“Mind the gaps”: An empirical approach to engineering ethics, 1997–2001 [Book Review]

Science and Engineering Ethics 9 (4):517-542 (2003)
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A survey on ethical issues in engineering was administered over a five-year period to Stanford engineering students and practicing engineers. Analysis of its results strongly suggests that important disconnects exist between the education of engineering students regarding ethical issues in engineering on the one hand, and the realities of contemporary engineering practice on the other. Two noteworthy consequences of these gaps are that the views of engineering students differ substantially over what makes an issue an ethical issue, while practicing engineers exhibit significant disagreement over what is the most important non-technical aspect of being a responsible engineering professional in contemporary society. These divergences impede the recognition of ethical issues and of specific moral responsibilities of engineers in concrete professional practice. It is argued that the use of suitably refined and probing surveys of engineering students and practicing engineers about ethical issues in engineering is an important although neglected empirical approach to the study of engineering ethics. Such an approach can enhance the prevailing case study method and combat over-tidy theoretical-analytical approaches to the subject.



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