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In the recent past, there has been a widespread interest and concern on engineering ethics. Several engineering universities are getting increasingly interested in engineering ethics and are now taking the issue very seriously than ever before. As a result of this sudden interest in the discipline, we have seen the introduction of a new course in engineering: engineering ethics. This has been facilitated through funding by the National Science Foundation. Perhaps the growing concern on engineering ethics as a course has been prompted by the multivariate and complex ethical issues that the contemporary engineers are facing as they go about their daily work. As a matter of fact, today's engineers face diverse competing as well as conflicting demands on ethics. These demands are obtained from the clients, employers, other employees, communities, as well as personal objectives. As all the above demands combine, there is still no room for an engineer to deliver or act in a manner that is not acceptable. Thus the engineer has to hold three factors supreme as he/she go about their work: professionalism in execution of work, knowledge and professional advancement through research, reflection as well as sharing through conferences and journals and thirdly that engineers participate in developing and molding of new professionals through mentoring. Thus through the application of rightful elaborate ethical decisions is of paramount importance in the pursuit of excellence in engineering.
Ethical conduct in the professional context
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The disciplines of professional responsibility and engineering ethics have rapidly grown in interest in the modern day practice. A number of arguments have been provided as explanations to the new dimension of thinking. One of the most important and apt explanation has been the unprecedented technological growth as well as its far reaching and complex impacts. Thus it has been widely accepted that in such a situation, there is intense need for careful and responsible decisions from all engineers. In view of the diverse responsibilities that engineers are faced with as they make decisions on how to be ethical, conflicts, due to the ethical problems as well as dilemmas ensue (Wujek & Johnson, 1992). In a general perspective, ethics is used to refer to the set of rules and regulations that are designed for people to follow as they go about their life. To be precise, ethics functions as a means to control human behavior in diverse settings. In relation to engineering ethics, a number of aspects are considered as being imperative. Actually, for a long time, moral theories and moral thinking have been exercised in traditional intellectual environments. It is no wonder that ethics occupies a whole branch in philosophy.
Ethics in the professional arena does not only involve the engineering profession but also virtually all professions. All professionals interact during the execution of their duties. Thus the need for professionals to exhibit ethics all the time cannot be underscored. Several areas of ethics are growing in a great way in engineering profession. For instance, computer ethics has come out as a very essential area that requires high level of ethical reasoning and behavior. In their training and operation, engineers have a personalized ethical conduct. This is mainly contributed by factors such as religion, socialization, upbringing and other interpersonal attributes. Nevertheless, there are many cases whereby some engineers sideline their personal regard for ethics; treating the profession as distinct from their personal ethics. In fact, many engineers are of the opinion that moral problems should only be the preserve of the managers and officials from the government. Thus the emergence of engineering ethics cannot have come at a better time. There is vast number of issues that engineering ethics aims at addressing. The issues are actually the normal day to day issues that a practicing engineer encounters. Similarly, there are other cases that involve whistleblowing. They are highly publicized.
The first issue addressed in engineering ethics is public safety and welfare. Engineers are responsible for the safety, health as well as the welfare of the public as they conduct their professional activities (Michael, Harris, Pritchard & Lowery, 1995). Secondly, engineers need to demonstrate their consent on risks related to their assessment of engineering projects that involve risks. Thus there is a varying level to which public inputs in engineering decisions are considered. A third issue that engineering ethics delves into has to do with diverse conflicts of interest. In several contexts, engineers are faced with scenarios with demands that are conflicting. These may come from clients, employers besides personal inclinations of the engineers themselves. Data integrity and representation is another issue of great significance in engineering ethics. Misrepresentation and falsification of data being common in various researches on science have led to several liability cases on public. Similarly, the practice of whistleblowing has been considered as a very crucial element of engineering ethics. Through it, high profile illegal and unethical practices have been uncovered. Job choice is yet another ethical issue that engineers have to contend with. There are diverse sectors that an engineer can decide to venture into. The job demands on these sectors vary in great extents. Therefore, an engineer has to decide which areas suite him/her best. Perhaps the most important and the pillar of engineering ethics is the accountability that engineers owe their customers and clients. This ethical issue is most imperative for all professionals.
As they go about their work, engineers are required to adhere to certain codes of ethics. The functions of these codes of conduct are diverse and include regulations of actions for the engineers, basis on which actions of indiscipline are corrected, stressing of demonstration of ethical behavior at all times, education and training and creation of rightful public image on engineering profession. Indeed, it is not possible to exhaust the ethical codes observed by engineers. There are several forms of ethical codes that govern the engineering profession. For instance, the NSPE engineers' code of ethics offers a decision tool for the Board. This is mainly used when judgment ahs to be made on ethical cases. The IEEE Engineers' Guidelines dissent on ethical grounds. These cover complaints and other concerns regarding engineering ethical matters. Another code of ethics in engineering profession is the NSPE Code of ethics. This contains the recent and new version of engineers' code of ethics being practiced. Judgments made on these codes are mainly useful in educating members on what is held ethical. ASME Code of ethics gives a description of ethical practice for members of ASME. Similarly, ASCE code of ethics contains descriptions and guidelines that need to be practiced. This code also gives the relevant methods to be followed on execution, information background as well as education. ACM Code of ethics deals with computer ethics.
Other codes of ethics governing engineers in various areas include: the IEEE code of ethics which is aspirational in nature as it articulates ideals held important by IEEE members. The APS code of ethics focuses on ethics in research (National Academy of Sciences, 2010). ACS code of ethics offers elaborate information plagiarism, employment of professionalism as well as guidelines on chemical research. The SPUSA Pledge is a student initiated pledge on what to hold high in their engineering profession. APA ethics code is complete with preamble, introduction, principles and standards on ethics. Similarly, the IIT Online Ethics code maintains a collection of ethical codes including scientific ethical codes. Several others such as HPS Ethics code, UWO-Ethics on software, SAGE-AU ethics code, AIChE Ethics code, Universal Declaration of Engineers' Rights, Creed and Canons for Surveyors', Regulations on Land Surveying, ABET code of ethics, AAES Model ethics code and AMA ethics code. The above ethical codes are essential for the effective functioning of the engineers in various areas of specialization. The codes listed above form the foundation for ethical behavior and maintenance of professionalism.
Case study A: Security Software
As a designer of the software, Greg is obliged to ensure that the software is not only safe and secure for use but also that it is in accordance to any legislation governing its distribution. In this case, Greg is faced with a conflicting scenario. He is supposed to do the work he was hired by his company for. Similarly, he is not only expected to develop good software but safe and efficient. This is the demand that consumers of his software put on him. Above all, Greg is a United State's citizen. He should be well versed with all legislation as ignorance is no defense. . Therefore, it is responsibility to abide by the laws of the land. Otherwise, he may find himself in very serious trouble with the law Greg's responsibility towards the organization is that he has to be hardworking, ethical, obedience to his seniors, observing all the values and norms of the company. For instance, he is not supposed to divulge confidential information to competing companies as his organization can fail. Similarly, he is supposed to do his best to ensure that his organization remains ahead of its competitors by doing his level best to ensure that the quality of products from his company are of high quality. Besides, Greg also has a responsibility towards himself. As a matter of fact, he is supposed to ensure that his personal integrity and morals are not compromised by his job. He should therefore strike a balance between the demands of his company and his personal life.
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Case study D: Cell Phone Signals
If I found myself in Andrew's situation, I would seek to make Diane understand the gravity of the matter that I was trying to put forward. I do this by presenting to her concrete evidence of all factual issues pertaining to the signal radiations from the cell phone the company manufactured. If Diane seemed adamant on the issue, I would consider sharing the matter with someone senior. Some options that could be fair to the company and the customers would include recalling the cell phones already sold for repair at a subsidized fee for the customers. Similarly, the company could consider adjusting radiation level on any new cell phones manufactured as from that day onwards. Meanwhile, the company could also alert it customers on using the cell phones. It is imperative that the company undertook a serious research on matter and warn customers from using them until further information was obtained. This would demonstrate the commitment of the company towards public health issues. In the event that Diane denied Andrew any allowance to research on the matter, he can talk with more senior authority in the company. Similarly, Andrew can report the issue to the IEEE to investigate on the matter. This is due to the fact that Andrew has a responsibility to the public and that he should also be professional.
Case E: Overhead Transmission Lines
When the contractors realize that the area on which they are supposed to construct a subdivision has high voltage power lines, informs the real estate company which subsequently declines to install the mesh for protection, the engineers should not undertake the work. In fact, if the real estate company completely refuses to heed the advice, the contractor should drop the contract completely. Abandoning the contract alone is not enough. The engineers should report the matter to the authorities concerned. This will ensure that the company does not hire another contractor to build risky homes to be used by the public. In the event that power companies put high voltage on homes that are already built in a residential area, it should take responsibility of the cost of installing safety mesh on the houses. The burden of installing security protection from high voltages should be wholly borne by the power company. The home owners or the real estate company should not bear any cost whatsoever.