UKLEJA CENTER FOR ETHICALLEADERSHIP CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, LONG BEACH • ETHICS ACROSS THE CURRICULUM Concepts and Cases in Engineering Ethics Yu-Fu Ko, Ph.D., P.E., Assistant Professor Department of Civil Engineering and Construction Engineering Management
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #1- Introduction 1.1 Definitions Ethics: is the study of the characteristics of morals. Ethics also deals with the moral choices that are made by each person in his or her relationship with other persons. As engineers, we are concerned with ethics because these definitions apply to all of the choices and individual makes in life, including those made while practicing engineering. Engineering Ethics: is the rules and standards governing the conduct of engineers in their role as professionals. Engineering ethics encompasses the more general definition of ethics, but applies it more specifically to situations involving engineers in their professional lives. Thus, engineering ethics is a body of philosophy indicating the ways that engineers should conduct themselves in their professional capacity.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #1- Introduction 1.2Why Study Engineering Ethics? Why is it important for engineering students to study engineering ethics? Several notorious cases that have received a great deal of media attention in the past few years have led engineering to gain an increased sense of their professional responsibilities. These cases have led to an awareness of the importance of ethics within the engineering profession as engineers realize how their technical work has far-reaching impacts on society. The work of engineers can affect public health and safety and can influence business practices and even politics.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #1- Introduction • 1.3Engineering Is Managing the Unknown One source of the ethical issues encountered in the course of engineering practice is a lack of knowledge. This is by no means an unusual situation in engineering. Engineers often encounter situations where they don’t have all of the information that is needed. By its nature, engineering design is about creating new devices and products. When something is new, many questions need to be answered. How well does it work? How will it affect people? What changes will this lead to in society? How well will this work under all of the conditions that it will exposed to? Is it safe? If there are some safety concerns, how bad are they? What are the effects of doing nothing?
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #1- Introduction • 1.4 Personal vs. Business Ethics In discussing engineering ethics, it is important to make a distinction between personal ethics and professional, or business, ethics, although there isn’t always a clear boundary between the two. Personal ethics deals with how we treat others in our day-to-day lives. Many of these principles are applicable to ethical situations that occur in business and engineering. However, professional ethics often involves choices on an organization level rather than a personal level. Many of the problems will seem different because they involve relationships between two corporations, between a corporation and the government, or between corporations and groups of individuals. Frequently, these types of relationships pose problems that are not encountered in personal ethics.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #1- Introduction 1.5 Ethics and The Law We should also mention the role of law in engineering ethics. The practice of engineering is governed by many laws on the international, federal, state, and local levels. Many of these laws are based on ethical principles, although many are purely of a practical, rather than a philosophical, nature. There is also a distinction between what is legal and what is ethical. Many thins that are legal could be considered unethical. For example, designing a process that releases a known toxic, but unregulated, substance into the environment is probably unethical, although it is legal. Conversely, just because something is illegal doesn’t mean that it is unethical. For example, there might be substances that were once thought to be harmful, but have not been shown to be safe, that you wish to incorporate into a product. If the law has not caught up with the latest scientific findings, it might be illegal to release these substances into the environment, even though there is no ethical problem in doing so. As an engineer, you are always minimally safe if you follow the requirements of the applicable laws. But in engineering ethics, we seek to go beyond the dictates of the law. Our interest is in areas where ethical principles conflict and there is no legal guidance of how to resolve the conflict.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #2-Professionalism and Codes of Ethics 2.1 Introduction When confronted by an ethical problem, what resources are available to an engineer to help find a solution? One of the hallmarks of modern professions are codes of ethics promulgated by various professional societies. These codes serve to guide practitioners of the profession in making decisions about how to conduct themselves and how to resolve ethical issues that might confront them. Are codes of ethic applicable to engineering? To answer this question, we must first consider what professions are and how the function and then decide if this definition applies to engineering. Then we will examine codes of ethics in general and look specifically at some of the codes of engineering professional societies.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #2-Professionalism and Codes of Ethics • 2.2 Is Engineering A Profession? In order to determine whether engineering is a profession, the nature of professions must first be examined. As a starting point, it will be valuable to distinguish the word “profession” from other words that are sometimes used synonymously with “profession”: “job” and “occupation.” Any work for hire can be considered a job, regardless of the skill level involved and the responsibility granted. Engineering is certainly a job - engineers are paid for their services - but the skills and responsibilities involved in engineering make it more than just a job. • - Is Engineering a Profession? • - Engineering as A Profession • - Differences Between Engineering and Other Professions
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #2-Professionalism and Codes of Ethics 2.3 Codes of Ethics - Is Engineering A Profession? - Codes of the Engineering Societies-Examples - Codes of the Engineering Societies - Can Codes and Professional Societies Protect Employees? - Is Engineering A Profession? Primarily, a code of ethics provides a framework for ethical judgment for a professional. The key word here is “framework.” No code can be totally comprehensive and cover all possible ethical situations that a professional engineer is likely to encounter. Rather, codes serve as a starting point for ethical decision making. A code can also express the commitment to ethical conduct shared by members of a profession. It is important to note the ethical codes do not establish new ethical principles. They simply reiterate principles and standards that are already accepted as responsible engineering practice. A code expresses these principles in a coherent, comprehensive, and accessible manner. Finally, a code defines the roles and responsibilities of professionals.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #2-Professionalism and Codes of Ethics • 2.3 Codes of Ethics • Codes of the Engineering Societies-Examples • (1) National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) Code of Ethics for Engineers • (http://www.nspe.org/Ethics/CodeofEthics/index.html) • (2) American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) • (http://www.asce.org/inside/codeofethics.cfm) • (3) American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) • (http://www.asme.org/NewsPublicPolicy/Ethics/Ethics_Center.cfm)
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #2-Professionalism and Codes of Ethics 2.3 Codes of Ethics -Codes of the Engineering Societies One objection to codes of ethics is the internal conflicts that can exist within them, with no instructions on how to resolve these conflicts. An example of this problem would be a situation where an employer asks or even orders an engineer to implement a design that the engineer feels will be unsafe. It is made clear that the engineer’s job is at stake if he doesn’t do as instructed. What does the NSPE code tell us about this situation? In clause I.4, the NSPE code indicates that engineers have a duty to their employers, which implies that the engineer should go ahead with the unsafe design favored by his employer. However, clause I.1 and the preamble make it clear that the safety of the public is also an important concern of an engineer. In fact, it says that the safety of the public is paramount. How can this conflict be resolved? There is no implication in this or any other code that all clauses are equally important. Rather, there is a hierarchy within the code. Some clauses take precedence over others, although there is generally no explicit indication in the code of what the hierarchy is. The preceding dilemma is easily resolved within the context of this hierarchy. The duty to protect the safety of the public is paramount and takes precedence over the duty to the employer. In this case, the code provides very clear support to the engineer, who must convince his supervisor that the product can not be designed as requested. Unfortunately, not all internal conflicts in codes of ethics are so easily resolved.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #2-Professionalism and Codes of Ethics • 2.3 Codes of Ethics • -Can Codes and Professional Societies Protect Employees? • One important area where professional societies can and should function is as protectors of the rights of the employees who are being pressured by their employer to do something unethical or who are accusing their employers or the government of unethical conduct. The codes of the professional societies are of some use in this since they can be used by employees as ammunition against employer who is sanctioning them for pointing out unethical behavior or who are being asked to engage in unethical acts.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #3-Understanding Ethical Problems • 3.1 Introduction • To learn how to build a bridge, you must first learn the basics of physics and apply this physics to engineering statics and dynamics. Similarly, in ethical problem solving, we will need some knowledge of ethical theory to provide a framework for understanding and reaching solutions in ethical problems. We will develop this theoretical framework and apply it to an engineering case. • 3.2 Ethical Theories • In order to develop workable ethical problem-solving techniques, we must first look as several theories of ethics in order to have a framework for decision making. Our basic ethical problem-solving technique will utilize different theories and approaches to analyze the problem and then try to determine the best solution.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #3-Understanding Ethical Problems 3.2.1 What is Ethical Theories -A moral theory defines terms in uniform ways and links ideas and problems together in consistent ways. -There are four ethical theories that will be considered here, each differing according to what is held to be the most important moral concept. (1)Utilitarianism: seeks to produce the most utility, defined as a balance between good and bad consequences of an action, taking into account the consequences for everyone affected. (2)Duty ethics: contends that there are duties that should be performed (for example, the duty to treat others fairly or the duty no to injure others) regardless of whether these acts lead to the most good. (3)Right ethics: emphasizes that we all have moral rights, and any action that violates these rights is ethically unacceptable. Like duty ethics, the ultimate overall good of the actions is not taken into account. (4) Virtue ethics: regards actions as right that manifest good character traits (virtues) and regards actions as bad that display bad character traits (vices); this ethical theory focuses on the type of person we should strive to be.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #3-Understanding Ethical Problems 3.2.2 Utilitarianism -holds that those actions are good that serve to maximize human well-being. The emphasis in utilitarianism is not on maximizing the well-being of the individual, but rather on maximizing the well-being of society as a whole, and as such it is somewhat of a collectivist approach. (Example, building the dams) -fundamental to many types of engineering analysis, including risk-benefit analysis and cost-benefit analysis. *Disadvantages: (1) Sometimes what is best for everyone may be bad for a particular individual or group of individuals. (2) its implementation depends greatly on knowing what will lead to the most good. Frequently, it is impossible to know exactly what the consequences of an action are. It is often impossible to do a complete set of experiments to determine all of the potential outcomes, especially when humans are involved as subjects of the experiments. So, maximizing the benefit to society involves guesswork and the risk that the best guess might be wrong. Despise these objections, utilitarianism is a very valuable tool for ethical problem solving, providing one way of looking at engineering ethics cases.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #3-Understanding Ethical Problems 3.2.3 Cost-Benefit Analysis -One tool often used in engineering analysis, especially when trying to determine whether a project makes sense, is cost-benefit analysis. Fundamentally, this type of analysis is just an application of utilitarianism. In cost-benefit analysis, the costs of a project are assessed, as are the benefits. Only those projects with the highest ratio of benefits to cost will be implemented. This principle is similar to the utilitarian goal of maximizing the overall good. *Disadvantages: while it is often easy to predict the costs for most projects, the benefits that are derived from them are often harder to predict and to assign a dollar value to. Once dollar amounts for the costs and benefits are determined, calculating a mathematical ratio may seem very objective and therefore may appear to be the best way to make a decision. However, this ratio can not take into account many of the more subjective aspects of a decision. It should be noted that although cost-benefit analysis shares many similarities with utilitarianism, it is not really an ethical analysis tool. The goal of an ethical analysis is to determine what the ethical path is. The goal of a cost-benefit analysis is to determine the feasibility of a project based on costs. When looking at an ethical problem, the first step should be to determine what the right course of action is and then factor in the financial costs in choosing between ethical alternative.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #3-Understanding Ethical Problems 3.2.4 Duty Ethics and Rights Ethics -These two ethical theories are similar to each other. These theories hold that those actions are good that respect the rights of the individual. Here good consequences for society as a whole are NOT the ONLY moral consideration. -A major proponent for duty ethics was Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), who held that moral duties are fundamental. Ethical actions are those actions that could be written down on a list of duties: be honest, don’t cause suffering to other people, be fair to others, etc. These actions are our duties because they express respect for persons, express an unqualified regard for autonomous moral agents, and are universal principles. Once one’s duties are recognized, the ethically correct moral actions are obvious. In this formulation, ethical acts are a result of proper performance of one’s duties. -Rights ethics was largely formulated by John Locke (1632-1704), whose statement that humans have the right to life, liberty and property was paraphrased in the Declaration of Independence of the son-to-be United States of America in 1776. Rights ethics holds that people have fundamental rights that other people have a duty to respect. -Duty ethics and rights ethics are really just two different sides of the same coin. Both of these theories achieve the same end: Individual persons must be respected, and actions are ethical that maintain this respect for the individual. In duty ethics, people have duties, and important one of which is to protect the rights of others. And in rights ethics, people have fundamental rights that others have duties to protect. *Disadvantages: (1) the basic rights of one person (or group) may conflict with the basic rights of another group. How do we decide whose rights have priority? (2) these theories don’t always account for the overall good of society very well. Since the emphasis is on the individual, the good of a single individual can be paramount compared to what is good for society as a whole. Already, it is clear why we will be considering more than one ethical theory in our discussion of engineering cases. The theories already presented clearly represent different ways of looking ethical problems and can frequently arrive at different solutions. Thus, any complete analysis of an ethical problem must incorporate multiple theories if valid conclusions are to be drawn.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #3-Understanding Ethical Problems 3.2.5 Virtue Ethics -it is interested in determining what kind of people we should be. Virtue is often defined as moral distinction and goodness. A virtuous person exhibits good and beneficial qualities. -Actions are considered right if they support good character traits (virtues) and wrong if they support bad character traits (vices). -Focuses on words such as responsibility, honesty, competence, and loyalty, which are virtues. Other virtues might include trustworthiness, fairness, caring, citizenship, and respect. Vices could include dishonesty, disloyalty, irresponsibility, or incompetence. As you can see, virtue ethics is closely tied to personal character. We do good things because we are virtuous people and seek to enhance these character traits in ourselves and in others. -In many ways, this theory may seem to be mostly personal ethics and not particularly applicable to engineering or business ethics. However, personal morality cannot, or at any rate should not, be separated from business morality. If a behavior is virtuous in the individual’s personal life, the behavior is virtuous in his or her business life as well. -How can virtue ethics be applied to business and engineering situations? This type of ethical theory is somewhat trickier to apply to the types of problems that we will consider, perhaps because virtue ethics seems less concrete and less susceptible to rigorous analysis and because it is harder to describe nonhuman entities such as a corporation or government in terms of virtue. However, we can use virtue ethics in our engineering career by answering questions such as: Is this action honest? Will this action demonstrate loyalty to my community and/or my employer? Have I acted in a responsible fashion? -To use virtue ethics in an analysis of an ethical problem, you should first identify the virtues or vices that are applicable to the situation. Then determine what course of action each of these suggests. *Disadvantages: it is important to be careful in applying virtue ethics. Problem can arise with words that on the face seem to be virtues, but can actually lead to vices. Is it right to engage a war only to preserve the honor of an individual or a nation? In using virtue ethics, it is important to ensure that the traits you identify as virtues are indeed virtuous and will not lead to negative consequences.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #3-Understanding Ethical Problems 3.2.6 Personal vs. Corporate Morality -Is there a distinction between the ethics practiced by an individual and the ethics practiced by a corporation? Can a corporation be a moral agent as an individual? This is a question that is central to many discussions of business and engineering ethics. If a corporation has no moral agency, then it cannot be held accountable for its actions, although sometimes individuals within a company can be held accountable. The law is not always clear on the answer to this question and can’t be relied upon to resolve the issue. -The dilemma comes most sharply into focus in a discussion of virtue ethics. Can a company truly be expected to display honesty or loyalty? These are strictly human traits and cannot be ascribed to a corporation. In the strictest definition of moral agency, a company cannot be a moral agent, and yet companies have many dealings with individuals or groups of people. How do we resolve this problem? In their capacity to deal with individual, corporations should be considered pseudomoral agents and should be held accountable in the same way that individuals are, even if the ability to do this within the legal system is limited. In other words, with regard to an ethical problem, responsibility for corporate wrongdoing shouldn’t be hidden behind a corporate mask. Just because it isn’t really a moral agent like a person doesn’t mean that a corporation can do whatever it pleases. Instead, in its interactions with individuals or communities, a corporation must respect the rights of individuals and should exhibit the same virtues that we expect of individuals.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #3-Understanding Ethical Problems 3.2.7 Which Theory to Use? -In solving ethical problems, we don’t have to choose from among these theories. Rather, we can use all of them to analyze a problem from different angles and see what result each of the theories gives us. This allows us to examine a problem form different perspectives to see what conclusion each one reaches. Frequently, the result will be the same even though the theories are very different. -What happens when the different theories seems to give different answers? Generally, rights and duty ethics should take precedence over utilitarian considerations. This is because the rights of individuals should receive relatively stronger weight than the needs of society as a whole.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #4-Ethical Problems-Solving Techniques 4.1 Introduction Now that we have discussed codes of ethics and moral theories, we are ready to tackle the problem of how to analyze and resolve ethical dilemmas when they occur. In solving engineering problems, it is always tempting to look for an appropriate formula, plug in the numbers, and calculate an answer. This type of problem-solving approach, while sometimes useful for engineering analysis problems, is less useful for ethical problem solving. There are theories that help us to frame our understanding of the problem, but there are no formulas and no easy “plug-and-chug” methods for reaching a solution. In this chapter, we will examine methods for analyzing ethical problems and see how to apply them. Obviously, some problems are easily solved. If you are tempted to embezzle money from your employer, it is clear that this action is stealing and is not morally acceptable. However, as mentioned previously, many of the situations encountered by practicing engineers are ambiguous or unclear, involving conflicting moral principles. This is the type of problem for which we will most need analysis and problem-solving methods.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #4-Ethical Problems-Solving Techniques 4.2 Analysis of Issues In Ethical Problems A first step in solving any ethical problem is to completely understand all of the issues involved. Once these issues are determined, frequently a solution to the problem becomes apparent. The issues involved in understanding ethical problems can be split into three categories: (1) Factual (2) Conceptual (3) Moral Understanding these issues helps to put an ethical problem in the proper framework and often helps point the way to a solution.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #4-Ethical Problems-Solving Techniques 4.2.1 Types of Issues in Ethical Problem Solving -Factual issues: involve what is actually known about a case – i.e., what the facts are. Although this concept seems straightforward, the facts of a particular case are not always clear and may by controversial. An example of facts that are not necessarily clear can be found in the controversy in contemporary society regarding abortion rights. There is great disagreement over the point at which life begins and at which point a fetus can be legally protected. In engineering, there are controversies over facts as well. For example, global warming is of great concern to society as we continue to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This is thought to lead to a generalized warming of the atmosphere as emissions from automobiles and industrial plants increase the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. This issue is of great importance to engineers, since they might be required to design new products or redesign old ones to comply with stricter environmental standards if this warming effect indeed proves to be a problem. However, the global warming process is only barely understood, and the need to curtail emission of these gases is a controversial topic. If it were known exactly what the effects of emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere would be , the engineer’s role in reducing this problem would be clearer. -Conceptual issues: have to do with the meaning or applicability of an idea. In engineering ethics, this might mean defining what constitutes a bribe as opposes to an acceptable gift, or determining whether certain business information is proprietary. In the case of the bribe, the value of the gift is probably a well-known fact. What isn’t known is whether accepting it will lead to unfair influence on a business decision. For example, conceptually it must be determined if the gift or tickets to a sporting event by a potential supplier of parts for your project is meant to influence your decision or is jut a nice gesture between friends. Of course, like factual issues, conceptual issues are not always clear-cut and will often result in controversy as well. -Moral issues: once the factual and conceptual issues have been resolved, at least to the extent possible, all that remains is to determine which moral principle is applicable to the situation. Resolution of moral issues is often more obvious. Once the problem is defined, it is usually clear with moral concept applies, and the correct decision becomes obvious. In our example of a “gift” offered by a sales representative, once it is determined whether it is simply a gift or is really a bribe, then the appropriate action is obvious. If we determine that it is indeed a bribe, then it cannot ethically be accepted.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #4-Ethical Problems-Solving Techniques • 4.2.1 Types of Issues in Ethical Problem Solving • Given that the issues surrounding an ethical problem can be controversial, how can these controversies be resolved? • -Factual issues: can often be resolved through research to establish the truth. It is not always possible to achieve a final determination of the “truth” that everyone can agree on, but generally, further research helps clarify the situation, can increase the areas of agreement, and can sometimes achieve consensus on the facts. • -Conceptual issues: are resolved by agreeing on the meaning of terms and concepts. Sometimes agreement isn’t possible, but as with factual issues, further analysis of the concepts at least clarifies some of the issues and helps to facilitate agreement. • -Moral issues: finally, moral issues are resolved by agreement as to which moral principles are pertinent and how they should be applied. • Often, all that is required to solve a particular ethical problem is a deeper analysis of the issues involved according to the appropriate principles. Once the issues are analyzed and agreements is reached on the applicable moral principles, it is clear what the resolution should be. • Challenges • In many situations it is difficult or impossible to determine the relevant facts, especially when the factual issues have to do with the prediction of the likely consequences of events in the future. • Arguments over the definitions of "bribe" or "proprietary" may be very difficult to resolve. • People can disagree over moral issues, so let us examine these disagreements in more detail.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #4-Ethical Problems-Solving Techniques • 4.2.1 Types of Issues in Ethical Problem Solving • Relevance vs. Conflict Problem • In a relevance problem, we are not sure whether a principle applies in a particular situation. Whether James' applying the process he developed at Company A to the new situation in Company B is a use of proprietary information or is a relevance problem. Its resolution depends on the prior resolution of the conceptual issue as to how we define "proprietary." • In a conflict problem, we are faced with two or more principles which seem to apply to a particular situation, and yet the two principles require different and incompatible actions.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #4-Ethical Problems-Solving Techniques • 4.3 Relevance Problems • Method for Relevance Problem • First, set up a series of cases, ranging from a case where the concept clearly applies, through a series of ambiguous cases, to a case in which the concept clearly does not apply. • Positive Intermediate Negative • C-P+ C-1 C-2 C-3 C-4 C-5 C-P- • Case of Interest • Second, the morallyrelevant similarities and differences among the various cases must be enumerated. There is no magic formula for determining what is and is not morally relevant. Rather, you must rely on your own sense of what is morally relevant. • Third, after enumerating the morally relevant similarities and differences in the various cases, you must determine the line of demarcation between transfers of information that should and should not be proprietary.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #4-Ethical Problems-Solving Techniques 4.4 Conflict Problems -The most challenging problem in engineering. -An area of ethical problem solving that we will frequently encounter relates to problems that present us with a choice between two confliction moral values, each of which seems to be correct. How do we make the correct choice in this situation? -Conflict problems can be solved in three ways. Methods: (1) Employing lower level consideration Often, there are conflicting moral choices, but one is obviously more significant than the other. (2) Finding creative middle way This solution is an attempt at some kind of a compromise that will work for everyone. The emphasis here should be on the word “creative,” because it takes a great deal of creativity to find a middle ground that is acceptable to everyone and a great deal of diplomacy to sell it to everyone. The sales job is especially difficult because of the nature compromise, which is often jokingly defined as “the solution where nobody gets what they want.” An example of a creative middle ground would be that rather than dumping a toxic waste into a local lake, one finds ways to redesign the production process to minimize the waste product, finds ways to pre-treat the waste to minimize the toxicity, or offers to pay for and install the equipment at the municipal water system necessary to treat the water to remove this chemical before it is sent to homes. Obviously, no one will be completely satisfied with these alternatives, since redesigns and pretreatment cost concerns and take time. Some people will not be satisfied with even a minimized dumping of toxics. (3)Making hard choice Finally, when, there is no easy choice and attempts to find a middle ground are not successful, all that is left to make the hard choice. Sometimes, you have to bite the bullet and make the best choice possible with the information available at the time. Frequently, you must rely on “gut feelings” for which path is the correct one.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #4-Ethical Problems-Solving Techniques 4.5 An Application of Problem-Solving Methods: Bribery/Acceptance of Gifts Bribe: is something, such as money or a favor, offered or given to someone in a position of trust in order to induce him to act dishonestly. One of the many gray areas of engineering ethics is the acceptance of gifts from vendors or the offering gifts to customers to secure business. The difficulty here comes because of the potential for gifts to become bribes or to be perceived of as bribes. Frequently, engineers find themselves in the position of either dealing with vendors who wish to sell them products for incorporation into the engineer’s work or acting as vendors themselves and working on sales to other engineers to companies. Bribery is illegal in the United States and, contrary to popular opinion, is also illegal everywhere in the world. There are some places where bribery may be overlooked, or even expected, but it always takes place “under the table” and is never a legitimate business practice. Moreover, United States federal law forbids American business from engaging in bribery overseas, regardless of the local customs or expectations. In many cases, there is a fine line between bribery and a simple gift. Sometimes, the distinction has to do with the value of the gift. Always, it has to do with the intent of the gift. It is important to ensure that no matter how innocent the gift may be, the appearance of impropriety is avoided.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #5-The Right and Responsibilities of Engineers 5.1 Introduction The codes of ethics of the professional engineering societies spell out, sometimes in great detail, the responsibilities entailed in being an engineer. However, the codes don’t discuss any of the professional rights that engineers should enjoy. There is often a great deal of overlap between these rights and responsibilities.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #5-The Right and Responsibilities of Engineers 5.2 Professional Responsibilities The codes of ethics of the professional engineering societies spell out, sometimes in great detail, the responsibilities entailed in being an engineer. However, the codes don’t discuss any of the professional rights that engineers should enjoy. There is often a great deal of overlap between these rights and responsibilities. - Confidentiality and Proprietary Information A hall mark of the professions is the requirement that the professional keep certain information of the client secret or confidential. Confidentiality is mentioned in most engineering codes of ethics. Why must some engineering information be kept confidential? Most information about how a business is run, its products and its suppliers, directly affects the company’s ability to compete in the marketplace. Such information can be used by a competitor to gain advantage or to catch up. Thus, it is in the company’s (and the employee’s) best interest to keep such information confidential to the extent possible.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #5-The Right and Responsibilities of Engineers 5.2 Professional Responsibilities - Conflict of Interest Avoiding conflict of interest is important in any profession, and engineering is no exception. A conflict of interest arises when an interest, if pursued, could keep a professional from meeting one of his obligations. For example, a civil engineer working for a state department of highways might have a financial interest in a company that has a bid on a construction project. If that engineer has some responsibility for determining which company’s bid to accept, then there is a clear conflict of interest. Pursuing his financial interest in the company might lead him not to objectively and faithfully discharge his professional duties to his employer, the highway department. The engineering codes are very clear on the need to avoid conflicts of interest like this one. Three types of conflicts of interest: (1)Actual conflicts of interest (2)Potential conflicts of interest (3)Appearance conflicts of interest How to avoid conflict of interest? A good way to avoid conflicts of interest is to follow the guidance of company policy. In the absence of such a policy, asking a coworker or your manager will give you a second opinion and will make it clear that you are not trying to hide something. In the absence of either of these options, it is best to examine your motives and use ethical problem-solving techniques. Finally, you can look to the statements in the professional ethics codes that uniformly forbid conflicts of interest. Some of the codes have very explicit statements that can help determine whether or not your situation is a conflict of interest.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #5-The Right and Responsibilities of Engineers 5.3 Professional Rights Engineers also have rights that go along with these responsibilities. Not all of these rights come about due to the professional status of engineering. There are rights that individuals have regardless of professional status, including the right to privacy, the right to participate in activities of one’s own choosing outside of work, the right to reasonably object to company policies without fear of retribution, and the right to due process. The most fundamental right of an engineer is the right of professional conscience. This involves the right to exercise professional judgment in discharging one’s duties and to exercise this judgment in an ethical manner. This right is basic to an engineer’s professional practice. However, it is no surprise that this right is not always easy for an employer to understand. The right of professional conscience can have many aspects. For example, one of these aspects might be referred to as the “Right of Conscientious Refusal”. This is the right to refuse to engage in unethical behavior. Put quite simply, no employer can ask or pressure an employee into doing something that she considers unethical and unacceptable.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #5-The Right and Responsibilities of Engineers 5.4 Whistleblowing It is the act by an employee of informing the public or higher management of unethical or illegal behavior by an employer or supervisor. According to the codes of ethics of the professional engineering societies, engineers have a duty to protect the health and safety of the public, so in many cases, an engineer is compelled to blow the whistle on acts or projects that harm these values. Engineers also have the professional right to disclose wrongdoing within their organizations and expect to see appropriate action taken. Types of Whistleblowing (1) Internal vs. External Whistleblowing: Internal whistleblowing occurs when an employee goes over the head of an immediate supervisor to report a problem to a higher level of management. Or, all levels of management are bypassed, and the employee goes directly to the president of the company or the board of directors. However it is done, the whistleblowing is kept within the company or organization. External whistleblowing occurs when the employee goes outside the company and resorts wrongdoing to newspapers or law-enforcement authorities. Either type of whistleblowing is likely to be perceived as disloyalty. However, keeping it within the company is often seen as less serious than going outside of the company (2)Anonymous vs. Acknowledged Whistleblowing: Anonymous whistleblowing occurs when the employee who is blowing the whistle refuses to divulge his name when making accusations. These accusations might take the form of anonymous memos to upper management or of anonymous phone calls to the police. The employee might also talk to the news media but refuse to let her name be used as the source of the allegations of wrongdoing. Acknowledged whistleblowing, on the other hand, occurs when the employee puts his name behind the accusations and is willing to withstand the scrutiny brought on by his accusations. Whistleblowing can be very bad from a corporation’s point of view because it can lead to distrust, disharmony, and an inability of employees to work together.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #5-The Right and Responsibilities of Engineers 5.4 Whistleblowing - When Should Whistleblowing Be Attempted? Whistle blowing should only be attempted if the following four conditions are met. 1. Need: there must be a clear and important harm that can be avoided by blowing the whistle. In deciding whether to go public, the employee needs to have a sense of proportion. You don’t need to blow the whistle about everything, just the important things. Of course, if there is a pattern of many small things that are going on, this can add up to a major and important matter requiring that the whistle be blown. 2. Proximity: the whistleblower must be in a very clear position to report on the problem. Hearsay is no adequate. Firsthand knowledge is essential to making an effective case about wrongdoing. This point also implies that the whistleblower must have enough expertise in the area to make a realistic assessment of the situation. This condition stems from the clauses in several codes of ethics which mandate that an engineer not undertake work in area outside her expertise. This principle applies equally well to making assessment about whether wrongdoing is taking place. 3. Capacity: the whistleblower must have a reasonable chance of success in stopping the harmful activity. You are not obligated to risk your career and the financial security of your family if you can’t see the case through to completion or you don’t feel that you have access to the proper channels to ensure that the situation is resolved. 4. Last resort: whistleblowing should be attempted only if there is no one else more capable or more proximate to blow the whistle and if you feel that all other lines of action within the context of the organization have been explored and shut off.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #5-The Right and Responsibilities of Engineers 5.4 Whistleblowing These four conditions tell us when whistleblowing is morally acceptable. But when is an engineer morally obligated to blow the whistle? There may be situations in which you are aware of wrongdoing and the four conditions discussed above have been met. In this case, the whistle may be blown if you feel that the matter is sufficiently important. You are only obligated to blow the whistle when there is great imminent danger of harm to someone if the activity continues and the four conditions have been met. A great deal of introspection and reflection is required before whistleblowing is undertaken. It is important for the whistleblower to understand his motives before undertaking this step. It is acceptable to blow the whistle to protect the public interest, but not to exact revenge upon fellow employees, supervisors, or your company. Nor is it acceptable to blow the whistle in the hopes of future gains through book contracts and speaking tours.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #5-The Right and Responsibilities of Engineers 5.4 Whistleblowing - Preventing Whistleblowing 1. There must be a strong corporate ethics culture. 2. There should be clear lines of communication within the corporation. 3. All employees must have meaningful access to high-level managers in order to bring their concerns forward.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #6-Ethical Issues in Engineering Practice 6.1 Introduction Many engineers will become involved in research and experimentation in the course of their academic and professional careers. Even engineers who are not employed in research laboratories or academic settings can be involved in research and development work or the testing of a new product or design. We will examine some of the unique ethical issues that are encountered in research. 6.2 Environmental Ethics One of the most important political issues of the late 20th century has been environmental protection and the rise of the environmental movement. This movement has sought to control the introduction of toxic and unnatural substances into the environment, to protect the integrity of the biosphere, and to ensure a healthy environment for humans. Engineers are responsible in part for the creation of the technology that has led to damage of the environment and are also working to find solutions to the problems caused by modern technology. The environmental movement has led to an increased awareness among engineers that they have a responsibility to use their knowledge and skills to help protect the environment. This duty is even spelled out in many of the engineering codes of ethics. Sometimes the engineer’s responsibility for the environment is denoted with phrases such as “sustainable design” or “green engineering.” These concepts incorporate ideas about ensuring that our designs do not harm the environment. Sustainable design includes not only ensuring that a product has minimal environment impact during its use, but also that it can be manufactured and disposed of without harming the natural world. These concepts have been incorporated into some of the engineering codes of ethics which specifically use the word “sustainable.”
Ethics Across The Curriculum Handout #6-Ethical Issues in Engineering Practice 6.3 Computer Ethics Computers have rapidly become a ubiquitous tool in engineering and business. There are ways in which computers have brought benefit to society. Unfortunately, there are also numerous ways in which computers have been misused, leading to serious ethical issues. The engineer’s roles as designer, manager, and user of computers bring with them a responsibility to help foster the ethical use of computers. There are two broad categories of computer ethics problems: those in which the computer is used to commit an unethical act, such as the use of a computer to hack into a database and those in which the computer is used as an engineering too, but is used improperly. (1)Computers as a Tool for Unethical Behavior (2) Computers as An Engineering Tool
Ethics Across The Curriculum Case Studies # 1-The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Introduction To The Case On January 28, 1986, seven astronauts were killed when the space shuttle they were piloting, the Challenger, exploded just over a minute into the flight (Figure 1). The failure of the solid rocket booster O-rings to seat properly allowed hot combustion gases to leak from the side of the booster and burn through the external fuel tank. The failure of the O-ring was attributed to several factors, including faulty design of the solid rocket boosters, insufficient low- temperature testing of the O-ring material and the joints that the O-ring sealed, and lack of proper communication between different levels of NASA management. Figure 1. The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
Ethics Across The Curriculum Case Studies # 1-The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Instructor Guidelines Prior to class discussion, ask the students to read the student handout outside of class. In class the details of the case can be reviewed with the aide of the overheads. Reserve about half of the class period for an open discussion of the issues. The issues covered in the student handout include the importance of an engineer's responsibility to public welfare, the need for this responsibility to hold precedence over any other responsibilities the engineer might have and the responsibilities of a manager/engineer. A final point is the fact that no matter how far removed from the public an engineer may think she is, all of her actions have potential impact.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Case Studies # 1-The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Background NASA managers were anxious to launch the Challenger (Figure 2) for several reasons, including economic considerations, political pressures, and scheduling backlogs. Unforeseen competition from the European Space Agency put NASA in a position where it would have to fly the shuttle dependably on a very ambitious schedule in order to prove the Space Transportation System's cost effectiveness and potential for commercialization. This prompted NASA to schedule a record number of missions in 1986 to make a case for its budget requests. The shuttle mission just prior to the Challenger had been delayed a record number of times due to inclement weather and mechanical factors. NASA wanted to launch the Challenger without any delays so the launch pad could be refurbished in time for the next mission, which would be carrying a probe that would examine Halley's Comet. If launched on time, this probe would have collected data a few days before a similar Russian probe would be launched. There was probably also pressure to launch Challenger so it could be in space when President Reagan gave his State of the Union address. Reagan's main topic was to be education, and he was expected to mention the shuttle and the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe. The shuttle solid rocket boosters (or SRBs) (Figure 3), are key elements in the operation of the shuttle. Without the boosters, the shuttle cannot produce enough thrust to overcome the earth's gravitational pull and achieve orbit. There is an SRB attached to each side of the external fuel tank. Each booster is 149 feet long and 12 feet in diameter. Before ignition, each booster weighs 2 million pounds. Solid rockets in general produce much more thrust per pound than their liquid fuel counterparts. The drawback is that once the solid rocket fuel has been ignited, it cannot be turned off or even controlled. So it was extremely important that the shuttle SRBs were properly designed. Morton Thiokol was awarded the contract to design and build the SRBs in 1974. Thiokol's design is a scaled-up version of a Titan missile which had been used successfully for years. NASA accepted the design in 1976. The booster is comprised of seven hollow metal cylinders. The solid rocket fuel is cast into the cylinders at the Thiokol plant in Utah, and the cylinders are assembled into pairs for transport to Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At KSC, the four booster segments are assembled into a completed booster rocket. The joints where the segments are joined together at KSC are known as field joints (See Figure 4). These field joints consist of a tang and clevis joint. The tang and clevis are held together by 177 clevis pins. Each joint is sealed by two O rings, the bottom ring known as the primary O-ring, and the top known as the secondary O-ring. (The Titan booster had only one O-ring. The second ring was added as a measure of redundancy since the boosters would be lifting humans into orbit. Except for the increased scale of the rocket's diameter, this was the only major difference between the shuttle booster and the Titan booster.) The purpose of the O-rings is to prevent hot combustion gasses from escaping from the inside of the motor. To provide a barrier between the rubber O-rings and the combustion gasses, a heat resistant putty is applied to the inner section of the joint prior to assembly. The gap between the tang and the clevis determines the amount of compression on the O-ring. To minimize the gap and increase the squeeze on the O-ring, shims are inserted between the tang and the outside leg of the clevis.
Ethics Across The Curriculum Case Studies # 1-The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Figure 2. Space Shuttle
Ethics Across The Curriculum Case Studies # 1-The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Figure 3. Solid Rocket Booster
Ethics Across The Curriculum Case Studies # 1-The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster Figure 4. Field Joint of Solid Rocket Booster
Ethics Across The Curriculum Case Studies # 1-The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster • Questions for Class Discussion • What could NASA management have done differently? • What, if anything, could their subordinates have done differently? • What should Roger Boisjoly have done differently (if anything)? In answering this question, keep in mind that at his age, the prospect of finding a new job if he was fired was slim. He also had a family to support. • What do you (the students) see as your future engineering professional responsibilities in relation to both being loyal to management and protecting the public welfare? • The Challenger Disaster Overheads • Organizations/People Involved • Key Dates • Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB) Joints • Detail of SRB Field Joints • Ballooning Effect of Motor Casing • Key Issues
Ethics Across The Curriculum Case Studies # 1-The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster ORGANIZATIONS/PEOPLE INVOLVED Marshall Space Flight Center - in charge of booster rocket developmentLarry Mulloy - challenged the engineers' decision not to launch Morton Thiokol - Contracted by NASA to build the Solid Rocket BoosterAlan McDonald - Director of the Solid Rocket Motors ProjectBob Lund - Engineering Vice PresidentRobert Ebeling - Engineer who worked under McDonaldRoger Boisjoly - Engineer who worked under McDonaldJoe Kilminster - Engineer in a management positionJerald Mason - Senior executive who encouraged Lund to reassess his decision not to launch. KEY DATES 1974 - Morton-Thiokol awarded contract to build solid rocket boosters. 1976 - NASA accepts Morton-Thiokol's booster design. 1977 - Morton-Thiokol discovers joint rotation problem. November 1981 - O-ring erosion discovered after second shuttle flight. January 24, 1985 - shuttle flight that exhibited the worst O-ring blow-by. July 1985 - Thiokol orders new steel billets for new field joint design. August 19, 1985 - NASA Level I management briefed on booster problem. January 27, 1986 - night teleconference to discuss effects of cold temperature on booster performance. January 28, 1986 - Challenger explodes 72 seconds after liftoff. KEY ISSUES 1. HOW DOES THE IMPLIED SOCIAL CONTRACT OF PROFESSIONALS APPLY TO THIS CASE? 2. WHAT PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES WERE NEGLECTED, IF ANY? 3.SHOULD NASA HAVE DONE ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY IN THEIR LAUNCH DECISION PROCEDURE?
Ethics Across The Curriculum Case Studies # 2-The Kansas City Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse ~Negligence And The Professional "Debate" Over Responsibility For Design Introduction To The Case On July 17, 1981, the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, held a videotaped tea-dance party in their atrium lobby. With many party-goers standing and dancing on the suspended walkways, connections supporting the ceiling rods that held up the second and fourth-floor walkways across the atrium failed, and both walkways collapsed onto the crowded first-floor atrium below. The fourth-floor walkway collapsed onto the second-floor walkway, while the offset third-floor walkway remained intact. As the United States' most devastating structural failure, in terms of loss of life and injuries, the Kansas City Hyatt Regency walkways collapse left 114 dead and in excess of 200 injured. In addition, millions of dollars in costs resulted from the collapse, and thousands of lives were adversely affected. Figure 1. Aftermath view: The 4th floor and 2nd floor walkways were positioned at the now boarded entrances. A parallel 3rd floor walkway to the left was left intact
Ethics Across The Curriculum Case Studies # 2-The Kansas City Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse ~Negligence And The Professional "Debate" Over Responsibility For Design Figure 2. A major cause of fatalities was the landing of the concrete 4th floor walkway onto the crowded 2nd floor walkway, both seen here
Ethics Across The Curriculum Case Studies # 2-The Kansas City Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse ~Negligence And The Professional "Debate" Over Responsibility For Design • The hotel had only been in operation for approximately one year at the time of the walkways collapse, and the ensuing investigation of the accident revealed some unsettling facts: • During January and February, 1979, the design of the hanger rod connections was changed in a series of events and disputed communications between the fabricator (Havens Steel Company) and the engineering design team (G.C.E. International, Inc., a professional engineering firm). The fabricator changed the design from a one-rod to a two-rod system to simplify the assembly task, doubling the load on the connector, which ultimately resulted in the walkways collapse. (Figure 3) Figure 3. Original Design vs. Actual Construction
Ethics Across The Curriculum Case Studies # 2-The Kansas City Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse ~Negligence And The Professional "Debate" Over Responsibility For Design • The fabricator, in sworn testimony before the administrative judicial hearings after the accident, claimed that his company (Havens) telephoned the engineering firm (G.C.E.) for change approval. G.C.E. denied ever receiving such a call from Havens.2 • On October 14, 1979 (more than one year before the walkways collapsed), while the hotel was still under construction, more than 2700 square feet of the atrium roof collapsed because one of the roof connections at the north end of the atrium failed.3 In testimony, G.C.E. stated that on three separate occasions they requested on-site project representation during the construction phase; however, these requests were not acted on by the owner (Crown Center Redevelopment Corporation), due to additional costs of providing on-site inspection.4 • Even as originally designed, the walkways were barely capable of holding up the expected load, and would have failed to meet the requirements of the Kansas City Building Code.5 • Due to evidence supplied at the Hearings, a number of principals involved lost their engineering licenses, a number of firms went bankrupt, and many expensive legal suits were settled out of court. The case serves as an excellent example of the importance of meeting professional responsibilities, and what the consequences are for professionals who fail to meet those responsibilities. This case is particularly serviceable for use in structural design, statics and materials classes, although it is also useful as a general overview of consequences for professional actions. The Hyatt Regency Walkways Collapse provides a vivid example of the importance of accuracy and detail in engineering design and shop drawings (particularly regarding revisions), and the costly consequences of negligence in this realm. • For purposes of this case study, we assume that the disputed telephone call was made by the fabrication firm, and that the engineering firm did give verbal approval for the fatal design change. Students are, however, encouraged to view the case reversing these assumptions.