Responsible engineering: Gilbane gold revisited [Book Review]

Science and Engineering Ethics 3 (2):217-230 (1997)
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This paper addresses several concerns in teaching engineering ethics. First, there is the problem of finding space within already crowded engineering curricula for meaningful discussions of ethical dimensions in engineering. Some engineering programs may offer entire courses on engineering ethics; however, most do not at present and may not in the foreseeable future. A promising possibility is to weave ethics into already existing courses using case studies, but most current case studies are not well integrated with engineering technical analysis. There is a danger that case studies will be viewed by both instructors and students as departures from “business as usual”—interesting perhaps, but not essentially connected with “real” engineering. We offer a case study, inspired by the National Society of Professional Engineer’s popular video Gilbane Gold, that can be used to make the connection. It requires students to engage in technical analysis, but in a context that makes apparent the ethical responsibility of engineers. Further, the case we present marks a significant departure from more typical cases that primarily focus on wrongdoing and its prevention. We concentrate more positively on what responsible engineering requires. There is a need for more such cases, regardless of whether they are to be used in standard engineering courses or in separate courses in engineering ethics.



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