Responsibility without Moralism in Technoscientific Design Practice

TitleResponsibility without Moralism in Technoscientific Design Practice
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsSwierstra, T., and J. Jelsma
Secondary TitleScience, Technology, & Human Values

While engineering ethics usually addresses the responsibility of engineers in rare cases of whistle blowing, the authors broach the question to what extent engineers can be held responsible in normal practice. For this purpose, they define the conditions under which individuals can be imputable as they prevail in ethics and common sense. From outcomes of science and technology studies research, the authors conclude that these conditions are seldom met in modern technoscientific research practice. By examining such practice in a case study and comparing the results with perceptions of engineers on social responsibility as expressed in interviews, the authors are able to demonstrate that (1) a change in structural characteristics of this practice, such as funding rules, stimulates engineers to attune the inner politics of science to wider societal policies and concerns, and (2) it helps them to overcome the shifting of social responsibility to others as a consequence of the lack of agency they usually perceive.