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

Rockwell Franklin Clancy, Qin Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
202 Downloads (Pure)


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.
Original languageEnglish
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: 26 Jul 202129 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


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