Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 403–414 | Cite as

Future directions in engineering ethics research: Microethics, macroethics and the role of professional societies

  • Joseph R. HerkertEmail author


Three frames of reference for engineering ethics are discussed—individual, professional and social—which can be further broken down into “microethics” concerned with individuals and the internal relations of the engineering profession and “macroethics” referring to the collective social responsibility of the engineering profession and to societal decisions about technology. Few attempts have been made at integrating microethical and macroethical approaches to engineering ethics. The approach suggested here is to focus on the role of professional engineering societies in linking individual and professional ethics and in linking professional and social ethics. A research program is outlined using ethics support as an example of the former, and the issuance of position statements on product liability as an example of the latter.


ethics support macroethics product liability professional societies public policy research on engineering ethics 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Herkert, J.R. (2000) Engineering ethics education in the USA: content, pedagogy, and curriculum. European Journal of Engineering Education 25 (4): 303–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Herkert, J.R. (2001) Ethical responsibility and societal context: the case for integrating engineering ethics and public policy, in: Luegenbiehl, H., Neeley, K., and Ollis, D. F. (eds.) Liberal Education in 21st Century Engineering, Peter lang, New York (in press).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ladd, J. (1980) The quest for a code of professional ethics: an intellectual and moral confusion, in: Chalk, R., Frankel, M.S. and Chafer, S.B. (eds.) AAAS Professional Ethics Project: Professional Ethics Activities in the Scientific and Engineering Societies. AAAS, Washington, DC, pp. 154–159.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    McLean, G.F. (1993) Integrating ethics and design. IEEE Technology and Society 12 (3): 19–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Vanderburg, W.H. (1995) Preventive engineering: strategy for dealing with negative social and environmental implications of technology. Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice 121: 155–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Devon, R. (1999) Toward a social ethics of engineering: the norms of engagement. Journal of Engineering Education 88: 87–92.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Roddis, W.M.K. (1993) Structural failures and engineering ethics. Journal of Structural Engineering 119: 1539–1555.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Winner, L. (1990) Engineering ethics and political imagination, in: Durbin, P. (ed.) Broad and Narrow Interpretations of Philosophy of Technology: Philosophy and Technology 7, Boston, Kluwer, pp. 53–64.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Herkert, J.R. (2000) Social, Ethical and Policy Implications of Engineering, Wiley/IEEE Press, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Lynch, W.T. and Kline, R. (2000) Engineering practice and engineering ethics. Science, Technology and Human Values 25: 195–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Woodhouse, E.J. (2001) Overconsumption as an ethical challenge for design professionals. Presented at the Tenth Annual Meeting, Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, Cincinnati, Ohio, March 1–4.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Clayton, E. T. (1986) The Revolt of the Engineers. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, USA.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Unger, S. (1994) Controlling Technology: Ethics and the Responsible Engineer, 2nd Ed., Wiley, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Davis, M. (1998) Thinking Like an Engineer, Oxford University Press, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Wujek, J. H. (1996) Must engineers behave heroically? Presented at Frontiers in Education Conference, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and American Society for Engineering Education, Salt Lake City, Utah.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ladd, J. (1982) Collective and individual moral responsibility in engineering: some questions. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 1 (2): 3–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Unger, S.H. (1999) The assault on IEEE Ethics support. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 18 (1): 36–40.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    IEEE Ethics Committee World Wide Web Page, Scholar
  19. 19.
    IEEE Member Conduct Committee World Wide Web Page, Scholar
  20. 20.
    Herkert, J. (1994) Ethical risk assessment: valuing public perceptions. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 13 (1): 4–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Lewis, N.A. (1996) Clinton vetoes bill to curb awards in product liability suits. New York Times (May 3).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Hunziker, J.R. and Jones, T.O. (eds.) (1994) Product liability and innovation. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    New York Times (editorial) (1996) The Anti-Consumer Act of 1996. New York Times (March 21).Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Castaing, F.J. (1994) The effects of product liability on automotive engineering practice, in: Hunziker, J.R. and Jones, T.O. (eds.) Product Liability and Innovation. National Academy Press, Washington, DC: 77–81.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    IEEE-USA (1998) Tort Law And Product Liability Reform (position statement). [Available from World Wide Web site,]Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    ASME International (1996) Letter to the House and Senate Conferees on Product Liability Bills. [Available from World Wide Web site,]Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Fischhoff, B. and Merz, J.F. (1994) The inconvenient public: behavioral research approaches to reducing product liability risks, in Hunziker, J.R. and Jones, T.O. (eds.) Product Liability and Innovation. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, pp. 159–189.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Rabins, M.J., Harris, E. and Pritchard, M. (1992) Engineering design: literature on social responsibility versus legal liability. [Available from World Wide Web site,]Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    De George, R.T. (1981) Ethical responsibilities of engineers in large organizations: the Pinto case. Business and Professional Ethics Journal 1: 1–14.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Opragen Publications 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.North Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

Personalised recommendations