Research Products

Philosophy and Engineering: Exploring Boundaries, Expanding Connections

Editors: Diane P. Michelfelder, Byron Newberry, and Qin Zhu
(Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2017.)

This volume, the result of an ongoing bridge building effort among engineers and humanists, addresses a variety of philosophical, ethical, and policy issues emanating from engineering and technology. Interwoven through its chapters are two themes, often held in tension with one another: “Exploring Boundaries” and “Expanding Connections.” “Expanding Connections” highlights contributions that look to philosophy for insight into some of the challenges engineers face in working with policy makers, lay designers, and other members of the public. It also speaks to reflections included in this volume on the connections between fact and value, reason and emotion, engineering practice and the social good, and, of course, between engineering and philosophy. “Exploring Boundaries” highlights contributions that focus on some type of demarcation. Public policy sets a boundary between what is regulated from what is not, academic disciplines delimit themselves by their subjects and methods of inquiry, and professions approach problems with unique goals and by using concepts and language in particular ways that create potential obstacles to collaboration with other fields. These and other forms of boundary setting are also addressed in this volume. Contributors explore these two themes in a variety of specific contexts, including engineering epistemology, engineers’ social responsibilities, engineering and public policy-making, engineering innovation, and the affective dimensions of engineering work. The book also includes analyses of social and ethical issues with emerging technologies such as 3-D printing and its use in medical applications, as well as social robots. Initial versions of the invited papers included in this book were first presented at the 2014 meeting of the Forum on Philosophy, Engineering, and Technology (fPET), held at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, USA. The volume furthers fPET’s intent of extending and developing the philosophy of engineering as an academic field, and encouraging conversation, promoting a sense of shared enterprise, and building community among philosophers and engineers across a diversity of cultural backgrounds and approaches to inquiry.

The Joy of Science: Seven Principles for Scientists Seeking Happiness, Harmony, and Success

Authors: Roel Snieder and Jen Schneider
(Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016.)

We live in an age where working in science or engineering offers tremendous professional opportunities – the pace of scientific development is truly breathtaking. Yet many researchers struggle with the pressures of the fast-paced academic workplace, and struggle to harmonize their work and personal lives. The result can be burnout, exhaustion, and stress on a personal level, and difficulty in recruiting and retaining talented, diverse people to science and engineering. This book, written for graduate students and researchers at all stages of their careers, aims to help scientists by identifying and questioning the core beliefs that drive a culture of overwork, and provides real-world examples and exercises for those wishing to do things differently. Written in a lively, narrative style, and including interview excerpts from practicing scientists, social scientists, and engineers, this book serves as a guide for those seeking to practice the seven traits of the joyful scientist.

Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics

Editor: Carl Mitcham

Dr. Carl Mitcham has edited a reference that seeks to emphasize the ethical and philosophical questions that arise in the fields and endeavors of science and technology. The entries are largely devoted to four main themes: types of science and technology; approaches to ethics; types of science, technology, and ethics interactions; and historical and cultural contexts. Eight introductory essays provide overviews of central issues in society’s relationship with science and technology as well as in the study of ethics in these fields. Many entries are devoted to ethics and a particular field, for example, archaeology, architecture, bioethics, communication, engineering, journalism, and medicine. National, religious, and philosophic perspectives are a common entry topic, and many of the entries are biographical. Each entry is signed and includes an annotated list of bibliography. Most of the contributors are academics, teaching in a wide range of subjects, mainly in the US. This is a thought-provoking and timely resource that will be useful to the interested public as well as undergraduate students.

The Art of Being a Scientist: A Guide for Graduate Students and their Mentors

Authors: Roel Sneider and Ken Larner
(Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.)

This is a hands-on guide for graduate students and young researchers wishing to perfect the practical skills needed for a successful research career. By teaching junior scientists to develop effective research habits, the book helps to make the experience of graduate study a more efficient and rewarding one. This book is an outgrowth of the notes for the graduate course, “The Art of Science,” taught by the authors at Colorado School of Mines and highly rated and appreciated by students over the years. A sample curriculum, which parallels the curriculum followed in the authors’ course, is available in the book as Appendix B, and as an online resource. This sample is offered as a possible starting point for instructors in graduate schools wanting to teach a similar course at their university.

Topics covered in the book include: choosing a research topic, department, and advisor; making workplans; the ethics of research; using scientific literature; perfecting oral and written communication; publishing papers; writing proposals; managing time effectively; and planning a scientific career and applying for jobs in research and industry. The wealth of advice is invaluable to students, junior researchers and mentors in all fields of science, engineering, and the humanities.

ETHICS AUTOBIOGRAPHY AS A TOOL FOR MORAL PEDAGOGY

Most engineering educators recognize the necessity–and challenges–of teaching students moral sensitivity. As recently pointed out by some scholars, along with moral sensitivity, promoting “self-knowledge” is significantly lacking in engineering curricula. We suggest that a version of the “Ethics Autobiography” employed in some health and psychological science programs can serve as a useful tool for teaching engineering students moral sensitivity and self-reflective competencies.

This project first sets up a historical and cultural context within which moral sensitivity and self-reflection are needed in engineering education. It then reports our experience using the Ethics Autobiography in an introductory ethics course at an engineering college: We asked students to write two ethics autobiographies, one at the beginning and the other at the end of the semester. In the first ethics autobiography, we asked students to write a diary of day, evaluate each entry for ethical implications and discuss their most fundamental ethical principles, ranking of those principles, and the source(s) of those principles. In the second ethics autobiography, we asked students to revisit the first autobiography and reevaluate the ethics entailed in the entries. Students were asked to reevaluate their own ethical principles included in the first autobiographies and connect their ethical principles to the classical ethical theories studied in the course.

We compared students’ early and later autobiographies and assessed to what extent and in what sense their moral sensitivity and self-reflective competencies were cultivated. Compared to ethics autobiographical pedagogical activities in other professional education fields, our approach has some distinct objectives such as:

  1. gaining insights into students’ difficulties contextualizing ethics theories in their everyday moral decision-making,
  2. identifying the most prevalent moral judgment schemas among students
  3. discovering the social factors that shaped the formation of students’ moral judgment schemas and moral habits.

This project also explores the implications of our research findings for engineering ethics education reform and reflections on the limitations and ethical considerations of using autobiography in moral pedagogy.

We have presented preliminary results at the following conferences: 18th International Conference on Ethics Across the Curriculum (2016), Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) 26th Annual International Conference (2017). Currently, we are working on a manuscript that will be later submitted to an ethics education journal.

ETHICAL CLIMATE, INSTITUTIONAL TRANSFORMATION AND STEM EDUCATION

A Recent Project: “The Ethics Across Campus Program at Colorado School of Mines: Ethics Education in Institutional, Societal, and Policy Contexts

Note: This is a recently invited chapter in a book volume comparing the ethics across the curriculum practices at different institutions.

Since the late 1980s and the early 1990s, numerous ethics centers and programs have been established at higher education institutions to help faculty members integrate ethics into the curriculum and improve students’ experience of ethics education. These centers and programs often serve as important venues that situate ethics education in broader institutional, social, and policy contexts, but these programs can also struggle to carve out a niche in an atmosphere of shifting administrators and institutional goals. By taking the Ethics Across Campus Program (EAC) at Colorado School of Mines (CSM) as an example, this paper discusses how institutional, social, and policy contexts provide opportunities—and challenges—for ethics centers and programs to create diverse moral learning experience for students.

This paper begins by depicting the historical background against which the EAC program was founded. It was launched to meet the policy requirements stipulated by university administration, accreditation bodies (e.g., ABET), and governmental agencies (e.g., NSF). Historically the governance structure of this program has been cross-disciplinary and cross-departmental, which demonstrates a holistic approach to understanding ethics education.

This paper also discusses the pedagogical approaches and tools (e.g., ethics autobiography, personal code of ethics, business ethics award judges) that EAC has developed for students to critically engage ethical reflections in their campus life, everyday decision-making, community engagement, and professional formation. In a broader sense, the EAC program has been working to invite business and engineering practitioners to contribute to ethics education on campus in several ways: through providing funding, by serving as judges for team competitions, and lecturing on ethics practical experiences at the workplace. Finally, this paper concludes with reflections on some major challenges faced by the program, including the different views of ethics held by ethics instructors and industry practitioners.