Getting Started: Helping a New Profession Develop an Ethics Program
Both of us have been involved with helping professions, especially new scientific or technological professions, develop ethics programs—for undergraduates, graduates, and practitioners. By “ethics program”, we mean any strategy for teaching ethics, including developing materials. Our purpose here is to generalize from that experience to identify the chief elements needed to get an ethics program started in a new profession. We are focusing on new professions for two reasons. First, all the older professions, both in the US and in most other countries, now have ethics programs of some sort. They do not need our advice to get started. Second, new professions face special problems just because they are new—everything from deciding who belongs to the profession to formalizing ethical standards so that they can be taught. Our purpose in this paper is to generalize from our experience and to identify some of the fundamentals for getting an ethics program started in a new profession. We present our recommendations in the form of response to 6 questions anyone designing an ethics program for a new profession should ask. We realize that our brief discussion does not provide a complete treatment of the subject. Our purpose has been to point in the right direction those considering an ethics program for new profession.