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Clear Thinking about Engineering Ethics

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  1. Clear Thinking about Engineering Ethics Joseph R. Beck P. E. Adjunct Assistant Professor University of Pittsburgh

  2. Thinking clearly requires: • An adequate framework, and • Methods for: • Making decisions • Analyzing and resolving issues

  3. An Adequate Framework • Background • Definitions • Codes of Ethics • Guidelines and References

  4. A Little Background • American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) • National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) • National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES)

  5. Definitions • The study of moral issues and decisions confronting individuals and organizations involved in engineering • The study of related questions about moral conduct, character, ideals and relationships of people and organizations (Both from NSPE)

  6. In the Simplest Terms: “do the right thing”

  7. Morality Laws Ethics “Knowing what’s right!” Culture/Policy

  8. Codes of Ethics • ASCE’s - Fundamental Principles • NSPE’s – Fundamental Cannons • NCEES’s – Model Rules of Professional Conduct

  9. ASCE’s Fundamental Principles Engineers uphold and advance the integrity, honor and dignity of the engineering profession by: 1. using their knowledge and skill for the enhancement of human welfare and the environment; 2. being honest and impartial and serving with fidelity the public, their employers and clients; 3. striving to increase the competence and prestige of the engineering profession; and 4. supporting the professional and technical societies of their disciplines.

  10. NSPE’s – Fundamental Cannons Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall: • Hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public. • Perform services only in areas of their competence. • Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner. • Act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees. • Avoid deceptive acts. • Conduct themselves honorably, responsibly, ethically and lawfully so as to enhance the honor, reputation and usefulness of the profession.

  11. NCEES’ – Model Rules of Conduct Licensee’s Obligation to Society 1. Licensees, in the performance of their services for clients, employers, and customers, shall be cognizant that their first and foremost responsibility is to the public welfare. 2. Licensees shall approve and seal only those design documents and surveys that conform to accepted engineering and surveying standards and safeguard the life, health, property and welfare of the public.

  12. NCEES’ – Model Rules of Conduct (cont.) Licensee’s Obligation to Employer and Clients 1. Licensees shall undertake assignments only when qualified by education or experience in the specific technical fields of engineering or surveying involved. 2. Licensees shall not affix their signatures or seals to any plans or documents dealing with subject matter in which they lack competence, nor to any such plan or document not prepared under their responsible charge.

  13. NCEES’ – Model Rules of Conduct (cont.) Licensee’s Obligation to Other Licensees 1. Licensees shall not falsify or permit misrepresentation of their, or their associates’, academic or professional qualifications. They shall not misrepresent or exaggerate their degree of responsibility in prior assignments nor the complexity of said assignments. Presentations incident to the solicitation of employment or business shall not misrepresent pertinent facts concerning employers, employees, associates, joint ventures or past accomplishments.

  14. Guidelines and References • ASCE’s “Guidelines for Professional Conduct for Civil Engineers” • NSPE’s website www.nspe.org/ethics • National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying’s “Model Rules of Professional Conduct” • National Academy of Engineering’s website www.onlineethics.org/

  15. Methods • Priorities and Obligations • Quick Test • Dissenting on Ethical Grounds

  16. Ethical Priorities (NCEES) • The public and society • The Law • The engineering profession • The client • The firm • Other involved engineers • Yourself

  17. Ethical Obligations • To Society • To Clients and Employers • To Other Licensees

  18. “Quick Test” Is the action legal?Does it comply with your values?If you do it, will you feel bad?How will it look in the newspaper?If you know it's wrong, don't do it!If you're not sure, ask.Keep asking until you get an answer. Texas Instruments Corporation

  19. Dissenting on Ethical Grounds • Establish a clear technical foundation • Stay on a high professional plane • Catch problem early • Be sure it is sufficiently important • Use existing dispute resolution methods • Keep records and collect paper • Resigning • Anonymity • Outside Resources

  20. Final Thought Life presents us with innumerable shades of gray, and very few situations offer a crystal clear choice between black and white. Ethics has to come into play constantly. Don Fusili, Former CEO Michael Baker Corp.