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Global Engineering Ethics: What? Why? How? And When?

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Cross-cultural Sensitivity, Moral Imagination, and Diversity in Engineering Ethics Education

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

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Paper Authors


Rockwell Franklin Clancy III Delft University of Technology

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Rockwell F. Clancy is a Lecture at Delft University of Technology. Before joining Delft, he was an Associate Teaching Professor in engineering ethics and philosophy at the University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute and Research Fellow in the Institute of Social Cognition and Decision-making, both in Shanghai Jiao Tong University. His research and teaching interests include engineering ethics, moral psychology, philosophy of technology, Chinese philosophy, and political philosophy. Rockwell completed his PhD at Purdue University, West Lafayette, MA at the Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven, Belgium, and BA at Fordham University, New York.

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Qin Zhu Colorado School of Mines Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Zhu is Assistant Professor of Ethics and Engineering Education in the Department of Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences and an affiliate faculty member in the Department of Engineering, Design & Society and the Robotics Graduate Program at the Colorado School of Mines. Dr. Zhu is Editor for International Perspectives at the Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science, Associate Editor for Engineering Studies, Program Chair of American Society for Engineering Education's Division of Engineering Ethics, Executive Committee Member of the Society for Ethics Across the Curriculum, and Treasurer of the Society for Philosophy and Technology. Dr. Zhu's research interests include the cultural foundations of engineering ethics, global engineering education, and ethics and policy of computing technologies and robotics.

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Despite the fact that engineering programs, accreditation bodies, and multinational corporations have become increasingly interested in introducing global dimensions into professional engineering practice, little work in the existing literature provides an overview of questions fundamental to global engineering ethics, such as what global engineering ethics is, why it should be taught, how it should be taught, and when it should be introduced. This paper describes the what, why, how, and when of global engineering ethics. This form is adopted from a 1996 article written by Charles Harris, Michael Davis, Michael Pritchard, and Michael Rabins, which has influenced the development of engineering ethics for over twenty years. In this paper, we begin by describing global engineering ethics as a response to the increasingly cross-cultural, international characteristics of contemporary engineering. To so do, we describe four fundamental approaches proposed by scholars and implemented in curricula: (1) global ethical codes; (2) functionalist theories; (3) cultural studies; and (4) global ethics and justice. Next, we explain the motivations for global engineering ethics: Neither educators nor practitioners can necessarily assume a shared nationality or culture among students or between coworkers. Third, we outline discussions about how global engineering ethics should be taught. One of the most prevalent approaches uses case studies with a cross-cultural and/or international dimension, or a form of case-study analysis that takes a “bottom-up” – versus “top-down” – approach. Finally, we identify spots within the engineering curriculum for global engineering ethics: standalone courses, integrated modules, micro-insertions, competence-based training scenarios, and extracurricular activities, such as study, research, service-learning, and humanitarian engineering programs abroad. As the world becomes increasingly cross-cultural and international, ongoing training in global ethics will be essential to both students and practicing engineers.

Clancy, R. F., & Zhu, Q. (2021, July), Global Engineering Ethics: What? Why? How? And When? Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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