Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 171–189 | Cite as

Eighteen rules for writing a code of professional ethics

  • Michael DavisEmail author
Original Paper


Most professional societies, scientific associations, and the like that undertake to write a code of ethics do so using other codes as models but without much (practical) guidance about how to do the work. The existing literature on codes is much more concerned with content than procedure. This paper adds to guidance already in the literature what I learned from participating in the writing of an important code of ethics. The guidance is given in the form of “rules” each of which is explained and (insofar as possible) justified. The emphasis is on procedure.


Ethics Code Profession Drafting Conduct 



Work on this paper was funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (SES-0117471). I should like to thank the advisory board with which I worked under that grant for many helpful comments on early versions of this paper. I should also like to thank the reviewers for this journal.


  1. 1.
    Anderson, R. E. (1994). The ACM code of ethics: History, process, and implications. In C. Huff & T. Finhold (Eds.), Social issues in computing: Putting computing in its place (pp. 48–62). New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Association of American Medical Colleges (1997). Developing a code of ethics in research: A guide for scientific societies. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Medical Colleges.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Berleur, J., & d’Udekem-Geves, M. (2000). Codes of ethics: Conduct for computer societies: The experience of IFIP. In P. Goujon & B. Hériard Dubreuil (Eds.), Technology and ethics: A European quest for responsible engineering (pp. 327–350). Leuven, Belgium: Peeters.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Davis, M. (1998) Thinking like an engineer. New York, Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Davis, M. (2000). Writing a code of ethics by e-mail: Adventures with software engineers. Science Communication, 21, 392–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Elliot, G. (1998) The mill on the floss. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Farrell, H., & Farrell, B. J. (1998). The language of business code of ethics: Implications of knowledge and power. Journal of Business Ethics, 17, 587–601.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Fisher, C. B. (2003). Developing a code of ethics for academics—Commentary on ‘Ethics for all: Differences across Scientific Society Codes’ (Bullock and Panicker)”. Science and Engineering Ethics, 9(2), 171–179.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Frankel, M. S. (1989). Professional codes: Why, how and with what impact? Journal of Business Ethics, 8, 109–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Freidson, E. (1986). Professional powers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Goodpaster, G. E., Maines, T. D., & Weimesrskirch, A. M. (2004). A Baldrige process for ethics? Science and Engineering Ethics, 10, 243–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Harris, C. E. (2004). Internationalizing professional codes in engineering. Science and Engineering Ethics, 10, 503–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Hegel, G. W. F. (1900). Philosophy of history, trans. by F. Sibree. New York: Colonial Press.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Jamal, K., & Bowie, N. E. (1995). Theoretical considerations for a meaningful code of professional ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 14, 703–714.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Kapstein, M. (2004). Business codes of multinational firms: What do they say? Journal of Business Ethics, 50, 13–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Kapein, M., & Wempe, J. (1995) Twelve Gordian knots when developing an organization code of ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 14, 853–869.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Kipnis, K. (1988). Toward a code of ethics for pre-school teachers: The role of the ethics consultant. International Journal of Applied Philosophy, 4, 1–10.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Koehler, W. C., & Pemberton, J. M. (2000). A search for core values: Toward a model code of ethics for information professionals. Journal of Information Ethics, 9, 26–54.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Kultgen J. (1983). Evaluating codes of professional ethics. In W. L. Robinson & M. S. Pritchard (Eds.), Profits and professions. Essays in business and professional ethics (pp. 225–263). New Jersey: Humana Press.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Marx, K. (1971). The eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. Edited and translated by S. K. Padover, On revolution. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Schwartz, M. (2001). The nature of the relationship between corporate codes of ethics and behaviour. Journal of Business Ethics, 32, 247–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Schwartz, M. S. (2005). Universal moral values for corporate code of ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 59, 27–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Somer, M. J. (2001). Ethical codes of conduct and organizational context: A study of the relationship between codes of conduct, employee behaviour and organizational rules. Journal of Business Ethics, 30, 185–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Tucker, L. R., Stathakopolous, V., & Ch, P. H. (1999). A multidimensional assessment of ethical codes: The professional business association perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 19, 287–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Weaver, G. R. (1995). Does ethics code design matter? Effects of ethics code rationales and sanctions on recipients justice perceptions and content recall. Journal of Business Ethics, 14, 367–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Weller, S. (1988). The effectiveness of corporate codes of ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 7, 389–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the Study of Ethics in the ProfessionsIllinois Institute of TechnologyChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations