, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 167–183 | Cite as

Science, technology and values: promoting ethics and social responsibility

  • Marion HershEmail author
Original Article


The paper discusses the limitations of engineering ethics as implemented in practice, with a focus on the fact that engineering and other activities are carried out without any consideration of whether the activities are themselves ethical, and on the gap between legality and ethics. This leads to the following three central ideas of the paper. The first is the need for engineers to both be aware of and critique their own values and be able to widen their perspective to that of the ‘other’, i.e., marginalised and minority groups and the environment. This understanding of the ‘other’ and values is also applied to the discussion of ethical issues relating to minority world (‘developed’) country engineers working in majority world (‘developing’) countries. The second central idea is the fact that structural and contextual factors in the form of barriers and enablers affect ethical values and practices. Individuals are not necessarily unethical in themselves, but the context and organisational ethos may present barriers to ethical behaviour and encourage the development of unethical values. These barriers and enablers are investigated through a pilot survey. The third central idea is the relationship between individual and collective responsibility and the need for support to enable engineers to think and behave ethically.


Ethics Engineers Individual and collective responsibility Support Values Barriers and enablers 



I would like to thank all the people who completed questionnaires and distributed them to colleagues and Dr. Larry Stapleton for his support and encouragement.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biomedical EngineeringUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowScotland, UK

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