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GENERAL ETHICAL CASE STUDY

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  1. GENERAL ETHICAL CASE STUDY • In a test/exam situation, you (Student A) noticed Student B cheating. • Student B, justify your cheating. • Student A, what would you do? • What response are you likely to get from the class given your action in (2) above? • If you were caught (Student B), what do you RECOMMEND to happen to you?

  2. GENERAL ETHICAL CASE STUDY Suppose a project was given to each one of you last week. Each of you are expected to work on the project and submit your reports individually. This project is assumed to comprise about 30% of your final course score. Many of you have noticed the unseriousness of a member of your class (Student A) in coming to lectures, submitting assignments and projects. Unfortunately, this behavior is also seen in this student in the work expected for the project. Incidentally, in the computer lab, one day before submission, you (Student C) saw this unserious student copying the entire text, formulas and graphs of another student B.

  3. Questions • What ethical principles have been violated in this situation? • What response would you as Student C give to this situation? • As the lecturer, what response will you give? • What information do you think may prevent you from reacting as you have dictated in (2).

  4. Professional Ethics

  5. What is Ethics • Dictionary Definition • Study of what is right and what is wrong • Often not a useful definition • We will try to make it more useful to you

  6. Definition of Ethics • Sometimes it is crystal clear what is right and what is wrong • Should you steal a diamond from Tiffany’s?

  7. Definition of Ethics • Sometimes it is not so clear • Should you steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving child? • Should you kill your enemy as being a soldier during the war?

  8. Ethical Issues are Seldom Black and White Conflicting demands: Loyalty to company and colleagues Concern for public welfare Personal gain, ambition Ethical standards are usually relative and personal, there is seldom an absolute standard

  9. Why do we have codes of ethics? • “a convention between professionals” • “a guide to what engineers may reasonably expect of one another” • “a guide to what engineers may expect other members of profession to help each other do”

  10. Why obey one’s code? • Protects professionals from certain pressures • Such as cutting corners • By making it more likely that good conduct will not be punished • Protects professionals from certain consequences of competition • Legitimizes the profession

  11. Code of Ethics for Engineers(Ref. National Society of Professional Engineer) Fundamental Canons Engineers, in fulfilment of their professional duties, shall: • Hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public in the performance of their professional duties • Perform services only in areas of their competence • Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner • Act in professional matters for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees • Avoid deceptive acts in the solicitation of professional employment

  12. Code of Ethics for Engineers(Ref. National Society of Professional Engineers) Professional Obligations • Engineers shall be guided in all their professional relations by the highest standards of integrity • Engineer shall at all times strive to serve the public interest • Engineers shall avoid all conduct or practice which is likely to discredit the profession or deceive the public • Engineers shall not disclose confidential information concerning the business affairs or technical processes of any present or former client or employer without his consent • Engineers shall not be influenced in their professional duties by conflicting interests

  13. Code of Ethics for Engineers(Ref. National Society of Professional Engineers) • Engineers shall uphold the principle of appropriate and adequate compensation for those engaged in engineering work • Engineer shall not attempt to obtain employment or advancement or professional engagements by untruthfully criticising other engineers, or by other improper or questionable methods • Engineers shall not attempt to injure, maliciously or falsely, directly or indirectly, the professional reputation, prospects, practice or employment of other engineers, nor untruthfully criticise other engineers' work. Engineers who believe others are guilty of unethical or illegal practice shall present such information to the proper authority for action

  14. Code of Ethics for Engineers(Ref. National Society of Professional Engineers) • Engineers shall accept responsibility for their professional activities; provided, however, that Engineers may seek indemnification for professional services arising out of their practice for other than gross negligence, where the Engineer's interests cannot otherwise be protected • Engineer shall give credit for engineering work to those to whom credit is due and will recognise the proprietary interests of others • Engineers shall co-operate in extending the effectiveness of the profession by interchanging information and experience with other engineers and students, and will endeavour to provide opportunity for the professional development and advancement of engineers under their supervision

  15. Case Study

  16. The Challenger disaster is the foundation of the discussion.

  17. Case Study: The Challenger Disaster 28 January1986 • Engineers who had built the Challenger knew it had not been tested in freezing conditions and might not work correctly, thus endangering the lives of the astronauts. • It had been tested down to 53 degrees (oF) • The forecast for the morning of the launch was for 29 degrees • The engineers recommended it not be launched • They were overruled by their bosses, who gave approval to NASA for the Challenger to be launched

  18. The Challenger disaster is the foundation of the discussion. • Robert Lund (VP for Engineering at Morton Thiokol) • Recommends against the launch • Because of faulty O-rings • Jerald Mason (Lund’s boss) • Asks him to reconsider • Asks him to think like a manager, not an engineer

  19. The O-rings

  20. Discussion • Engineering team indicates launches below 53 degrees may have O-ring failure. • “Prove it.” Managers ask for offline discussion. “Take off your engineering hat.” • Decide to launch anyway, temp predicted 29. • NASA asks for further comments. Engineers stay silent

  21. Lund changes his recommendation

  22. Day of Launch • Right O-ring at 29 degrees, ice on shuttle • Puffs of smoke at launch pad • Good luck: Blow-by causes oxidation glaze to fill gaps in O-ring seal • Bad luck: Worst wind sheer hits shuttle. Flex breaks glaze apart • Flames escape SRB and hit External Tank

  23. The shuttle crashes seconds after take-off

  24. The shuttle crashes seconds after take-off

  25. The shuttle crashes seconds after take-off

  26. Ethical Implications

  27. Why isn’t conscience enough? • It is important for the engineers to realize the engineer’s paramount responsibility is for the safety of the public. • The all seven crew members in the crew compartment were not aware of the design flaw in the cold effects on the O-rings. • The engineers had some knowledge of the flaw and the ability to foresee the potential dangers. • They had informed their superiors of the possible dangers, but they failed to insist in cancelling the flight. • They could have referred to the Code of Ethics before making a decision.

  28. What’s the difference in thinking like a manager and thinking like an engineer? “Managers, it might be said, are trained to handle people; engineers, to handle things. To think like a manager rather than an engineer is to focus on people rather than on technical things.”

  29. What is “thinking like an engineer”? “to use one’s technical knowledge of things” Asking Lund to think like a manager was asking him to ignore his technical knowledge.

  30. What were Lund’s two ethical options? • “To either refuse to authorize the launch” • “To insist that the astronauts be briefed in order to get their informed consent”

  31. What were Lund’s last resort? • If getting no satisfactory response from his immediate superiors, they should exhaust the channels available within the corporation. • If they notified the directors about the captioned concerns but neither received any response, “Whistle-Blowing” is always the LAST RESORT for their action. • “Whistle-blowing” - the act of a man or woman who, believing that the public interest overrides the interest of the organization he[she] serves, publicly “blows the whistle”

  32. Whistle-Blowing Always the LAST RESORT, it indicates serious corporate culture problems Can be internal as well as external Definition depends on one’s point of view: “Whistle-blowing” - the act of a man or woman who, believing that the public interest overrides the interest of the organization he[sic] serves, publicly “blows the whistle” if the organization is involved in corrupt, illegal, fraudulent, or harmful activity.

  33. Examples of problems that might warrant whistle-blowing • Incompetence • Criminal Behavior • Unethical Policies • Threat to Public Safety • Injustices to Workers

  34. Moral Guidelines to Whistle-Blowing It is morally permissible for engineers to engage in external whistle-blowing concerning safety: 1. If the harm that will be done by the product to the public is serious and considerable 2. If they make their concerns known to their superiors 3. If getting no satisfaction from their immediate superiors, they exhaust the channels available within the corporation, including going to the board of directors.

  35. Whistle-Blowing (cont) In order for whistle-blowing to be morally obligatory however, two further conditions are given: 4. He [or she] must have documented evidence that would convince a reasonable, impartial observer that his [or her] view of the situation is correct and the company policy wrong. 5. There must be strong evidence that making the information public will in fact prevent the threatened serious harm.

  36. Summary • NASA knew about O-ring issue • Management ignored the advice of professional engineers • Space program set back several years • Some good changes at NASA resulted

  37. If the “Ethics Rope” Breaks, Ethics We all lose !

  38. Sara's Story A Case Study in Engineering Ethics

  39. We ask you to consider Sara’s situation from 3 viewpoints: 1. A “personal” viewpoint -- consider that “you” are the engineer facing the ethical issue. 2. An “impersonal” viewpoint -- assume you are aware of the situation, but not directly involved. 3. A “responsible” viewpoint -- assume that you are directly responsible for future decisions.

  40. Sara… by the Lake • Sara has been reported to her HKIE Engineer’s Board for a possible ethics violation. • She reflects on how she got to this point.

  41. Sara… the early years • Graduated from a HKIE-accredited program • Worked under the supervision of a chartered engineer for almost 4 years • Just before she took the Chartered Engineer Exam...

  42. Sara and The Apartment Complex • Sara’s firm was retained to investigate the structural integrity of an apartment complex. • STRICT confidentiality required. • Noticed no structural problems • BUT, she did observe some apparent electrical deficiencies

  43. To Report, or NOT to Report... • Sara knew these electrical deficiencies might pose a hazard to the occupants • She knew the client didn’t want to hear bad news

  44. To Report, or NOT to Report... • She felt the strain of the strict confidentiality requirement • She did not want to damage the client relationship...

  45. The Decision... • She verbally informed the client about the problem • She made an “oblique” reference to the problem in her report

  46. Those Nagging Doubts... • Later Sara learned the client did not disclose any of her concerns about the electrical deficiencies • She struggled with whether she should have been more persistent in making her concerns known. • She eventually put it out of her mind.

  47. Questions for Discussion • As she felt the strain of the strict confidentiality and neither to damage the client relationship, she struggled with whether she should have been more persistent in making her concerns known. • Based on the “Code of Ethics for Engineers”, how did Sara resolve the conflict in ethical standards with the client?

  48. How can an Engineer resolve a conflict in ethical standards with his client? • For instance, engineers are expected to investigate products for safety even if the client does not explicitly demand it. • The public expects that engineers will do what is necessary to protect them, than what is merrily required by the client, even if that may cause conflicts with their clients. (Rule 3 of the Code) • However, when disagreements over ethical standards arise between engineers and their clients, it is the decision of the engineer to either quit or continue work on the project