Engineering Ethics and Identity: Emerging Initiatives in Comparative Perspective

TitleEngineering Ethics and Identity: Emerging Initiatives in Comparative Perspective
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsDowney, G. Lee, J. Lucena, and C. Mitcham
Secondary TitleScience and Engineering Ethics
Keywordsengineering education, ethics, France, Germany, history, Japan

This article describes and accounts for variable interests in engineering ethics in France, Germany, and Japan by locating recent initiatives in relation to the evolving identities of engineers. A key issue in ethics education for engineers concerns the relationship between the identity of the engineer and the responsibilities of engineering work. This relationship has varied significantly over time and from place to place around the world. One methodological strategy for sorting out similarities and differences in engineers’ identities is to ask the “who” question. Who is an engineer? Or, what makes one an engineer? While engineering ethics has attracted little interest in France and formal education in the subject might be seen as redundant, German engineering societies have, since the conclusion of World War II, demanded from engineers a strong commitment to social responsibility through technology evaluation and assessment. In Japan, a recent flourishing of interest in engineering ethics appears to be linked to concerns that corporations no longer function properly as Japanese “households.” In each case, deliberations over engineering ethics emerge as part of the process through which engineers work to keep their fields in alignment with changing images of advancement in society.