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Engineering Ethics

Mahadik P., R #11361998

Abstract—This paper discusses the different practices involved
in understanding engineering ethics at the graduate level. The
practices involved are towards development of professional
studies. Several methods such as rubric system and cronbach’s
analysis are discussed for better understanding of ethical
dilemma in electrical engineers.
Index Terms—Ethics, engineering ethics, dilemma, code of
thics

I. INTRODUCTION

W

ITH the celerity in which mankind is making progress
in Science and Technology, it is evident that a particular
notion, idea or a concept developed in the past, will be put into
use to augment or built a new scientific concept or a new
technology. In such a situation, it will be inappropriate if the
individual who begets the notion, idea or a concept is not
given substantial recognition for his / her work in the past, on
which new theories or concepts are developed. Although the
morality of the developer of a new scientific concept or a new
technology is not under question; it is essential for a scientist
or a technologist to be aware of the appropriate and
inappropriate practices to be performed while presenting his /
her work to the world. Every scientist and an engineer have an
ode to the society by a significant contribution through their
work. Engineering ethics evolves from applied ethics to
structure engineering practices in a righteous manner. It
confines the practice of engineering and develops a discipline
to all the practitioners of engineering stream towards their
clientele, academicians and upcoming engineering students.
This paper will primarily discuss the practices, case studies
and initiatives undertaken to develop ethical practices in
electrical engineers.
II. ENGINEERING ETHICS – A BRIEF OVERVIEW
Ethics is a righteous practice an individual should always
have. Ethical reasoning has its own virtue, where an argument
can be correct or incorrect depending on an individual’s
ethical perspective. Recently, technical corporations have
started incorporating ethical offices in their organizations; to
ensure appropriate engineering practices leading to success
and prosperity of the organization instead of arguments and
Submitted for review on 1st May, 2015. The work was supported by the
Department of Electrical Engineering, Texas Tech University.
The author is a graduate student at the Department of Electrical
Engineering
at
Texas
Tech
University,
Lubbock
(e-mail:
pranav.mahadik@ttu.edu).

retaliations on moral grounds between the employees [1].
Ethical thinking depends on what an individual feels is right or
wrong. It depends on what the individual has been practicing
in his / her engineering profession. The ethical aspects for an
electrical engineering have its inception from the fact whether
that individual firmly believes in the qualification of electrical
engineering as an ethical profession. Engineering involves in
the betterment of existing technologies or development of new
technologies. Hence, from the philosophical perspective,
engineering ethics is fortified on the following philosophical
aspects viz.; 1) Technological anarchy 2) Technophilia 3)
Technophobia 4) Appropriate Technology [2]. Such a
fortification develops ethical roots in an electrical engineering
student pertaining to their duties and responsibilities as
electrical engineers towards the society [2].
Electrical engineers should be aware of the experimental
nature of electrical engineering [2]. Hence, all the precautions
and practices involved in an effective outcome through
electrical engineering experiments should be acquainted to
electrical engineers. Moreover, public safety, design and
development and an engineer’s camaraderie with their
management team counterparts is also a brief matter of
concern from the ethical perspective [2].
Ethical thinking is based on several aspects. Most of the
initial thought process for an electrical engineer is based on
his / her intuitions. It is these intuitions which lead to further
development of an idea or a procedural understanding to
approach a problem [3]. However, mere intuitions and no facts
is again not an ethical approach towards engineering. Hence,
all the intuitions should be substantiated with some facts or
findings at later stages of the work. With the development of
technology, electrical engineers need to be aware about their
social responsibilities. All the technological development
should lead to commercialization of those technologies. Aim
should be to benefit maximum number of people with
maximum number of manufactured products. To summarize, it
is a utilitarianism method to be targeted by an Electrical
Engineer while practicing his / her profession [3].

In one finding by Loui et al. The dilemma always performs an acid test on the morality of that engineer. all the design and development done by the engineers should be focused towards safety improvement and health amelioration of the public. . Training in ethical engineering and understanding of several case studies pertaining to engineering ethics resolves such a kind of untoward situation for an engineer [3]. it was observed that undergraduate students in engineering learn professionalism from their peers. actions taken towards such betterment should be validated by the product performance. had it not been for visionary president J. NEED FOR ENGINEERING ETHICS It is a need which leads to the development of technology. A similar initiative is presented by Hunt et al wherein the school of engineering at the University of Puerto Rico – Mayaguez (UPRM) designed and developed course to develop professional integrity in their students [8]. It was later after dropping the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the project team members realized the lack of social responsibility they demonstrated through their actions [4]. Any technological development does not substantiate its functionality in worst case scenario. Thus.Kennedy. Thus. A rationale and trained professional engineer should not fall in such a quandary. an ethical awareness for the customer as well as the designer helps in resolving such an issue. However. A group of 92 students was encouraged to write on ‘waste electronics and its effect on ecosystem and public health’ [7]. From the perspective of ethical engineering. For an instance. IV. their technical communication from professional ethics is weak. The brilliance of intellect invested in development of the Manhattan project [4] was futile for the benefit of the mankind. Ethical virtues such as these can only be developed by incorporating engineering ethics in an academic curriculum. the amount of students with basic literacy #1 and basic literacy #2 are very less (below 50%) as compared to ethical literacy. if an undergraduate is pursuing an internship in an organization. developed a proposition to substantiate the need of engineering ethics [5]. every electrical engineering department should encourage students to pursue an internship as it not only hones their technical skill sets but also develops a student as a professional engineer [6]. Hence. According to Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Moreover. It was founded by this research that students are expressive towards ethical understanding of a problem. it can be inferred from Loui et al findings that for an academic institute. However. a balance should be struck between academic curriculum and industrial exposure for the students. engineering ethics is an integral part of any engineer’s professional protocols. where he conjectured the availability of the nuclear energy as a boon or a curse [4]. The technological commercialization harps on strong assurances as compared to less substantial claims pertaining to the product [5]. It is essential for an engineer to be aware of the ethical practices and should be undergoing a formal training for the same. it would have been impossible for mankind to step on the lunar surface. may lead to untoward situations. this concludes that although ethical nature of student is present. Such a kind of technical communication is tabulated in Table I (adapted from Wilson et al) [7]: TABLE I SKILL LEVELS OBSERVED FOR MULTI LAYERED LITERACIES OF TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION (%N) Literacy Basic Literacy #1 Basic Literacy #2 Technological Literacy Rhetorical Literacy Ethical Literacy Critical Literacy Novice Developing Competent Exemplary 49% (45) 27% (25) 23% (21) 1% (1) 34% (31) 42% (39) 24% (22) 0% (0) 3% (3) 14% (13) 48% (44) 35% (32) 2% (2) 17% (16) 49% (45) 32% (29) 1% (1) 9% (8) 88% (81) 2% (2) 2% (2) 14% (13) 61% (56) 23% (21) Adapted from Wilson et al [7] As can be observed from Table I. Such constraints in product specifications lead to ethical reasoning on the validation of the products. Such a kind of dilemma is very prominent in engineering ethics. no choice is right or wrong. For instance. As a result. The circumstance on which an electrical engineer makes a particular decision differs and cannot be justified all the time. Einstein’s dilemma is a famous of 1939.K. 88% of competent students have an ethical literacy. such boundaries. Hence. Advancement in engineering is solely dependent on the boundaries that mankind creates.III. if not defined properly. It is the freedom provided to technologists which leads to successful creation of manmade wonders. the power window of a luxury car does not ascertain its operation ability during floods or tsunamis [5]. A typical study of several issues faced due to lack of ethical engineering knowledge was demonstrated by Wilson et al. Technological development should be treated as a boon to mankind. chances of him or her being professionally ethical are more as compared to the one who merely take engineering ethics classes [6]. Such issues leads to the development of training that will lead to ethical and professional studies for the students. An important aspect of this curriculum designed by Hunt et al is the introduction of law along with ethical morality [8]. On the contrary. relatives and colleagues who are engineers. The course focused on some of the following aspects: 1) Professional Integrity 2) Engineering 3) Social responsibility 4) Technological impact 5) Global awareness [8]. As a result. Such events may lead to dilemmas. Bhattacharya et al. ISSUES FACED DUE TO LACK OF ENGINEERING ETHICS Any situation will put an electrical engineer in a two – state mentality. it becomes a difficulty when writing down those points of view. For example.

Although essential aspects of the issues pertaining ethical engineering are discussed. any situation pertaining to ethical engineering should be evaluated through rubric method [9]. For an instance. This proposition was validated by Wolfe et al by using Cronbach’s alpha parameter to determine consistency in the student’s response during a situation that involves ethical decision. Several techniques are developed for solving the case studies and they shall be subsequently discussed. the most important problem of ethical dilemma is a major problem for all the issues in engineering ethics. there might be a conflict existing for ethics between a group and an individual . a generalized law factor is essential issue to be addressed for engineering ethics. the focus of this section will be confined to those case studies pertaining to Electrical Engineering and discussed further in that direction. it cannot be generalized because several laws change from location to location.902 0. Thus. CASE STUDIES IN ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING PERTAINING TO ENGINEERING ETHICS Fig. Care should be taken that suitable regulations are developed that lay a ground work for resolving issues in engineering ethics. Thus.Figure 1 depicts the diagram which was used to represent the combination of ethics. However. Seven of 44 executives suffered a 30 days of prison and the parties were subjected to conviction. Another aspect of issues is to understand In order to address the issues faced by engineers during a decision making situation. This quality defines the ethical integrity of that individual. law and morality designed for the curriculum [8]: the limitations of an engineering student when it comes to making decision.740 0. it is quite likely that the problem will be a type where there is no right or wrong answer. Table II shows the consistency in response of a student when evaluated through a rubric cube method [9]: TABLE II CRONBACH’S ALPHA FOR RATER CONSISTENCY Case Alpha Tools Trees Heart BioVis Overall 0. the decision making and the genuineness of an individual 2) Values A strong belief and firm faith decide value for an individual. Such instances lead to a specific decision making direction for an existing situation. it is useful to have a prior knowledge of similar instances occurred in the past. There are several popular engineering ethics case studies available and discussed in engineering ethics classes.1. Hence. It is the ethical nature of the equipment manufacturers that is brought to notice. Such a quality decides what honesty an individual will demonstrate in a particular situation 3) Morals Morals have their grounds based on values one learns in life. morality and ethics is presented by Houi et al [8]. V. the initiative undertaken by UPRM is imperative to impart knowledge on legal aspects of ethical engineering. In such a case. Rubric evaluation system is one such example.880 0.875 Adapted from Wolfe et al [9] The trend and consistency as observed from Table II is a good indication of the use of rubric method to clarify the dilemma in the students. Hence. Such a dilemma as discussed earlier does not have an explicit solution. although the co – relation between law. Price fixing scandal of early 1960s: Based on the article written by Owen et al and Alger et al. While dealing with any engineering problem. morality and ethics [8] It is an important aspect from the ethical engineering point of view to understand the legal issues involved during breach of ethical regulations. Such an ethical nature depends on the following [11]: 1) Character An ornament for an individual. case studies also help in refining the estimation developed by an engineer in that situation [10]. a book was published based on the electricity price hike scandal that occurred in early 1960s [11]. Wolfe et al proposed a rubric method to assess the response of a student. A. The following aspects of the case should be understood. It may happen that ethics for an individual are far different than that for a group. A conspiracy charge and Sherman anti – trust violation charge was subjected against these manufacturers. The US district court in Philadelphia filed charges against 29 electrical – equipment manufacturers and 44 of their executives. Many such issues are still unaddressed. Morals help an individual to make a judgment on the ethical grounds for an individual 4) Ethics These define how a particular sect or a faction behaves and orders.875 0. Co-relationship between law.

studying case studies is an important aspect of engineering ethics. From the perspective of electrical engineering. 5) Is it possible for the manufacturer to alter his manufacturing capabilities from the customers point of view This question again reflects the ethical behavior of the manufacturer. However. Factor which might affect the public safety should be avoided . AIChE have their own set of Engineering Ethics codes pertaining to Electrical Engineering and Chemical Engineering respectively. It is a day to day practice in electrical engineering to perform activities. experiments and design experiments based on standards. 3) Is it ethical to send a low quality steel to the customer This question helps in answering the ethical issues involved. 2) Is there any conflict between the specifications of the customer and the manufacturers manufacturing capabilities? Such a question helps in understanding the technical details of the problem involved and how to resolve it based on facts and figures. Steel coils in a steel manufacturing company The case encountered was witnessed by Jordan et al in one steel manufacturing company [12]. Thus. However. health and public benefits are the most priority while developing a technology. the low quality steel pertaining to the core of the electric motor should not be shipped. 4) Should the manufacturer be concerned on the throughput a customer receives on the steel supplied Such a question answers the ethical integrity of the manufactuer. A learning outcome from such an event clearly depicts the following conclusions [11] that 1) Ethical values should be discussed and delved among individuals. Several institutes and organizations have come forward and developed their own standards for engineering ethics. it is in the manufacturers benefit to maintain a relationship with the customer by regularly asking the success the customer has received due to the manufacturer. an ethical dilemma occurs. B. it is on the manufacturers benefit if such a consignment is shipped. the steel manufacturer insists on the use of different pressures suitable to the manufacturing plant. The steel manufactured will be shipped to customer which will use this steel to develop core of electric motors. Although the steel manufacturing company has received specifications from the engineering and design team of the electric motor company. Religion has no scientific background and should be respected without any scientific rationale. Following are the relevant questions as excerpted by Jordan et al: 1) Hardness testing of the steel To ensure what hardness of the steel is available and manufactured and compare the same with the steel required for the core of the electric motors. The primary benefit of case studies is the development of a situation and applying ethical engineering principles to the same in given amount of limitations. In ideal cases. VI. 6) Should the manufacturer suggest technical compromises to the customer This question reflects the integrity and honesty of the manufacturer by accepting the constraints in production line at his / her end and honestly accepting the same by projecting it to the customer Eventually. Similar standards and regulations are developed to practice engineering ethics. It is apparent that their actions were highly unethical. it is an ethical way to provide the required output. IEEE code of ethics is diligently followed [3]: 1) Safety Safety. 2) It is not always necessary that every fraternity will have the same ethical values 3) Priority should be decided on ethical issues as compared to other issues lesser than the once deciding an integrity of an individual. It is often believed that people with a religious belief are the most ‘ethical’ people [11]. Such a question helps in developing a platform for qualitative inputs. such a feedback ensures the ethical genuinity of an individual. A legal action on these events is recorded by the Court of Law and several penalties are enforced on the guilty. The rationale behind the behavior of the equipment manufactures is defined based on these five points. Such a situation shall deal with question answers suitable for the resolving of ethical dilemma. If in a case where the manufacturer supplied a soft steel. Also. Hence. Few of the institutes are mentioned as follows [3]: 1) National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) 2) National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) 3) American Society of Civil Engineers 4) American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) 5) American Institute of Chemical Engineering (AIChE) 6) Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) 7) Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology 8) National Institute for Engineering Ethics These standards develop their own code for engineering ethics on the basis of their stream of working. If the manufacturer alters the manufacturing process for the customer. The engineer under consideration encounters an ethical dilemma of whether to meet the specifications as per the customer or supply steel suitable for making core motor parts. The National Institute for Engineering Ethics develops general rules whereas organizations such as IEEE. DIFFERENT STANDARDS IMPLEMENTED TO PRACTICE ENGINEERING ETHICS Standards and regulations help in organizing an activity. care should be taken that other customer outputs are not affected by the same. such an activity certainly helps an electrical engineer to solve ethical dilemma in a situation. This question thereby solves the dilemma based on the facts and figures discussed previously.5) Religion It is an abstract form of belief.

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