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Discuss about the ethical issues associated with the profession of Engineering.

Introduction to Engineering Ethics

Engineers are helping in the transformation of the science into the products that are useful for the comfort of human beings. Engineering can be defined as something that is done by the engineers.  Engineering includes the application of mathematical methods, science and the empirical evidences to the areas such as construction, innovation, design, machines, material, processes etc. (asce 2017).  Ethics can be defined as the moral principles that govern behaviour of the person while conducting an activity. (engineersaustralia 2017). In engineering the ethics are the moral issues that are confronted by the engineers and the engineering organizations while taking the important decisions. (Stappenbelt 2013)  The professional engineers have both the professional and personal obligations towards the society so as to act in an ethical manner. (Santi 2000).The scope of engineering ethics includes number of activities such as the Engineering as a social experimentation, global issues and concerns, employer’s responsibility, rights of the engineers and ethical theories and moral reasoning. (morganclaypool 2011) One of the best ways to understand ethics in engineering is to understand it with the help of case study. This report is one of the efforts to understand the engineering ethics with the help of case study.  The focus will be on understanding the relevant ethical factors, risks and benefits associated with the case.  

The case is about Tim who is an environmental engineer at one of the consulting firms since 25 years. Tim is known for settling the disputes between the corporate clients. Tim critically analyzes the technical data before pursuing the litigation. The focus of Tim usually is on the distributions of solid particle pollution. This data is presented by the disputing parties in order to help the parties on reaching to a compromise on the total cost associated with the environmental cleanup. One of the examples to understand is that if there are two parties that are separated with a strip of land; both the parties in this case fiscally contribute in keeping the land free from the pollutants. (Rowden & Striebig 2004)

Tim however faced number of ethical issues while working as an environment. One day Tim was contacted by the journalist regarding his experiences at the organization while managing the clients. Tim disclosed some of the cases where he encountered the ethical issue of misrepresentation of data. The companies presented the wrong information or the inaccurate information about the levels of solid particle pollution in the surroundings of the company. The technical experts who are the engineers misrepresent the data so as to make it seem that the other party is responsible for the contamination of the large part. Tim at the ends of the interview focused on the necessity of taking the ownership for the engineers by specifically being honest towards the accurate presentation of data.  (Wong 2015)

The Case of Tim

It will be also ethically wrong on the side of Tim to approve the data provided by the engineer. According to the ethics of Engineers, they shall not misrepresent the information associate with their employees, associates and employers.  It is ethically relevant for Tim to take a strict step against the misrepresentation of the information related to environment. (Wareham, Panagiotis & Elefsiniotis 1996).

In the past, the engineers’ have only focused on the use of traditional and technical solutions associated with the environmental issues and social impact of solving the environmental issues. The engineering ethics are now concerned with the responsibility and professionalism of the engineers towards solving the environmental issues. (Hawrysz & Foltys 2016) Tim in this context should not support the practices related to misinterpretation of the levels of solid particle pollution in the surroundings. Tim should think of and adopt the best ways and strategies that can help the engineers in adopting the ethical environmental practices. (Beder 1995)An increase in the levels of particle pollution in the surroundings is one of the major environmental issues. Tim should not consider even the minor misrepresentation of the environmental data so as to act as an ethical engineer. Engineers are however under the pressure of their employers to consider the misrepresentation of the data for the false information about the carbon emission or pollution. This is a huge pressure as the engineers are also obliged to their employers to act as they are instructed. (Vesilind 1998)This is the reason why number of engineers’ are using the false information and supporting the parties that want to minimize their contribution in the pollution or emission using the inaccurate information. This is one of the major ethical issues that are faced especially by the environmental engineers.  Misrepresentation of the environmental data is favourable for the employers but it is disadvantageous for the society and the employees. (Starrett 2005)

The misrepresentation of the environment data such as the levels of solid particle pollution in the surroundings poses both risks and benefits. The benefits are for the employer or the organizations that are making it seem that they are not contributing in the pollution of the environment. The engineers’ and employees however come under the risk of performing their job unethically. (Hawrysz & Foltys 2016). The employer or the organization that is pressurizing its engineers or the employees to misrepresent the data about levels of pollutants will also have some of the cost benefits. This is because the organization will not have to pay for the increased level of pollutants in the environment. The parties that are under the risk in such a scenario include the employees as well as the society. (Hersh 2000). The organizations involved in the misrepresentation of the data are associated with one of the major risks- reputational risk. The reputational risk is the ones that result from the damages that are caused to the reputation of the firm. The reputational risks can result in the loss of revenue, loss of employees, regulatory costs or reduce shareholder value. (Sumita Sindhi 2012).

Misrepresenting Environmental Data: Risks and Benefits

The best practices in this case can be the reporting of the accurate data and implementation of the practices that can help in reducing the levels of pollutants. This will help in protecting the environment, fulfilling the ethical responsibilities towards the society and environment along with building a positive image in the society. (Wareham, Panagiotis & Elefsiniotis 1996) Tim should focus on encouraging the employer to present the accurate data on the pollutants level and make them understand the positive aspects of using the practices that can reduce the levels of pollutants in the surroundings. This will help the company in promoting the sustainability and being ahead in the green curve.  Further, if Tim is successful at encouraging the employer to use the ethical practice for environmental protection then the employees of the organization will also motivated towards working in the organization that is socially and ethically responsible towards the environment. The employees of the organization will feel safer in working in the environment that is complying to the environmental rules, regulations and the policies. This is also one of the good ways of reducing the turnover of the employees and building a positive image in the society. (Hawrysz & Foltys 2016)

The case also has some negative implications such as the objection of Tim on the data that is inaccurate may end up his relationship with his employer. This is one of the biggest fears of all the engineers’ who want to behave ethically in their profession. Further the misrepresentation of the information can also costs high to the organizations if a legal action is taken against the same. This will severely affect the reputation of the organization in the market and among its stakeholders. This indicates that there are both positive and negative implications associated with the case of Tim.

There are practical and moral significance associated with the ethics in engineering. The ethics in engineering can be related with the quality of decisions. For example: the decision taken by Time to act ethically or unethically regarding the misrepresentation of the pollutant data. The consequences of the decision taken by Tim have impact on number of parties including the society, employees and the organization. Engineers like Tim face number of ethical issues but there is not one particular solution for the ethical issue. (Wareham, Panagiotis & Elefsiniotis 1996)However there are number of solutions for the ethical issue some are right and the others are not appropriate. In order to be ethical in a profession the focus of professionals should be on clearly differentiating the option and selecting the best option that is ethically correct. Further, the engineers’ should also focus on going beyond the ethics if there is not legal guideline or law associated with the solving the conflict. Ethics will empower Tim and other engineers along with fostering a value of moral commitment and conscientious among the engineers. (Alger 1958)

Importance of Accurate Data Reporting

Conclusion

Ethical issues are common in almost every profession. The professionals get stuck in a situation where they have to decide about acting ethically or unethically. The above case has focused on one of the major ethical issues that are faced by the engineers’. The case indicates that Tim faced an ethical issue regarding the disclosure of misrepresentation of data on environmental pollution. In other words one of its clients represented the wrong information about the pollutant level or the level of contamination for which the client organization was responsible. Tim had an option of considering the misrepresentation a sound technical reasoning and not a misrepresentation of the information. Tim had two choices of acting ethically or acting unethically. Both the ethical and non ethical behaviours are associated with some positive and negative implications. The case has clearly highlighted both these implications for the organization and Tim.  The ethical behaviours of Tim can help the organization in being socially and environmentally responsible but it may have negative impact on the employment of Tim.   This is however a big question for Tim to act ethically or unethically. It is recommended that Tim should not help the companies that misrepresent their environmental data. This may help Tim for short term but it has negative consequences for the long term reputation of Tim as an environment engineer. This is because he will eventually develop an image of an unethical environment engineer.

There have been many changes in the organization of Tim regarding the use of environmental practices and complying with the environmental ethics. Tim now focuses on critically analyzing the environmental data of the clients without considering the issue of misrepresentation of the data about the pollutants. The awareness regarding the ethical responsibilities of engineers has increased and the focus is on using the ethical practices for ensuring the welfare of the employees and society. The focus of Tim and his employer has also increased because of the increasing importance of environmental ethics and responsibilities for gaining a competitive advantage and an image of a socially and environmentally responsible company. The organizations across the world are now focusing on being ethical towards the environmental responsibilities. (Tajaama, Majanoja, Biraktarova & Airola 2018). However there are still many small and large organizations that are not behaving ethically and are no complying with the professional ethics. There is a crucial need to raise the awareness of organizations regarding the professional ethics so as to maintain the value and integrity of the professions such as engineering. (Rowden & Striebig 2004)The above report has critically focused on the importance of ethics for the engineers and other professions as well. The findings obtained from this case study can help number of professionals and organizations in context of solving the ethical issues and maintaining the integrity of their profession.

References 

Alger 1958. The growing importance of ethics to engineers. Electrical Engineering. 77(1), pp.42-45.

asce 2017. THE IMPORTANCE OF ENGINEERING ETHICS. [online]. [Accessed 7 October 2018]. Available from World Wide Web: <https://www.asce.org/question-of-ethics-articles/aug-2011/>

Beder, S 1995. Engineers, Ethics and Sustainable Development. In: International Congress of Logic.

engineersaustralia 2017. About us. [online]. [Accessed 7 October 2018]. Available from World Wide Web: <https://www.engineersaustralia.org.au/ethics>

Hawrysz, L & Foltys, J 2016. Environmental Aspects of Social Responsibility of Public Sector Organizations. Sustaianbility. 8(1), pp. 45-758,.

Hersh, M 2000. Environmental ethics for engineers. Engineering Science and Education Journal. 9(1).

morganclaypool 2011. Engineers, Society, and Sustainability. morganclaypool.

Rowden, K & Striebig, r 2004. Incorporating environmental ethics into the undergraduate engineering curriculum. Science and Engineering Ethics. 10(2), p.417–422.

Santi, P 2000. Ethics Exercises for Civil, Environmental. Journal of Engineering Education. 89(2), pp.151-160.

Stappenbelt, B 2013. ETHICS IN ENGINEERING: STUDENT PERCEPTIONS AND THEIR PROFESSIONAL IDENTITY. Journal of Technology and Science Education. 3(1).

Starrett, S K 2005. Water Resources/Environmental Engineering Ethics. In: World Water and Environmental Resources Congress., pp.15-19.

Sumita Sindhi, N K 2012. Corporate environmental responsibility ? transitional and evolving. Management of Environmental Quality: An International Journal. 23(6), pp.640 - 657.

Tajaama, Majanoja, Biraktarova & Airola 2018. How engineers perceive the importance of ethics in Finland. European Journal of Engineering Education. 43(1).

Vesilind, A 1998. Engineering, Ethics, and the Environment. Cambridge University Press.

Wareham, D, Panagiotis & Elefsiniotis 1996. Environmental ethics in engineering education: A missing fundamental. Water Science and Technology. 34(12), pp.197-203.

Wong, P 2015. CONFUCIAN ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS, CLIMATE ENGINEERING, AND THE “PLAYING GOD” ARGUMENT. Journal of religion and science. 50(1), pp.28-41.

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[Accessed 17 July 2024].

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My Assignment Help. Engineering Ethics: Misrepresenting Environmental Data [Internet]. My Assignment Help. 2020 [cited 17 July 2024]. Available from: https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/engr9742-standards-ethics-and-compliance/profession-of-engineering.html.

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