IE 380, The Responsible Engineer

Spring Term 2019

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 ROG 440

Instructor: Dr. Ken Funk

Phone: 541-737-2357
Office: Rogers 212
Office Hours:
Mon 2:00 - 3:00 PM
Wed 4:00 - 5:00 PM
Fri 9:00 - 10:00 AM
or when the door is open, or by appointment

Teaching Assistant: TBD

Office Hours:  

Required Text

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

This book is out of print, but a reprint version is available at the OSU bookstore and used copies of the original are available through online booksellers. Earlier editions are also available, but they differ substantially from the fourth, and their use for this course is discouraged. If you use the bookstore's reprint, please note that it has two page numbers on each page: the reprint version's number in the upper outside corner and the original version's number below that. Page number references in this course will be to those of the original. One copy of the reprint is available on 3-hour reserve in the OSU library.

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. You may wish to 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 usually 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, 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 probably not much before class time. Come prepared to listen carefully and take good notes.


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
Micro issue paper
Macro issue paper
Instructor adjustment based on punctuality, class participation, etc.
+/- 10

Preparation and Attendance

Preparation for and attendance at all class meetings (see Schedule) are mandatory, but two unexcused absences are permitted without penalty. Additional absences will be excused only if they are due to factors beyond your control and you take timely action to inform the instructor of the reason for them; supporting evidence may be required.

As verification of preparation and attendance, you must personally submit your written answers to the Discussion Questions assigned for that class (see below, plus the Schedule); you may not have your answers submitted by another person 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 satisfactory answers to all required questions may result in point penalties.

Discussion Questions

Answers to DIscussion Questions should be complete and clear, but they need not be grammatically perfect; bulleted lists or outlines will be adequate. From them, a reader should be able to get your main points and see that you thought carefully about the questions before you answered them. Besides that, when answering Discussion Questions,


The midterm and final examinations will be closed-book, closed-notes, but you may use one 8½" x 11" (both sides) "cheat" sheet for each exam. The final exam will be comprehensive, but with emphasis on material covered after the midterm.

Issue Papers

You will write two brief (two to four pages) issue papers, one addressing a "micro" engineering ethics issue, one that an individual engineer might (or did) face, the other addressing a "macro" engineering ethics issue, one that an organization, the profession, or even all of society does or might face. Your issue paper will provide background on the issue, a concise statement of the issue, moral clarity (the moral or ethical principles that apply), conceptual clarity (definitions of key concepts and descriptions of how the principles apply to the issue), and a summary of key facts and assumptions. It will identify several options to resolve the issue, describe your reasoning process in choosing an option, and clearly indicate which option you chose. More detailed information about the issue papers, suggestions for possible issues, and several issue paper examples will be given in class.


Each required Discussion Question answer will be evaluated for correctness, completeness, and clarity, and graded: + (good), ✓ (satisfactory), or - (unsatisfactory). An overall + / ✓ / - grade will be given to each answer set. Attendance credit will be given for all answer set grades (except when no answers are submitted, indicating absence), but repeated unsatisfactory (-) anwer sets will affect the instructor's grade adjustment at the end of the term (see above).

Your exam question answers will be graded based on correctness, reasoning, and clarity. Your issue papers will be graded on the quality and clarity of the content described above as well as writing quality, specifically the following criteria.

The expectation is that writing for this course will be at or above the standards for passing 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%

Late Work

A penalty of the equivalent of one letter grade will be applied for each day an issue paper is late. A penalty of one level (+ / ✓ / - / missing) will be applied for each day a set of Discussion Question answers is late.

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.

Academic Honesty

Honesty is a moral responsibility of every professional and therefore of anyone preparing for a profession. It is the expectation of the instructor that any work you submit for this course is the product of your own abilities and efforts with respect to that work. You are free to discuss the Discussion Questions and your issue papers with anyone, including other members of the class, and to consult any other legitimate sources, but the answers and the papers you turn in must represent your own thoughts and be in your own words, except in those parts of the work where you credit the original sources by proper citation. You are also subject to OSU's CODE OF STUDENT CONDUCT, especially section 4.2, which defines and prohibits specific classes of academic misconduct. Any evidence that any of these expectations have not been met will prompt an inquiry, and if the findings support the conclusion that they have not, an academic misconduct report will be filed.


Subject to change, so check it regularly.

Week 1: 1 - 5 April

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday   Course introduction  
Wednesday Ch.1 intro - 1.1 Introduction to Engineering Ethics Ch. 1 Questions 1-9
Friday 1.2 - 1.3 Responsibility
Ch. 1 Questions 10-15

Week 2: 8 - 12 April

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday Ch. 2 intro -  2.1 Resolving Ethical Dilemmas Ch. 2 Questions 1-4
Micro issue paper assignment
Making Moral Choices

Ch. 2 Questions 5-8
Friday 2.3 Engineering Codes of Ethics Ch. 2 Questions 9-17

Week 3: 15 - 19 April

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday   Applying Engineering Codes of Ethics In-class exercise
Wednesday 2.3.4
Ch. 3 intro and
The Natue of Value
The Nature of Value
Moral Frameworks
Ch. 3 Questions 0-9
Friday 3.1 Utilitarianism Ch. 3 Questions 10-13

Week 4: 22 - 26 April

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday 3.2 Rights Ethics, Duty Ethics Ch. 3 Questions 14-18
Wednesday 3.3-3.4.4 Virtue Ethics, Self-Realization Ethics Ch. 3 Questions 19-24
Friday 3.4.4 Good Work Ch. 3 Questions 25-27

Week 5: 29 April - 3 May

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday   Applied Religious Ethics: Buddhist Micro issue paper
Wednesday   Applied Religious Ethics: Christian  
Friday   Midterm Examination  

Week 6: 6 - 10 May

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday Ch. 4 intro - 4.1 Engineering As Social Experimentation
Macro issue paper assignment
Ch. 4 Questions 1-10
Wednesday Ch. 5 intro - 5.2.1, 5.3.1, 5.3.2 Safety Ch. 5 Questions 1-12
Friday Ch. 6 intro - 6.2 "Normal" Accidents Ch. 5 Questions 13-16

Week 7: 13 - 17 May

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday 6.2 - 6.3 The Engineer's Responsibilities Ch. 6 Questions 1-8
Wednesday 6.3 The Engineer's Rights Ch. 6 Questions 9-10
Friday 6.4 - 6.5 Whistleblowing
Ch. 6 Questions 11-14

Week 8: 20 - 24 May

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday Ch. 7 intro - 7.2 Honesty: Truthfulness and Trustworthiness, Ethical Engineering Research Ch. 7 Questions 1-11
Wednesday 7.3 - 7.4 Engineers As Consultants, Expert Witnesses, and Advisers Ch. 7 Questions 12-15
Friday   Engineering Ethics In Practice -- Ron Sarazin, guest speaker in-class exercise

Week 9: 27 - 31 May

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Monday   No class: Memorial Day Holiday  
Wednesday Ch. 8 Environmental Ethics
Ch. 8 Questions 1-9
Friday Ch. 9 intro, 9.1, 9.3 Global Issues Ch. 9 Questions 1-5

Week 10: 3 - 7June

Meeting Reading Topic Work Due
Ch. 10 intro, 10.1

Macro issue paper
Ch. 10 Questions 1-7 (answers optional for extra attendance credit)
Wednesday Reading to be provided A Lesson From the Titanic Ch. 10 Questions 8-10
Friday   Technology, the Welfare of the Public, and the Good Life Ch. 10 Questions 11-12

Finals Week: 10 - 14 June

Friday   Final Exam: 7:30 AM in room TBA


Last update: 17 May 2019