New Ethics Case Studies Published

Fall 2021

NSPE Today
New Ethics Case Studies Published

NSPE’s Board of Ethical Review has published six new case studies that provide engineering ethics guidance using factbased scenarios. The cases cover the topics of plan stamping; gifts; the public health, safety, and welfare; conflicts of interest; responsible charge; and job qualifications. NSPE established the Board of Ethical Review in June 1954 due to many requests by engineers, state societies, and chapters for interpretations of the Code of Ethics in specific circumstances. Since the publishing of the first case in 1958, which involved questionable actions on a World Bank-financed hydroelectric project, the case catalog has grown to nearly 650.

Today, there are many real-world examples in which engineering ethics has a direct impact on the public, especially those related to technology advancement. For example, NSPE encourages policymakers to protect the public health, safety, and welfare when developing artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles. In comments to the National Institute of Standards and Technology in August, NSPE called for the involvement of ethically accountable licensed professional engineers or duly certified individuals in the AI development process. The Society has also called on NIST to create AI technical standards that include an ethical framework that can be applied universally in the development of AI decision-making.

Each of the BER’s just-released cases dives into subjects that practicing professional engineers and engineer interns can face on the job. In Case 20-4, a PE for a metropolitan water commission and a consulting engineer retained by the commission are faced with ethical dilemmas surrounding the commission’s consideration of a change in its water supply source—a change with public health, safety, and welfare implications. In another case (20-1), an engineer intern applies for a position at a consulting firm. The job requires the candidate to hold a PE license or to become licensed within 90 days. The firm offers the job to the engineer intern, but complications arise when the EI fails the PE exam and is found to have withheld information from the firm.