The Royal Academy of Engineering has published a new guide for engineers on engineering ethics in practice. Compiled with the Inter-Disciplinary Ethics Applied Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (IDEA CETL) at the University of Leeds, the new guide aims to support members of the engineering community in addressing the ethical issues they face in their daily professional lives. It is designed to help them identify, analyse and respond effectively to the challenges that these issues raise.

A companion guide to the Statement of Ethical Principles published by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Engineering Council in 2007, Engineering ethics in practice: a guide for engineers illustrates these principles with real examples, such as:

‘Esther works on military contracts for a company manufacturing sensors which can detect and warn of the presence of chemical and biological agents. Esther is proud that her work contributes to equipment that saves lives. One day, she is asked to begin working on a new lightweight radar which can sense and display the movement and location of soldiers and vehicles on the battlefield. With this information soldiers can quickly call in mortars and artillery fire to destroy enemy positions. Can Esther work on the new project and keep her integrity?’

The sample dilemmas are discussed and various solutions and actions explored to allow engineers to practice ethical reasoning as it applies to these situations.

The main elements of the ethical skills demanded of a professional engineer are:

- to identify the different, and sometimes competing ethical concerns they face;

- to analyse the issues that might underlie those concerns;

- and to respond effectively to those concerns.

“Engineering is only enriched when we pay more attention to ethics,” says Richard Maudsley CBE FREng, Chairman of the Academy’s Engineering Ethics working group. “Our intention is not to add ethics as an extra demand on already overburdened professionals. Rather we want to show that ethical considerations are already hard-wired into the decisions we take as engineers and that these can be dealt with confidently and with the same rigorous standards of evidence and rationality that we are used to applying to our work.”

Notes for editors

  1. Engineering ethics in practice: a guide for engineers is available at Engineering Ethics
  2. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. Direct tel 020 7766 0636; email: Jane Sutton