In addition to technical expertise and professionalism, engineers are expected to maintain high ethical standards in their work. Many engineering professional societies have written their own code of ethics for their members. Moreover, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), that sets the standards for engineering programs in the US, specified in its Engineering Criteria 2000, that engineering graduates should have an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility.
By the end of the course, students should be able to identify and resolve a
variety of ethical problems that arise in the process of solving engineering
The following is a set of 5 short cases for introductory class discussion:
- Chemical Engineer working for the EPA, responsible for investigating motor vehicle engine pollution control standards.
- Engineer working for a high-tech company that makes extensive use of a trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent that causes cancer and affects the liver, kidneys, and nervous system.
- Chemical Engineer working for a small company, responsible for taking periodic samples of the
effluent in a river.
- Two engineers worked together for 3 years on a major research project and had nearly completed a paper for joint presentation to the national meeting of their engineering society. One of them was fired.
- Engineer working for the EPA, responsible for cleaning out a site that has been cited as a major pollution source.
Resources on Engineering Ethics
Some very interesting and thoroughly discussed cases can be found in the resources (links) below.
University of Texas at Austin Studies in Ethics, Safety, and Liability for Engineers
- Web Clearinghouse for Engineering and Computing Ethics.
- Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science. Click on "cases" to review 36 cases considered by the Board of Ethical Review (BER) of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE).
- Engineering Ethics Program at Texas A&M University
- Markkula Center for Applied
Ethics at Santa Clara University
- National Institute for Engineering Ethics.
- Engineering Ethics Module, Murdough Center for Engineering
Professionalism, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas.
The Space Shuttle Challenger
Questions on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident