Ethics is part of other behaviours such as inclusivity and sustainability, which ensure that both individuals and organisations are globally responsible. These behaviours help secure an inclusive economy and sustainable society for all.
This is reflected in our strategy, which includes our goals for an inclusive economy:
- Ensure that ethical best practice is fully embedded in UK engineering education, training and professional development;
- Embed integrity and ethics into our support for engineering innovation
Maintaining society’s trust in the engineering profession
Building on the Statement of Ethical Principles, a joint Engineering Ethics Reference Group (EERG) was established in 2019 by the Engineering Council and the Royal Academy of Engineering, under the Chairmanship of Professor David Bogle CEng FREng.
The group published its report February 2022, Engineering Ethics: Maintaining society's trust in the engineering profession
Outcomes of the report
Engineering ethics: Maintaining society’s trust in the engineering profession is just the start of a raft of activity which the profession is undertaking to embed ethics in engineering culture.
Case studies for teaching ethics at undergraduate level
- Business growth models in engineering industries within an economic system
- Facial recognition for access and monitoring
- Choosing a career in climate change geoengineering
- Glass safety in a heritage building conversion
- Developing an Internet Constellation
- Industrial pollution from an ageing pipeline and its impact on local communities
- Power-to-Food technologies
- Developing a school chatbot for student support services
- Water wars: managing competing water rights
- Smart homes for older people with disabilities
- Choosing to install a smart meter
- Solar panels in a desert oil field
These resources were produced by the Engineering Professors’ Council for the Royal Academy of Engineering, these twelve initial case studies are just one of the resources in the Engineering Ethics toolkit.
How ethics is embedded in the Academy’s work
Statement of Ethical Principles
The Royal Academy of Engineering and Engineering Council jointly created a statement of ethical principles to guide engineering practice and behaviour, which was revised and updated in 2017. It sets out the four underpinning fundamental principles of honesty and integrity; respect for life, law, the environment, and public good, accuracy and vigour; and leadership and communication.
Engineering Ethics Reference Group
Building on the Statement of Ethical Principles, a joint Engineering Ethics Reference Group (EERG) was established in 2019 by the Engineering Council and the RAEng, under the Chairmanship of Professor David Bogle, CEng FREng. Operating at a strategic level, the group’s overarching objective is to provide advice and a steer to the profession about embedding a culture of ethical behaviour. The Group published its report in February 2022 (see above).
Engineering Ethics Co-ordination Group
To deliver the actions identified by the Engineering Ethics Reference Group which will change the culture around ethics, a co-ordination Group has been formed. With Secretariat provided by the Academy, and chaired by Libby Meyrick (Chief Executive of the Institution of Engineering Designers), the group is ensuring that the actions agreed are progressing, and having the desired impact on ethical engineering practice across the profession.
Engineering Ethics case studies
In 2011, the Academy published a set of case studies, developed from real engineers' experience, that shows the relevance of the ethical principles to engineering practice. It is designed for engineers to work through practical ethical examples and to explore how ethics relates to their own working lives. A full set of case studies, and a shorter summary document are available.
More case studies, specifically focused on teaching engineering ethics at undergraduate level, have been developed and published (see links above). The case studies and more supporting activity such as workshops and lecturer guidance, are being trialled across the UK in 2022.
The Academy’s work in engineering ethics began in 2003 when a working group on professional ethics was established. The Academy’s work on ethics was stimulated by the Lloyd’s Register lecture, Do engineers owe duties to the public? by John Uff CBE QC FREng.
The Academy held its first engineering ethics conference in October 2005, at which the original statement of ethical principles was launched.
The Academy has undertaken a range of collaborative activities on engineering ethics, bringing together the profession to agree a set of aspirational principles and working with engineering educators to explore ways of teaching engineering ethics.
The Academy’s work on engineering ethics covers ethics in engineering education, ethics in practice and the issues surrounding emerging engineered technologies. Through events, publications and teaching resources, the Academy has sought to enrich thinking about engineering ethics and provide materials and inspiration for engineers interested in the wider impact of their work.
Safer Complex systems
Ethical engineering practice, is a key element of Safer Complex Systems. As part of the its Engineering X activity, in Spring 2019 the Academy launched a £5 million five-year mission, Safer Complex Systems.
Safety and ethics of autonomous systems
This is a current (December 2021) Academy project, and has already resulted in a paper on The journey to an autonomous transport systems and various activity through the National Engineering Policy centre.