Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 925–939 | Cite as

Engineers and Active Responsibility

  • Udo PeschEmail author
Original Paper


Knowing that technologies are inherently value-laden and systemically interwoven with society, the question is how individual engineers can take up the challenge of accepting the responsibility for their work? This paper will argue that engineers have no institutional structure at the level of society that allows them to recognize, reflect upon, and actively integrate the value-laden character of their designs. Instead, engineers have to tap on the different institutional realms of market, science, and state, making their work a ‘hybrid’ activity combining elements from the different institutional realms. To deal with this institutional hybridity, engineers develop routines and heuristics in their professional network, which do not allow societal values to be expressed in a satisfactory manner. To allow forms of ‘active’ responsibility, there have to be so-called ‘accountability forums’ that guide moral reflections of individual actors. The paper will subsequently look at the methodologies of value-sensitive design (VSD) and constructive technology assessment (CTA) and explore whether and how these methodologies allow engineers to integrate societal values into the design technological artifacts and systems. As VSD and CTA are methodologies that look at the process of technological design, whereas the focus of this paper is on the designer, they can only be used indirectly, namely as frameworks which help to identify the contours of a framework for active responsibility of engineers.


Active responsibility Accountability forums Value-sensitive design Constructive technology assessment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

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

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