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Engineering Ethics

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  1. Engineering Ethics ECE 486

  2. Engineering ethics • Engineering Ethics is the study of moral issues and decisions confronting individuals and organizations engaged in engineering. • The Study of related questions about moral ideals, character, policies and relationship of people and corporations involved in technological activity. Mike W. Martin and Roland Schinzinger, Ethics in Engineering, Second Edition, McGraw-Hill, 1989.

  3. Engineering ethics • Teaching engineering ethics can achieve at least four desirable outcomes: • a) increased ethical sensitivity; • b) increased knowledge of relevant standards of conduct; • c) improved ethical judgment; and • d) improved ethical will-power (i.e., a greater ability to act ethically when one wants to). Davis, M. “Teaching ethics across the engineering curriculum.” Proceedings of International Conference on Ethics in Engineering and Computer Science. Available online at:

  4. Engineering ethics • “Ethical responsibility...involves more than leading a decent, honest, truthful life. . . . And it involves something much more than making wise choices when such choices suddenly, unexpectedly present themselves. Our moral obligations must . . . include a willingness to engage others in the difficult work of defining the crucial choices that confront technological society” Langdon Winner, 1990. “Engineering ethics and political imagination.”pp. 53-64 in Broad and Narrow Interpretations of Philosophy of Technology: Philosophy and Technology 7, edited by P. Durbin. Boston: Kluwer. Cited in Joseph R. Herkert, “Continuing and Emerging Issues in Engineering Ethics Education,” The Bridge, 32(3), 2002.

  5. Examples of Engineering Codes of Ethics • Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) • National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) • Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Some ideas for this lecture was based on the work of Dr. Jerry C. Collins Department of Biomedical Engineering, Vanderbilt University

  6. ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) Code of EthicsThe Fundamental Principles Engineers uphold and advance the integrity, honor, and dignity of the engineering profession by: I. using their knowledge and skill for the enhancement of human welfare; II. being honest and impartial, and serving with fidelity the public, their employers, and their clients; III. striving to increase the competence and prestige of the engineering profession; and, IV. supporting the professional and technical societies of their disciplines.

  7. ABET Code of Ethics of Engineers The Fundamental Canons 1. Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public in the performance of their professional duties. 2. Engineers shall perform services only in the areas of their competence. 3. Engineers shall issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner. 4. Engineers shall act in professional matters for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees, and shall avoid conflicts of interest. 5. Engineers shall build their professional reputation on the merit of their services and shall not compete unfairly with others. 6. Engineers shall act in such a manner as to uphold and enhance the honor, integrity, and dignity of the profession. 7. Engineers shall continue their professional development throughout their careers and shall provide opportunities for the professional development of those engineers under their supervision.

  8. Ethics in ABET Program Outcomes • Engineering programs must demonstrate that their graduates have • Ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, engineering • Ability to design and conduct expts, analyze and interpret data • Ability to design system, component, or process • Ability to function on multidisciplinary teams • Ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems • An understanding of professional and ethical responsibility • Ability to communicate effectively • Broad education necessary to understand engineering impact in a global and societal context • Recognition of need for and ability to engage in life-long learning • Knowledge of contemporary issues • Ability to use techniques, skills and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice

  9. Engineering Ethical Education Issues to be Considered • Ethical implications of public policy relevant to engineering: • Sustainable development • Risk to people and environment, product liability • Ethical treatment of the other • Information technology • Culturally embedded engineering practice (institutional and political aspects of engineering, such as contracting, regulation, and technology transfer) • Macroethical issues (e.g., overconsumption) • Herkert, The Bridge, 32(3), 2002

  10. Sustainable Development The guiding principle of sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable development recognizes the interdependence of environmental, social and economic systems and promotes equality and justice through people empowerment and a sense of global citizenship. Whilst we cannot be sure what the future may bring, a preferable future is a more sustainable one. Encyclopedia of Sustainable Development

  11. Engineering ethicsAncient Engineering • Imhotep: The first engineer known by name and achievement is Imhotep, builder of the Step Pyramid at Saqqarah, Egypt (~2700 BC)

  12. Oaths compared • The oath of the profession of medicine attributed to Hippocrates appears similar to the works of Imhotep, who was also an engineer and architect. • Imhotep "I will adopt the regimen which is my best judgment beneficial to my patients, and not for their injury or for any wrongful purpose and I will not give poison to anyone, though be asked ....... " • Hippocrates “….I will follow that system of regimen which, according to my ability and judgment, I consider for the benefit of my patients, and abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous. I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; …..” From lecture by Professor Jim Jackson. Southern Cross University on Academic Misconduct.

  13. History • 20th century • 1946 - the National Society of Professional Engineers released its Canons of Ethics for Engineers and Rules of Professional Conduct, which evolved to the current Code of Ethics • 1954 - creation of the Board of Ethical Review

  14. Code of Ethics • The main objectives of the engineering code of ethics are to (i) protect the public, (ii) protect and further develop the profession.

  15. Code of Ethics • Engineering Ethics does not have a single uniform system, or standard, of ethical conduct across the entire profession • National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) • American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) • American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) • Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) • IEEE code of ethics (IEEE)

  16. IEEE Code of Ethics • Last revised in 1990. • All members are required to abide by the Code. • Stated on membership form which they sign • Violations of the Code are subject to appropriate action.

  17. IEEE Code of Ethics • We, the members of the IEEE, in recognition of the importance of our technologies in affecting the quality of life throughout the world, and in accepting a personal obligation to our profession, its members and the communities we serve, do hereby commit ourselves to the highest ethical and professional conduct and agree:

  18. 1.Safety, health and welfare of the public • to accept responsibility in making decisions consistent with the safety, health and welfare of the public, and to disclose promptly factors that might endanger the public or the environment;

  19. 2. Conflicts of interest • to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest whenever possible, and to disclose them to affected parties when they do exist;

  20. 3. Honest and realistic on claims • to be honest and realistic in stating claims or estimates based on available data;

  21. 4. Reject bribery • to reject bribery in all its forms;

  22. 5.Improve understanding of technology • to improve the understanding of technology, its appropriate application, and potential consequences;

  23. 6. Technical competence • to maintain and improve our technical competence and to undertake technological tasks for others only if qualified by training or experience, or after full disclosure of pertinent limitations;

  24. 7. Honesty in criticism and credit • to seek, accept, and offer honest criticism of technical work, to acknowledge and correct errors, and to credit properly the contributions of others;

  25. 8. Fair • to treat fairly all persons regardless of such factors as race, religion, gender, disability, age, or national origin;

  26. 9. Truthful • to avoid injuring others, their property, reputation, or employment by false or malicious action;

  27. 10. Supportive • to assist colleagues and co-workers in their professional development and to support them in following this code of ethics.

  28. Ethical Aspects of Engineering Practice Conflict of Interest:  Occurs whenever an engineer is in a position to make a decision that can result in his/her personal gain.  Disclosure of Potential Conflict of Interest;  Competition with Former Employer  Employers Related Private Consultation After Public Employment • to the Public: • Public Safety and Welfare •  Expert Information on Public Issues; • Whistle-blowing • Volunteering to the Client:  Disclosure of Design Errors  Confidentiality  Adherence to Codes  Monitoring of Sub-Contractors Fair Trade Practices:  Intellectual Property Rights  Criticism of Competitors Competence  Inflated Claims in Advertising  Shared Credit  Maintaining Professional Standards  Letters of Recommendation  Signing off on Drawing to the Profession:  Recruiting/Service the Public Institutions for the public good;  Participation in Professional Societies

  29. The Challenger Case • After much delays Challenger’s 8th flight was set • Up to 28th Jan 1986 Allan McDonald of Morton – Thiokol who designed the solid–rocket booster knew the problems with the field joints on previous cold weather joints. And 28th Jan was expected to be cold.

  30. Seal experts Arnold Thompson and Roger Boisjoly of Morton – Thiokol, explained to NASA representatives how upon launch the booster rocket walls bulge and the combustion gases can blow past one or even both of the O-rings that make up the field joints. • The rings char and erode, as had been observed on many previous flights. In cold weather the problem is aggravated because the rings and the putty packing are less pliable then (more brittle) • Senior Vice President Jerry Mason told Bob Lund (Vice President Engineering) “TO TAKE OFF YOUR ENGINEERING HAT AND PUT ON YOUR MANAGEMENT HAT”. The managers (not engineers) voted that the seals COULD NOT BE SHOWN TO BE UNSAFE.

  31. The slippery slope fallacyAt what temperature was it safe to launch?Non-experts making decisions The temperature at launch was 36 F. As the rocket carrying the Challenger rose from the ground, cameras showed smoke emanating through the O-rings. Soon these turned into a flame that hit the external fuel tank and a strut holding the booster rocket.

  32. Cases - Deadline • Ruskin Manufacturing has guaranteed Parker Products that it will deliver the complete order of small machines by the 10th of the month, a Friday. Parker had already extended its deadline once. This time, it insists, the date must be met. Tim Vinson, head of quality control, had been confident the deadline would be met. But on the 8th he learns that a new component of the machines is in short supply. He thinks of several options: • Approve breaking up and regrinding the remaining supply of the old component that was being replaced. This could probably be accomplished in time, but the speed at which it would have to be done raises concerns about impurities in the process. • Approve using the old component in place of the new one. The product would still function well, and it would be unlikely that Parker would ever detect the difference. Although Parker would not be getting exactly what it ordered, the product would meet minimal safety and durability standards. • Discuss the problem with the design engineer and see what he suggests. • Which of these options would you recommend? Can you think of any other options that might be preferable? *From NSF Engineering Ethics Case Report.

  33. Engineering Ethics Case Reports • Review the following web page (or others): Your group should prepare a 10-min powerpoint presentation on one case that you will present to class and articulate an opinion on the proper ethical conduct of those involved. Let me know by e-mail which case you will present by no later than Monday.