Engineers and Ethical Responsibilities

February 27, 2015

I occasionally make comments about “engineers” vs. “scientists” and their inherent skills, expertise, and value. I believe that society (as sadly presented by media and government) puts too much faith in what they say, how they say it, and their capabilities. Too many people base their own thinking, and defend it to others, on “scientists say” appeal to authority. I sort of understand the political pressures which cause this.

Regardless of whether the “scientists” are correct or incorrect, wise or devious, few if any scientists are obligated to act under an special or legal ethical obligation. Engineers in most countries are “licensed” as an important and “learned” professional, whereas “scientists” are not. Engineers have well-defined professional societies with ethical policies.

Dr. Drang has posted an excellent summary of this related to computer programmers calling themselves “software engineers”. To me the same issue applies with other jobs, e.g. “scientists”.

He reminds me of the “six fundamental canons” of of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)

  1. Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.
  2. Perform services only in areas of their competence.
  3. Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.
  4. Act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees.
  5. Avoid deceptive acts.
  6. Conduct themselves honorably, responsibly, ethically, and lawfully so as to enhance the honor, reputation, and usefulness of the profession.

– See more at: http://www.nspe.org/resources/ethics/code-ethics

I can see where the absence of such ethical behaviour can get society into difficulty.

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