Technological Institute of the Philippines Quezon City
RESOLVING PROBLEMS The technical world of engineers and students are often not exempted to the challenges of decision-making even though they are not on a managerial seat. Well, day-by-day, people tend to practice good decisionmaking in each household. In this text, the reporters tackle about problems rising up and how engineers or as an engineer someday should counter attack these problems in an ethical way that promotes welfare and safety to other people. Based on the book Engineering Ethics Concepts and Cases by C.E. Harris, Jr., et.al, several situations are considered to elaborate more on how problems are resolved without losing engineering ethics. Key notes: In a case analysis, identify the relevant facts and relevant ethical situation. Ethics and design in engineering. Line-drawing, creative middle way, utilitarian Introduction Similar to the example in the mentioned book, this situation considers the CE52FB1 graduating class of TIP-QC Civil Engineering Program in its Capstone Design course. Just an example and not pointing out a particular individual and group. Example.Mary and Kaye along with Dave and Phil are in their last semester of the Civil Engineering program at TIP-QC. Two of them are breadwinners Kaye and Phil, working part-time in one of the fast food chains in the metro. Mary is the only child and Dave’s the youngest, both are parents’ pet. All of them are pressured to meet their goals of getting a good job to give more quality life to their family for the case of the first two and with Mary and Dave, pressured because their parents are eyeing on them much success. But before they are to be able to get that diploma, they should strive first and pass all courses in their last semester like Pre-stressed Concrete Design, Steel Design, Foundation Design, Special Topics, CE Laws and Capstone Design. In one course, Mary, Kaye, Dave and Phil, being the closest of friends in their college life as Civil Engineering studentsare group mates.As a group, they develop a design. However, they encountered an issue regarding researches and simulations. There are some details that pose discrepancy towards the output but just some sort of minor details that the group considers omitting so as not to give misconception to the panel upon presentation and defense. They wondered that if it is right to do what they have thought, to omit some details. Psychologically speaking, the student designers do want to be done in that defense and present a good one backed up with the technicalities of the program and software they have. They are tempted to do so with the idea in mind that those are just minor details and the big want to graduate to give way to all their goals upon given that diploma. Ethically speaking, should the group do it?
The Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE), the PRC recognized organization of all Civil Engineers in the country, has incorporated the Codes of Ethics (COE) of a Civil Engineer as seen in their website (www.pice.org.ph). In the Fundamental Canons third item of COE, it states: Civil Engineers shall issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner. Do you think that the group is objective by such? Applying concept of universalizability, if the persons concerned consider it as good, then if others do it, then it is also good. What if? What are the consequences that they will face? Applying the concept of reversibility, what if the panelists will be the group concerned and the group be the panelists? With this argument or case, it is still vague. The scenario must be of full information and relevant facts to perform ethical analysis. There must be a solid roster of information to prove the ethics that the group has done. To resolve an ethical question, focus only on the facts that are related to it. Sort out the factual from conceptual and ethical. Make research on the codes and guidelines in challenging cases help a lot. It is said by the reference book that the two useful methods of analysis are line-drawing and searching for a creative middle way to be discussed in the next pages. Research Involving Humans Since in the context of the reference book, the sample situation cites a research done by a man named Steven Severson, the situated is changed, related into a group having a capstone design at TIP-QC. In the US, the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Researchdiscusses about giving protection to the people that are involved in a research called. In the Philippines, the only applicable agency that is related to it is Commission on Human Rights. Researches are a part also of the works done by an engineer. In the US, since there was an instance that was ethically questionable about the treatment of the proponents to the human participants that paved the way to the establishment of the NCPHSBBR. Proposals are examined by the Commission to ensure that rights and welfare of the participants are protected. There should be ethics that govern in technical acts like research. This is the answer on resolving problem regarding maltreatment of people subjected to researches and studies. ETHICS and DESIGN Caroline Whitbeck says, “For interesting or substantive engineering design problems, there is rarely, if ever, a uniquely correct solution or response, or indeed, any predetermined number of correct responses.” ‘‘absolutely safe’’ is not an attainable engineering goal. Furthermore, safety, affordability, efficiency, and usability are different and often competing criteria for a good product. However, combining factors that deserve serious consideration into a single, acceptable design is not an easy matter, and as Whitbeck observes, there may be no ‘‘uniquely correct solution or response’’ to this challenge.
Similar observations can be made about ethical problems. For example, in the following case, Brad is in the second year of his first full-time job after graduating from Engineering Tech. 5 He enjoys design, but he is becoming increasingly concerned that his work is not being adequately checked by more experienced engineers. He has been assigned to assist in the design of a number of projects that involve issues of public safety, such as schools and overhead walkways between buildings. He has already spoken to his supervisor, whose engineering competence he respects, and he has been told that more experienced engineers check his work. Later he discovers that his work is often not adequately checked. Instead, his drawings are stamped and passed on to the contractor. The important point is that Brad should exercise his imagination to its fullest extent before he takes any action. He must ‘‘brainstorm’’ to find a number of possible solutions to his problem. Then he should attempt to rate the solutions and select from among those he finds best. There is another important connection between ethics and engineering design. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET 2000) directs that engineering students be exposed to design in ways that include consideration of ethical as well as economic, environmental, social, and political factors. In other words, students are to be encouraged to see that ethical considerations, too, are integral to the design process. Design problems have better and worse solutions but perhaps no best solution. LINE DRAWING Consider the following example. The NSPE says about disclosure of business and trade secrets, ‘‘Engineers shall not disclose confidential information concerning the business affairs or technical processes of any present or former client or employer without his consent (III.4).’’ A vendor offers an engineer a large sum of money to get the engineer to recommend the vendor’s product to the engineer’s company. The engineer accepts the offer and then decides in favor of the vendor. The engineer accepts the offer for personal gain rather than because of the superior quality of the vendor’s product (which actually is one of the worst in industry). Furthermore, the engineer’s recommendation will be accepted by the company because only this engineer makes recommendations concerning this sort of product. Victor is an engineer at a large construction firm. It is his job to specify rivets for the construction of a large apartment building. After some research and testing, he decides to use ACME rivets for the job. On the day after Victor’s order was made, an ACME representative visits him and gives him a voucher for an allexpense paid trip to the ACME Forum meeting in Jamaica. Paid expenses include day trips to the beach and the rum factories. If Victor accepts, has he been bribed? Line-drawing has been applied to the analysis of concepts. It can be helpful both in clarifying the basic meanings of concepts and in their applications in particular circumstances. It can also be used to try to determine the rightness or wrongness of a course of action. Cases that are uncontroversially wrong we shall call negative paradigm cases, and cases that are uncontroversially acceptable are positive paradigm cases. We shall call related, but controversial, cases
that are in dispute (and that are clustered near the middle of the spectrum) problematic cases. We shall designate as the test case the one on which the analysis is to focus. First, the more ambiguous the case, the more we must know about its particular circumstances in order to determine whether it is morally acceptable or morally wrong. Second, imposing a line of demarcation between some of the cases in a series involves an element of arbitrariness. Third, in using the method of line-drawing it is important to keep in mind that concentrating on only one feature will usually be insufficient to determine where on the continuum to place a given case. Fourth, we need to bear in mind that the method of line-drawing resembles a kind of ‘‘common-law ethics’’ in which, as in law, what one decides in one case serves as a precedent for similar cases.