Thinking Through Complex Ethical Dilemmas in the Engineering Profession

Description

This project discusses the design and delivery of engineering ethics workshops for practicing engineers in the state of Wisconsin, facilitated through the Office of Engineering Professional Development at UW-Madison.The page includes the handouts used in these workshops, including an introduction to ethical resources, cognitive biases, an ethical decision-making model, and a series of cases.

Abstract
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Description

Through the Office of Engineering Professional Development at UW-Madison, we develop and deliver engineering ethics workshops for practicing engineers in the state of Wisconsin, and as part of that work we write many engineering ethics cases for both the private and public sector. We typically provide an overview of common engineering Codes of Ethics, special challenges with rationalization and cognitive biases, and an ethical decision-making model for engineers; we also end our sessions with some strategies for communicating ethics; all of these handouts are linked on this Project Page. But most uniquely, we are engaged continuously in developing cases that are relevant to the private and public sector engineers. We write these cases through discussions with practicing engineers and through research; our effort is to animate the ambiguities and pressures that can sometimes distort ethical judgment. Those cases are also useful to our undergraduate teaching, because we learn so much from our discussions with the practicing engineers; we regularly re-use our cases in the undergraduate engineering classes we teach at the junior and senior levels.

Leadership

Laura Grossenbacher, PhD
College of Engineering
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Howard Rosen, PhD
College of Engineering
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Andi Bill, PE
College of Engineering
University of Wisconsin-Madison

 Joy Altweis, PE
College of Engineering
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ned Paschke, PE
College of Engineering
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Kevin Rogers, PE
College of Engineering
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Recipient Organization

Engineering Professional Development, College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin

Start and End Date

Fall 2012 – ongoing

Contact Information

Laura Grossenbacher (lrgrossenbac@wisc.edu)

Publications, Presentations, and Other Products

Grossenbacher, L. and McGlamery, T. “Lessons Learned from a Year in the Trenches: Teaching Engineering Ethics for P.E. Relicensure” ETHICS '14 Proceedings of the IEEE 2014 International Symposium on Ethics in Engineering, Science, and Technology, Article No. 69.

Other Impacts

We periodically present papers at the conference for the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics. Our most recent paper was at the APPE Conference of 2015, “When ‘Safety’ Became Merely a ‘Convenience’ for General Motors: Legal departments, corporate culture, and their impact on ethical engineering”.

Attached Resources

  1. Introduction to Ethics Resources
  2. An Ethical Decision Making Process for Engineers
  3. Strategies for Communicating Ethics to Engineers
  4. Cognitive Biases that can Cloud Judgement
  5. Cases: 
  6. References for Further Reading