IE 380, The Responsible Engineer

Winter Term 2017

Course Information

OSU Catalog Description

The idea of responsibility and the ethical responsibilities of the engineer. Introduction to value, ethics, and ethical systems. Engineering as value creation and the ethical ramifications of engineering. Codes of engineering ethics. Recognizing and addressing ethical dilemmas in engineering. Examination of the individual, social, and environmental effects of engineering and technology. (Baccalaureate Core Course)

3 credits (3 hours of lecture per week)

This course satisfies the Bacc Core Science, Technology, and Society requirement.

Meeting Times and Location

MWF 1100-1150 in BAT 150

Instructor: Dr. Ken Funk

Phone: 541-737-2357
Office: Rogers 212
Office Hours: MWF 1600-1700,
or when the door is open,
or by appointment

Graduate Teaching Assistant: Mr. Sami Al-Abdrabbuh

Phone: 541-737-5837
Office: BAT 050
Office Hours: R 0900-1050
or by appointment

Required Text

Martin, M.W. & R. Schinzinger. Ethics in Engineering. 4th ed. Boston: McGraw Hill, 2005. Print.

This book is out of print, but a reprint version is available at the OSU bookstore. Either a used original or new reprint will be satisfactory, but note: the reprint has two page numbers on each page, the reprint version's number in the upper outside corner and the original version's number below it. Page number references in this course will be to those of the original.

Learning Outcomes

After completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. Define and describe the fundamental terms and concepts of ethics and explain how they apply to the practice of engineering.
  2. Describe, compare, and contrast several ethical systems (e.g., utilitarianism, duty ethics, virtue ethics, religious ethics) and apply them to the examination of ethical issues in engineering.
  3. Clearly state your own personal ethical principles and apply them to ethical issues in engineering.
  4. Recognize an engineering ethical dilemma and apply a systematic process of moral reasoning to resolve it.
  5. Explain the advantages and limitations of engineering ethics codes and apply one to the resolution of an ethical dilemma.
  6. Define responsibility, identify to whom and to what you will be responsible as a practicing engineer, and give examples of how you might fulfill -- or fail to fulfill -- those responsibilities.
  7. Describe the effects of technology on individuals, society, and the environment and apply your ethical principles, as well as those of other ethical systems, to the critical examination of technology in light of those effects.
  8. Analyze relationships among science, technology, and society using critical perspectives or examples from historical, political, or economic disciplines.
  9. Analyze the role of science and technology in shaping diverse fields of study over time.
  10. Articulate in writing a critical perspective on issues involving science, technology, and society using evidence as support.

Course Activities

The course format is reading, lecture, and focused discussion. Readings, assigned in the Schedule, will come from the text and the instructor will provide Discussion Questions in advance of each discussion. You should read the material, think carefully about it, and answer the questions in writing before coming to class. Bring two copies of your answers to class, one to turn in at the beginning of class as a record of your preparation and attendance, the other for you to refer to in class discussions.

Class will start on time and it is your responsibility to be on time to class. If you have a long walk from your previous class to this one or if there are other circumstances beyond your control that will make you late to class, let the instructor know so that accommodations can be made.

Class meetings will often center around the discussion questions for that day, sometimes beginning with a lecture summarizing the material in the text and supplementing it with other information. The instructor may ask you to give your answer to a specific discussion question and sometimes he will pose additional questions in class for you to think critically, write, and speak about, either individually or in small groups.

When slides are used in class, the instructor will post them on this website in the Slides folder under Resources, but not necessarily before class time.


The following summarizes the coursework, with the possible points for grading purposes. These coursework elements are described in the paragraphs below and their due dates are given in the Schedule.

Attendance and Discussion Question Answers
 (see below)
Midterm Examination
Final Examination
Essay, preliminary version
Essay, final version
Instructor adjustment based on timeliness,
+/- 10
participation, etc.    

Preparation and Attendance

Preparation for and attendance at all class meetings (see Schedule) are mandatory, but two absences are permitted without penalty.  As verification of preparation and attendance, you must personally submit your answers to the Discussion Questions assigned for that class; you may not have your answers submitted by another in your absence. The penalty for missed attendance or missing answers is 10 points per class meeting missed (two excused, per above). Discussion question answers will be collected at the beginning of class and answers submitted after the beginning of class may not be accepted. Even if answers are submitted on time, repeated failure to provide substantive answers to all required questions may result in point penalties.


The midterm and final examinations will be closed-book, closed-notes, but you may use one 8.5" x 11" (both sides) "cheat" sheet for each exam.


You will write an essay in which you address an ethical issue of your choice related to engineering. Your issue might be a "micro" ethical issue, an ethical dilemma faced by an individual, such as one of the four cases described on pp. 38-39 in the text. Other possible dilemmas might arise for an engineering student tempted to plagiarize in order to complete a writing assignment or for a manufacturing engineer confronted with the possibility of replacing conventional machine tools with highly automated ones, thereby eliminating the jobs of experienced machinists or relegating them merely to the service of the new automated machine tools.

Or you might choose a "macro" ethical issue, concerning the general direction of technological progress, one falling within the the broader responsibilities of engineers, companies, governments, or society as a whole. Such macro issues might include whether off-shore oil drilling should be more tightly controlled or prohibited, the extent to which we should rely on nuclear power, and the pros and cons of social media. Your issue must be one on which you have not yet come to a final pro/con position.

Whether you choose a micro or macro ethical issue, the goal is for you to more fully develop, articulate, and apply your own personal ethical principles. Your essay must address the following points.

Point For  Micro Issues For Macro Issues
Background Provide enough background for the reader to understand the issue the engineer involved faces. If this is a case drawn from the text or another source, you may quote the source, but properly indicate that you are quoting and cite the source. Provide enough information for the reader to understand the issue we face. It should also be clear what the roles of engineers are in the issue and why it is important for an engineer to take a position on it. CIte your sources.
Moral Clarity What moral or ethical principles do you believe apply to this issue? Justify your reference to these particular principles (i.e., why you have chosen to use them). Cite the sources from which you draw these principles or which you use to justify them. What principles are in conflict? What moral or ethical principles do you believe apply to this issue? Justify your reference to these particular principles (i.e., why you have chosen to use them). Cite the sources from which you draw these principles or which you use to justify them. What principles are in conflict?
Conceptual Clarity Clarify how these principles apply to the issue. For example, if you adopt the principle to hold paramount human welfare, what does "paramount" mean? Whose welfare is at stake here? What does "welfare" mean in this context? Clarify how these principles apply to the issue. For example, if you adopt the principle to hold paramount human welfare, what does "paramount" mean? Whose welfare is at stake here? What does "welfare" mean in this context?
Facts What additional information is needed to make a reasoned decision on the issue? If this is a hypothetical issue for which there may be no additional information (like one of the cases in the text), state some reasonable assumputions, ones that do not themselves resolve the issue, and proceed with that information. Research the issue to obtain the information needed to make a reasoned decision on the issue. Cite your sources. If information is unavailable make and state reasonable assumptions and proceed on those.
Options What are the options open to the individual involved? Besides the obvious ones, use your creativity to come up with others, perhaps involving compromise, that could resolve the issue by reducing the level of conflict among principles or satisfying the most important principle(s). What are our options to address this issue? Besides the obvious ones, use your creativity to come up with novel approaches that reduce the conflict among principles or satisfy the most important principle(s).
Conclusions Weigh and compare the options with respect to the above considerations (especially the ethical principles) and state a reasoned recommendation on what the individual should do to resolve this issue. Weigh and compare the options with respect to the above considerations (especially the ethical principles) and state a reasoned recommendation on what you believe we should do to resolve this issue.

You will submit two versions of your essay. Your preliminary essay need address only the first four points, Background, Moral Clarity, Conceptual Clarity, and Facts (see above). It should be two to four pages long, exclusive of references, and double-spaced; cite at least three authoritative sources, and include a list of references cited. The purpose of the preliminary version is to get you thinking and writing about an ethical issue, to provide the instructor with an example of your work, and to allow him to provide feedback to you before you complete the final version. Your final essay should be six to ten pages long, exclusive of references, and double-spaced; cite at least six authoritative sources, and include a list of references. Your preliminary and final essays are due at class time on the days specified in the schedule.

You must get help from the OSU Writing Center at least once for each version of your essay and provide proof of that in the form of signed Writing Center consultation slips. Although the Writing Center has walk-in hours, you are strongly encouraged to make appointments, and to do so as early in the term as possible. Proof-read your essay before going to the Writing Center to make the best use of the consultant's time, and incorporate the Writing Center's changes in the document you submit, unless you can provide good justification for not doing so.


Your discussion question answers will not be graded in detail, but the instructor will record whether or not you submitted them on time.  Your exam question answers will graded based on factual accuracy, logic, and clarity. Your essay, both preliminary and final versions, must be written as to a readership of college juniors or seniors. It will be graded based on meeting the above requirements and the following writing criteria:

The expectation is that writing for this course will be at or above the level achieved through satisfactory completion of a freshman writing course, such as WR 121.

Grading Scale

Points will be assigned to coursework as shown above and each student's final course grade will be based on the percentage of maximum possible points earned, according to the following table.

93% - 100%
90% - 92%
87% - 89%
83% - 86%
80% - 82%
77% - 79%
73% - 76%
70% - 72%
67% - 69%
63% - 66%
60% - 62%
0% - 59%

Questions about Grading

Any questions or concerns about the grading of specific work must be brought to the attention of the Instructor within one week of when the graded work is returned.

Disabilities Information

Accommodations for students with disabilities are determined and approved by Disability Access Services (DAS). If you, as a student, believe you are eligible for accommodations but have not obtained approval please contact DAS immediately at 541-737-4098 or at DAS notifies students and faculty members of approved academic accommodations and coordinates implementation of those accommodations. While not required, students and faculty members are encouraged to discuss details of the implementation of individual accommodations. [Updated 28 April 2016.]

Academic Honesty

In this course, you will naturally be held to high standards of academic honesty, and any dishonest acts will be dealt with firmly. The following is adapted from the OSU Student Conduct and Community Standards webpage.

Academic or Scholarly Dishonesty is defined as an act of deception in which a Student seeks to claim credit for the work or effort of another person, or uses unauthorized materials or fabricated information in any academic work or research, either through the Student's own efforts or the efforts of another. It includes:

CHEATING - use or attempted use of unauthorized materials, information or study aids, or an act of deceit by which a Student attempts to misrepresent mastery of academic effort or information. This includes but is not limited to unauthorized copying or collaboration on a test or assignment, using prohibited materials and texts, any misuse of an electronic device, or using any deceptive means to gain academic credit.

FABRICATION - falsification or invention of any information including but not limited to falsifying research, inventing or exaggerating data, or listing incorrect or fictitious references.

ASSISTING - helping another commit an act of academic dishonesty. This includes but is not limited to paying or bribing someone to acquire a test or assignment, changing someone's grades or academic records, taking a test/doing an assignment for someone else by any means, including misuse of an electronic device. It is a violation of Oregon state law to create and offer to sell part or all of an educational assignment to another person.

TAMPERING - altering or interfering with evaluation instruments or documents.

PLAGIARISM - representing the words or ideas of another person or presenting someone else's words, ideas, artistry or data as one's own, or using one's own previously submitted work. Plagiarism includes but is not limited to copying another person's work (including unpublished material) without appropriate referencing, presenting someone else's opinions and theories as one's own, or working jointly on a project and then submitting it as one's own.

With respect to IE 380 specifically, you are free to discuss the Discussion Questions and your essay with anyone, including other members of the class, but the answers you turn in and both versions of your essay must represent your own thoughts and be in your own words. Deviations from that will be considered cheating, assisting, plagiarism, or a combination of the three.

Any acts of academic dishonesty in this course will be handled initially by the School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering. Any such matters not quickly resolved will also be referred to the Student Conduct Coordinator for action under Oregon Revised Statute 351.070.


Subject to change, so check this regularly.

Week 1: 9 - 13 January

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday   No class due to OSU weather closure  
Wednesday   Course introduction  
Friday Sec.1.0 (Intro) - 1.1 Introduction to Engineering Ethics Ch. 1 Questions 1 - 9

Week 2: 16 - 20 January

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday   Martin Luther King, Jr. Day - no class  
Wednesday 1.2 - 1.3 Responsibility
Ch. 1 Questions 10 - 15
Friday Sec. 2.0 -  2.1 Resolving Ethical Dilemmas
Essay Assignment
Ch. 2 Questions 1 - 4

Week 3: 23 - 27 January

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday Sec. 2.2 - 2.3 Making Moral Choices Ch. 2 Questions 5 - 10
Wednesday Sec. 2.3 Engineering Codes of Ethics Ch. 2 Questions 11 - 19
Friday Sec. 3.0 and
The Natue of Value
Moral Frameworks: The Nature of Value Ch. 3 Questions 1-9

Week 4: 30 January - 3 February

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday Sec. 3.1 Utilitarianism Ch. 3 Questions 10-13
Wednesday Sec. 3.2 Rights Ethics, Duty Ethics Essay, Preliminary Version
Ch. 3 Questions 14-17
(all questions optional)
Friday Sec. 3.3-3.4 Virtue Ethics, Self-Realization Ethics Ch. 3 Questions 18-23

Week 5: 6 - 10 February

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday   Religious Ethics Applied Ch. 3 Questions 24-26
Wednesday Sec. 4.0 - 4.1 Good Work
Review for Midterm
(in-class exercise)
Friday   Midterm Examination  

Week 6: 13 - 17 February

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday Sec. 4.0 - 4.1 Engineering As Social Experimentation Ch. 4 Questions 1-9
Wednesday Sec. 5.0 - 5.2 Enhancing Safety and Reducing Risk Ch. 5 Questions 1-12
Friday Sec. 5.3 Three Mile Island and Chernobyl: "Normal" Accidents? Ch. 5 Questions 13-16

Week 7: 20 - 24 February

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday Sec. 6.0 - 6.1 The Engineer's Responsibilities: Teamwork Ch. 6 Questions 1-6
Wednesday Sec. 6.2 The Engineer's Responsibilities: Confidentiality and Conflicts of Interest Ch. 6 Questions 7-8
Friday Sec. 6.3 The Engineer's Rights Ch. 6 Questions 9-10

Week 8: 27 February - 3 March

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday Sec. 6.4 - 6.5 Whistleblowing
Ch. 6 Questions 11-14
Wednesday Sec. 7.0 - 7.2 Honesty: Truthfulness and Trustworthiness, Ethical Research Ch. 7 Questions 1-11
Friday Sec. 7.3 - 7.4 Engineers As Consultants, Expert Witnesses, and Advisers Ch. 7 Questions 12-15

Week 9: 6 - 10 March

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday Chap. 8 Environmental Ethics
Ch. 8 Questions 1-9
Wednesday Sec. 9.1 Global Issues Ch. 9 Questions 1-4
Friday Sec. 10.0 The Welfare of the Public and The Good Life Essay, Final Version
In-class exercise

Week 10: 13 - 17 March

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday   Technology Questions 3-5
Wednesday Sec. 10.1.1-10.1.2 Technology and The Good Life Questions 6-7
Friday Sec. 10.1.3-10.1.4 Summary and Review Questions 8-9

Finals Week:

Friday 24 Mar   0730 - 0920 in BAT 150
(the room we have met in all term)


This section provides links to course resources, as they become available.

Last update: 9 March 2017