Professional Responsibility: the Role of Engineering in Society

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PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY: THE ROLE OF ENGINEERING IN SOCIETY S.P. Nichols and W.F. Weldon Center for Electromechanics, The University of Texas at Austin, USA Keywords: professional responsibility, engineering ethics, engineering responsibility. Abstract We argue that the practice of engineering does not exist outside the domain of societal interests. That is, the practice of engineering has an inherent (and unavoidable) impact on society. Engineering is based upon that relationship with society (inter alia). An engineer's conduct (as captured in professional codes of conduct) toward other engineers, toward employers, toward clients, and toward the public is an essential part of the life of a professional engineer, yet the education…show more content…
1). Figure 1. The utilization of scientific knowledge over time establishes that some of the knowledge is immediately relevant to societal needs while other parts are less immediately relevant (society may never realize the relevance of a particular scientific inquiry). While the congruence of societal need with scientific knowledge is much more complex than indicated in this article, it may be represented for the purpose of this discussion by a Venn diagram as seen in figure 2. The authors maintain that it is this overlap of scientific knowledge with societal need, more specifically, the application of scientific knowledge to the needs of society, that is the domain of engineering (inter alia) (see below). Clearly, the extent of human enterprise is much more complex than is represented here. If, for example, it is in the interest of society to increase our store of scientific knowledge, then engineers and scientists who ply their trade in the frontiers of scientific research are both serving societal need. Nevertheless, our contention is that the central focus of the engineering profession is the application of scientific knowledge to meet societal needs. Figure 2. This analogy can be extended by superimposing the distinction of the creative versus the analytical aspect of
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