1.0 Introduction Ethics is the study of the characteristics of morals, and involves the moral choices made by individuals as they interact with other persons. Engineers need to be aware of ethics as they make choices during their professional practice of engineering. Engineering ethics will be defined as the rules and standards governing the conduct of engineers in their roles as professionals . Most engineering educational institutions include discussion of ethics in their curriculum; in fact the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) has mandated that engineering educational programs include ethics i their undergraduate n curriculum. Some institutions require a specific course in engineering ethics; others require their students to take a Humanities course (such as Philosophy) on ethics and morals. Our MAE department at MU has decided to focus on engineering ethics in two courses: MAE 1000 (Introduction to Mechanical Engineering), which is primarily a freshman course; and MAE 4980 (Capstone Design), which is a senior course taken in the student’s final semester. Engineering ethics is also discussed in other courses throughout the MAE curriculum. It is important for engineering students to study engineering ethics so that they will be prepared to make (sometimes difficult) ethical decisions during their professional careers. As you read this handbook, you will note that many case studies in engineering ethics do not have a single clear-cut correct answer, but may have many correct solutions, where some solutions are better than others. Therefore, ethical problems can be similar to open-ended engineering design problems, where multiple solutions exist. The purpose of this handbook is to provide students with an introduction to engineering ethics. The goals of this handbook include 1) fostering an increased awareness of ethical behavior, 2) presenting the accepted codes of ethics for professional engineering societies, and 3) presenting engineering case studies that illustrate ethical (or unethical) decisions. It is our hope that this handbook will invigorate and supplement the discussion of ethics in our MAE courses.
2.0 The Engineering Profession Engineering practice can be defined as a “profession,” as opposed to an “occupation” or “job.” A profession has the following attributes: • • Work requires sophisticated skills, judgment, and exercise of discretion (work is not routine) Membership in the profession requires formal education
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Special societies (controlled by members of the profession) establish standards for admission into the profession and conduct of its members Significant positive public service results from the practice of the profession
Obviously, law and medicine are professions, and their practices are regulated by strong societies such as the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Bar Association (ABA). Engineering is a profession, but differs from law and medicine in the following ways: • • • Most engineers are not self-employed, but work for large companies (the exceptions include civil engineers and consulting engineers) Education is different: only a BS degree is required to practice engineering Engineering societies are not as powerful as the AMA or ABA, since BS degree holders can practice engineering without a Professional License
3.0 Codes of Ethics Codes of ethics have been established by various professional engineering societies, such as the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), etc. These codes serve as a framework for ethical judgment for a professional engineer. The codes also express the rights, duties, and obligations of the members of the profession. Obviously, the codes of ethics are not comprehensive enough to cover all possible ethical dilemmas that an engineer might...
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