses are remediated, the OM will be reviewed by the Accreditation committee at an annual committee meeting.
How long is the process?
The entire process may take as little as 6 months but can take as long as a year to complete from start to end.