Practicing Engineering Ethics in Global Context: A Comparative Study of Expert and Novice Approaches to Cross-Cultural Ethical Situations

  • Qin ZhuEmail author
  • Brent K. Jesiek
Original Research/Scholarship


Engineers and other technical professionals are increasingly challenged by the impacts of globalization. Further, engineering educators, technical managers, and human resources staff have demonstrated great interest in selecting and training engineers who are capable of working competently, professionally, and ethically in global context. However, working across countries and cultures brings considerable challenges to global engineers, including as related to understanding and navigating local and regional differences in what counts as professional ethics and integrity. In this study, we focus on written responses to 27 assessment scenarios that involve micro- and/or macro-ethical considerations in six national/cultural contexts (China, France, Germany, India, Japan, and Mexico). More specifically, we analyze responses to open-ended versions of the scenarios. Our participants consisted of both experts (e.g., experienced engineers) and novices (e.g., undergraduate students and early career professionals). Comparing and contrasting how experts and novices responded to these ethical problems sheds light on differences in their ethical strategies and approaches. This analysis also allows us to discern what specific cultural knowledge and sensitivity were employed by experts in solving cross-cultural ethical problems, but were largely lacking among novices. Finally, we analyze and discuss challenges faced by experts and novices in responding to cross-cultural ethical situations.


Comparative study Cross-cultural Engineering education Engineering ethics Ethical strategies Global engineering Experts Novices 



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1160455.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Humanities, Arts and Social SciencesColorado School of MinesGoldenUSA
  2. 2.School of Engineering EducationPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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