Engineering Ethics Begins in University EducationIntroduction
The times we are living now features innovation and originality. Engineering is a profession that links various inventions to common people. Needless to say, with its vital role in the society this profession demands its practitioners to be technically, and even scientifically, competent, as engineers are developing new products, producing them and/or serving their clients with their expertise. However, technical expertise alone does not make a good engineer, and the professional morality and responsibility of engineers, which has long been neglected in university education, is also an indispensable component. Didier (1999) approaches to the issue of engineering ethics from a historical perspective, comparing the ethical professional engineering practices in the United States, Germany and France, and mentions the absence of ethical education in engineering curricula. Johnston et al (2000), on the other hand, touch upon “the social impact and international and global nature of engineering practice and outline the necessary educational changes to meet the social and ethical challenges of this profession. This paper briefly ticks off some fundamental knowledge of engineering ethics, and tries to discuss some academic practices in university engineering education that are conducive to or hindering the development of engineering ethics.
According to Davison and Kock (2004), “professional Ethics concerns one's conduct of behavior and practice when carrying out professional work.” There are a great many professional bodies throughout the world that put forward important institutionalized “codes of conduct and codes of practice” for their members to follow. In many counties, medical ethics, legal ethics and business ethics are repeatedly discussed by the public and even regarded compulsory to the practitioners. Engineering ethics has also been becoming an increasing concern over the past decades, during which the world witnessed some momentous events like stratospheric ozone depletion, cloning technology, the Challenger disaster and so on, which are closely related to the issue of engineering ethics. Professional bodies of engineering like the US professional engineering associations, the German Association of Engineers and the Institution of Engineers, Australia, are getting more active. Engineering codes of ethics vary by different cultures and might still remain controversial. Nevertheless some codes are believed to be universal. For the sake of their professional integrity, honor and dignity, an engineer is expected to use their knowledge and skills to enhance human welfare; be honest, loyal and impartial serving the public, their employers and clients; improve their professional competence and prestige; and work under the guidance of their professional societies. An example could be where an engineer, who knows the performance and using precautions of c