History of the OEC
2007 – Present
The OEC owes its existence to the founding leadership and continuing direction of Professor Caroline Whitbeck. Professor Whitbeck and Dr. William Wulf, President of the NAE from 1997-2007, discussed the possibility of transferring the OEC to the NAE in 2003, at the conference on “Emerging Technologies and Ethical Issues in Engineering.” NAE member Charles J. Pankow (deceased) funded the conference; the proceedings were published in 2004 by the National Academies Press.
Dr. Wulf initiated the engineering ethics activities at the NAE with the conference in 2003. He then appointed a president’s committee to advise him on the next steps the NAE should take to encourage further activities. The committee, headed by NAE member Norm Augustine, reported that, contingent on funding, the NAE should house a center that would sponsor research, educational, and outreach activities in this field.
A gift from NAE member Harry E. Bovay Jr. allowed the NAE to launch the Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society (CEES) and complete the initial transfer of the OEC to CEES. In addition, a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) is making it possible to provide new resources on the OEC designed to assist individuals and institutions seeking to respond to the new America COMPETES Act requirements. The grant also provided the resources for restructuring the website to allow easier searches and a more user-friendly interface. Funding for enhancements comes from the NSF grant number 0936865. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Caroline Whitbeck continues to provide direction to the center as chair of the OEC Advisory Group. You can see the roster of current advisors and links to their biographies in the "About" section of the OEC.
Inception to 2007
Seed money from Raymond Stata, President of Analog Devices, funded the prototype for the OEC in the early 1990s. Several grants from the National Science Foundation (SBR-9511862, SBR-9871169, SES-9976500, SES-0135585, and SES-0428597) supported its development and operation until its transfer to the NAE. Harry E. Bovay, Jr., President of MidSouth Telecommunications Company, contributed funds for transition and continuing support.
Students, first at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and, from 1997-2007, at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) were the primary creators of many of the OEC pages. They have made many invaluable contributions to its design, maintenance, and accessibility.
The students who first staffed the OEC assisted Caroline Whitbeck in her work under an NSF grant to the Engineering Coalition of Schools for Excellence in Education and Leadership (ECSEL) and created the first of the ECSEL pages. Heidi Ashih led that student team, which included Marlon Buchanan, Jagruti Patel, Juliet Midgley and Xiaobo Li. Marlon Buchanan was the Center's first Web master.
The OEC moved to Case Western Reserve University in 1997, with Caroline Whitbeck, when she became the first Elmer G. Beamer-Hubert H. Schneider Professor in Ethics. There Anila Jahangiri headed the student team. Michael Melamed made many technical and content contributions to the site, as did Jonathan Wehner, after him. Francy Acosta also headed the team for awhile, and created and maintained the Spanish language pages.
Later, Amanda Shaffer and then Toni Thayer provided able staff support as Site Manager and Site Editor. Andrew Penry, first as an undergraduate and then as a Web consultant, researched accessibility issues for the website and oversaw its transformation into a W3C/WAI accessible site. Subsequently, he created a sophisticated Linux-based database content management system for the OEC . (This system has been converted to run on Windows system software used by the NAE.) Andrew Roksandic handled all other technical issues since fall 2002, and made major contributions to the operations of the OEC. Laura Simna managed the student team during Toni Thayer's leave and contributed immeasurably to the smooth running of the OEC. Renee Holland provided able administrative assistance to the OEC from 1999 to 2007.
The OEC has had a distinguished group of advisors since its inception. They have come from a variety of disciplines in addition to engineering and science, including philosophy, psychology, history, and sociology, and include individuals with oversight responsibilities for ethical behavior for professional societies, corporations, and government agencies, as well as academics. You can see names and biographies for OEC advisors on our OEC Advisory Group page.
Cite this page:
"History of the OEC"
Online Ethics Center for Engineering
National Academy of Engineering
Accessed: Thursday, May 23, 2013