Ethical considerations in engineering design processes

TitleEthical considerations in engineering design processes
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2001
Authorsvan Gorp, A.., and I. Van de Poel
Secondary TitleIEEE Technology and Society Magazine

Engineering ethics involves a broad range of (ethical) issues. In this article, we focus on the specific area of engineering ethics pertaining to engineering design. We believe that engineering design constitutes an interesting starting point for ethical issues in engineering, both for educational and research purposes. So far, there has not been much systematic research on ethical aspects in engineering design and on how engineers deal with such aspects. Engineering design is also an interesting topic to research from the point of view of engineering ethics because design is one of the main activities in which engineers are involved. Moreover, technology has social and ethical implications, mainly because of the kinds of products produced, which are the eventual outcomes of design processes. We focus on two ethical aspects of design processes: the formulation of design requirements and criteria, and the acceptance of tradeoffs between different design criteria. When calling an aspect of the design process "ethical", we have used the following criteria: the aspect of the design process is connected to, or brings about possible negative consequences, for people other than the designers involved; more or less generally accepted values or norms are at stake; and the norms and values of the different engineers involved in the design clash with each other.