Investigating ethical issues in engineering design

  • Ibo van de Poel


This paper aims at contributing to a research agenda in engineering ethics by exploring the ethical aspects of engineering design processes. A number of ethically relevant topics with respect to design processes are identified. These topics could be a subject for further research in the field of engineering ethics. In addition, it is argued that the way design processes are now organised and should be organised from a normative point of view is an important topic for research.


research agenda for engineering ethics ethics in engineering design intertwinement of ethical and technical issues in engineering responsibility of engineers responsibility and division of labour 


  1. 1.
    Baum, R.J. (1980) Ethics and Engineering Curricula, The Hastings Center, Hastings-on-Hudson.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Davis, M. (1998) Thinking like an Engineer. Studies in the Ethics of a Profession, Oxford University Press, New York/Oxford.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Harris, C.E., Pritchard, M.S. & Rabins, M.J. (1995) Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases, Wadsworth, Belmont.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Unger, S.H. (1994) (2nd edition) Controlling Technology. Ethics and the Responsible Engineer, John Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Martin, M.W. & Schinzinger, R. (1996) (3rd edition) Ethics in Engineering, McGraw-Hill, New York.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Whitbeck, C. (1998) Ethics in Engineering Practice and Research, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Schaub, J.H. & Pavlovic, K. (1983) Engineering Professionalism and Ethics, John Wiley & Sons, New York etc.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Zandvoort, H., Poel, I.R. van de & Brumsen, M. (2000) Ethics in the Engineering Curricula: Topics, Trends and Challenges for the Future, European Journal of Engineering Education 25: 291–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Herkert, J. (2001) Future Directions in Engineering Ethics Research: Microethics, Macroethics and the Role of Professional Societies, Science and Engineering Ethics 7: 403–414.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Schinzinger, R. (1998) Ethics on the Feedback Loop. Control Engineering Practice 6: 239–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Pinkus, R.L.B., Shuman, L.J., Hummon, N.P. & Wolfe, H. (1997) Engineering Ethics. Balancing Cost, Schedule and Risk—Lessons Learned from the Space Shuttle, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Devon, R. (1999) Towards a Social Ethics of Engineering: The Norms of Engagement, Journal of Engineering Education 88: 87–92.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    McLean, G.F. (1993) Integrating Ethics and Design, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 12: 19–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Hubka, V. (1982) Principles of Engineering Design, Butterworth Scientific, London. (translated and edited by W.E. Eder).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Cross, N. (1989) Engineering Design Methods, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Roozenburg, N. & Cross, N. (1991) Models of the Design Process-Integrating Across the Disciplines, in: International Conference on Engineering Design (Iced-91), Zurich: 186–193.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Poel, I. van de (1999) De analogie tussen ethische problemen en ontwerpproblemen, in: Baars, J. & Starmans, R. (eds) Het Eigene en het Andere: Filosofie en Globalisering, Eburon, Delft: 243–259.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Simon, H.A. (1973) The Structure of Ill-structured Problems, Artificial Intelligence 4: 181–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Poel, I. van de (1996) Who Formulates the Design Requirements. Paper presented at the Joint 4S/EASST Conference, 10–13 October 1996 in Bielefeld, Germany, unpublished.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Pye, D. (1964) The Nature of Design, Studio Vista, London.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Akrich, M. (1992) The Description of Technical Objects, in: Bijker, W. & Law, J. eds. Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change, MIT Press, Cambridge (Ma.): 205–224.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Latour, B. (1992) Where are the Missing Masses? The Sociology of a Few Mundane Artifacts, in: Bijker, W. & Law, J. eds. Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change, MIT Press, Cambridge (Ma.): 225–258.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Winner, L. (1980) Do Artifacts have Politics?, Daedalus 109: 121–136.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    McLinden, M.O. & Didion, D.A. (1987) Quest for Alternatives, ASHRAE Journal 29: 32–34.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Kopko, W.L. (1990) Beyond CFCs: Extending the Search for New Refigerants, International Journal of Refrigeration 13: 79–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Preisegger, E. & Henrici, R. (1992) Refrigerant 134a: The first Step into a New Age of Refrigerants, International Journal of Refrigeration 15: 326–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Bodio, E., Chorowski, M. & Wilczek, M. (1993) Working Parameters of Domestic Refrigerators Filled with Propane-butane Mixture, International Journal of Refrigeration 16: 353–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Baxter, V., Fischer, S. & Sand, J.R. (1998) Global Warming Implications of Replacing Ozone-Depleting Refrigerants, ASHRAE Journal 40: 23–30.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Poel, I. van de (1998) Changing Technologies. A Comparative Study of Eight Processes of Transformation of Technological Regimes. Twente University Press, Enschede. Ph.D.-thesis.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Maclaine-cross, I.L. & Leonardi, E. (1995) Performance and Safety of LPG Refrigerants, in: Australian Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association Ltd eds. Proceedings of the Fuel for Change Conference, Australian Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association Ltd, Queensland: 149–168.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Florman, S.C. (1983) Moral Blueprints, in: Schaub, J.H. & Pavlovic, K. eds. Engineering Professionalism and Ethics, John Wiley & Sons, New York: 76–81.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Florman, S.C. (1987) The Civilized Engineer, St. Martin’s Press, New York: 72–73.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Gorp, A. van & Poel, I. van de. (forthcoming, September 2001) Ethical considerations in Engineering Design Processes, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Bijker, W., Hughes, Th. & Pinch, T. eds. (1987) The Social Construction of Technological Systems; New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology, MIT Press, Cambridge (Ma.).Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Grunwald, A. (2001) The Application of Ethics to Engineering and the Engineer’s Moral Responsibility. Perspectives for a Research Agenda, Science and Engineering Ethics 7: 415–429.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Stern, P.C. & Feinberg, H.V. eds. (Committee on Risk Characterization (Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council)) (1996) Understanding Risk: Informing Decisions in a Democratic Society, National Academy Press, Washington.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Shrader-Frechette, K.S. (1991) Risk and Rationality. Philosophical Foundations for Populist Reform, University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Ullman, J.E. (1983) The Responsibility of Engineers to their Employers, in: Schaub, J.H. & Pavlovic, K. eds. Engineering Professionalism and Ethics, John Wiley & Sons, New York: 135–148.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Zandvoort, H. (1998) Codes of Conduct and the Law, in: Kampits, P., Kokai, K. & Weiberg, A. eds. Applied Ethics: Papers of the 21st International Wittgenstein Symposium, Kirchberg am Wechsel, 16-8-1998. IWS, Kirchberg am Wechsel: 304–309.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Vaughan, D. (1996) The Challenger Launch Decision, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Henderson, K. (1995) The Political Career of a Prototype: Visual Representation in Design Engineering, Social Problems 42: 274.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Lynch, W.T. & Kline, R. (2000) Engineering Practice and Engineering Ethics, Science, Technology & Human Values 25: 195–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Baum, R.J. (1983) The Limits of Professional Responsibility, in: Schaub, J.H. & Pavlovic, K. eds. Engineering Professionalism and Ethics, John Wiley & Sons, New York: 287–294.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Sclove, R.E. (1995) Democracy and Technology, The Guilford Press, New York.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Schot, J. & Rip, A. (1996) The Past and Future of Constructive Technology Assessment, Technological Forecasting and Social Change 54: 251–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Poel, I. van de (2000) On the Role of Outsiders in Technical Development. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management 12: 383–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Thompson, D.F. (1980) Moral Responsibility of Public Officials: The Problem of Many Hands, APSR 74: 905–916.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Bovens, M. (1998) The Quest for Responsibility. Accountability and Citizenship in Complex Organisations, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Ullman, D.G. (1997) (2nd Edition) The Mechanical Design Process, McGraw-Hill, New York, etc.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Rip, A. & Kemp, R. (1998) Technological Change, in: Rayner, S. & Malone, E.L. eds. Human Choice and Climate Change, Battelle Press, Columbus (Ohio), Volume 2 Resources and Technology: 327–399.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Poel, I.R. van de (2000) Ethics and Engineering Design, in: University as a Bridge from Technology to Society, Proceedings of the IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society, 6–8 September 2000, “La Sapienza” University of Rome, Rome, IEEE: 187–192.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Opragen Publications 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Technology, Policy and ManagementDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations