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    Posted 07-12-2019 04:12
    Hi everyone,
    if I could get some info about teaching engineering ethics please.
    I know I need to discuss with my (undergraduate) students taking the ethics course, not only micro but also macro ethics. And I am aware that ethical behavior is affected by cultural aspects; namely, the influence of Western cultures may be different from that of the Eastern.

    Have you looked into that aspects in your engineering ethics course?

    Best wishes,



    Posted 07-15-2019 13:59
    The ethics course for engineers should be independent of cultural aspects and be focused on ensuring safe design, operation and behavior. The engineering ethics could clash with some societies where age or seniority are paramount.

    Louis Mielke
    Chemical engineer


    Posted 07-16-2019 00:17
    Louis Mielke is correct.  Engineering ethics should be specifically understood to accommodate cultural and ethnic considerations only during the evaluations of alternatives.  Occasionally, an engineering decision be affected by such.  For instance, the color of paint is not an engineering decision, but it can have an effect on the project.   On the other hand, potable water treatment can be an engineering decision that conflicts with cultural considerations, and various alternatives must be considered.  I have witnessed times when a project leader or team leader was chosen for cultural and ethnic, or seniority, reasons.  In those cases, and similar cases, it is meet that the engineering team provides accurate, safe input within economic constraints, but a bit of personal management may be required.  I was not always successful.


    Posted 07-16-2019 08:19
    The following case study shows the cultural aspects that need to be taken into account in engineering ethics.


    Posted 07-16-2019 16:06
    Stefanus, you have a good training source which separates cultural aspects from ethics to ensure the safety of the work place. Dr Gilmore, from the ethics training module, expressed his concern about a worker absorbing so much alcohol that could lead to impairment of judgement and this could cause accidents, particularly where dangerous substances or machinery are involved.
    Commercial wines have alcohol content from 5.5% to 23%. One could assume the cultural aspect would allow drinking of 5.5% and not 23% wine at lunch. To ensure a safe working environment ethics would enforce zero alcohol level in all workers. The training given to students recognizes that something that would usually be regarded as morally correct would be wrong in an engineering or work environment.

    Louis Mielke
    Chemical engineer


    Posted 07-17-2019 07:13
    Thanks Louis,
    indeed engineering ethics could involve delicate cultural issues. 
    It is therefore important to comprehend clearly between legal and moral aspects. 


    Stefanus Muryanto
    Full Professor
    UNTAG University in Semarang, Indonesia
    Bendhan Dhuwur Semarang


    Posted 07-17-2019 08:52
      |   view attached
    I have two suggestions:  1) the military cadets use something like: "I will never lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate anyone who does."  It works pretty well.
    2) the NSPE Canons of Ethics works really well. https://www.nspe.org/resources/ethics/code-ethics
    Following those, I would say that when a client or employer "goes off the rails" and does something dishonest, one can either withdraw or leave or find exculpatory evidence for one's own actions.
    An case history and example of what I consider ethical behavior would be in the attached pdf.  I have a word copy and a power point which has video and can make it available if you are interested.
    Dave Russell, PE, ASP,   DLR@mindspring.com

    [David] [Russell] [PE]
    [Global Environmental Operations, Inc.]
    [Liburn] [GA]


    Jungle Fumble.pdf   2.18 MB 1 version


    Posted 07-22-2019 15:24
    We have left the discussion of  ENGINEERING ethics, and entered into a discussion about personnel management, and safety and operational issues subsequent to personnel management issues.  The engineer's responsibility it to the technical side of things, including developing appropriate operational procedures.  Such procedures assume as the very most base level a willingness to follow the procedures and sobriety.
    I maintain that "cultural" issues such as personnel refusing to work with other personnel on the basis of race, sex, religion, caste, sect, etc., are very rarely addressed by the engineer.  An operating engineer is a technical manager, and that is different
    Mr. Russell's attachment of the NSPE code of ethics is strictly geared to the professional engineer (P.E.).  It is difficult to see where "culture" could play a part in the NSPE code.
    Those of us who have worked outside the U.S. a little may have run into situations where, say, the purchase of materials was or could have been affected by local custom or religious norm.  In the Mideast, for instance, an animal fat based lubricant would have to be pork free.  But an engineer would expect to be aware, and specify an appropriate lubricant.  Someone else would usually be expected to order, inspect, and supervise the use of the lubricant.  In the U.S. a certain amount of the steel in a project may need to be of U.S. origin.  The engineer will specify an elbow of a certain radius and grade of steel.  If the purchasing agent buys elbows made in India, that is usually not an engineering consideration.
    So, finally, what exactly is the purpose of this discussion?  If engineering ethics are being taught in Maryland or Marrakesh there should be no difference.  Limit yourself to that which you know about; provide the required personal and technical support to any team under your supervision; do not lie; do not cheat; give credit where credit is due.


    Posted 07-22-2019 21:31
    Mr. Hall apparently misread my post, and the NSPE Code.  In looking both over, I find no reference to cultural issues, but I could be wrong.   As far as working outside the US, I have worked outside the US and taught technical courses there.  
    If we cannot demand honesty and integrity from ourselves and those with whom we work and rely upon for information, then I believe that we are "whistling past the grave yard", in the hope that what we do, or say, or especially design, is based upon factual information, good data, and tests which confirm the specifications.  Without this degree of honesty, and that is not, I believe, a cultural impediment in any society, our design calculations and activities are next to worthless because what we have constructed will not work as designed for those technical reasons. 

    As far as cultural norms and how they may affect a particular project, I fail to see how that would affect the basic ideas of honesty and ethics advanced by the NSPE code.  Does it apply to Professional Engineers, yes!  Should it apply to all engineers, and be incumbent on all of us to do our best to be ethical in our dealings with each other?  Again Yes!

    [David] [Russell] [PE]
    [Global Environmental Operations, Inc.]
    [Liburn] [GA]


    Posted 07-23-2019 15:45
    No sir, you misunderstood mine.  I referenced your post, or intended to reference it, as an example of engineering responsibilities without admitting to cultural differences.  Most of the discussion on this thread had little to do with "engineering", which is generally straight forward enough, but lapped over into various personnel and personnel conduct issues.  Yes, I have had issues with personnel who had "a couple of beers at lunch", or shared some wine at lunch, etc., but they were not practicing engineers.  I have also had issues with personnel who took an afternoon siesta, and did not report back to work until later, but they usually stayed to complete their duties for the day.  That required some adjustment in my thinking, but it still was not an engineering issue.
    Consequently, I summarized the NSPE (I am not a member) :
    Limit yourself to that which you know about; provide the required personal and technical support to any team under your supervision; do not lie; do not cheat; give credit where credit is due.
    I guess I would act practice only when sober.
    I fully agree with you.  I think.
    WTH, P.E.

    William Hall
    St Marys City MD


    Posted 07-23-2019 20:07
    That is true if your (students') position(s) are truly objective engineering only. If they have a line in their job description allowing "other duties as assigned", they are likely to get non-professional engineering work. If this happens to the great majority of their students, or even a notable minority, it is worth addressing in a responsive curriculum and/or lobbying to outlaw (if it is really that bad of a thing).


    Posted 07-22-2019 13:46

    The Center for Ethical Practice of the AIChE has information that can assist you in putting together aspects of a course.  As the Chair of the Center, I would be happy to work with you off line.   On a survey of AIChE members completed in 2017, 97% stated that ethics was important or very important to engineering practice.   Additionally, the biggest issue in practice, according to our members, were engineers being asked by their managers to falsify data in reports.

    I agree with the points made to date; however, it is sometimes very difficult to separate cultural norms, morals and duties to family and country.  When it comes to laws, it is not illegal to lie to someone, but it is illegal in the USA to lie to someone while under oath.

    There are also different types of ethics:  personal, engineering and business.   Oftentimes, they all come together in certain situations.  We can discuss a suggested curriculum if you are interested.

    Deborah Grubbe, PE, CEng, FAIChE, FIChemE, NAC
    Past Chair, Licensing and Professional Development Committee
    Head, AIChE Center for Ethical Practice
    Owner and President
    Operations and Safety Solutions, Pennsylvania, USA