Online Ethics Center For Engineering And Science


Standards of Ethics for R&D, Infrastructure, and Systems During a Crisis

Start Date

Panel Series: Engineering Solutions for the Next Pandemic: Exploring Ethics Concerns

In collaboration with the American Association of Engineering Education (ASEE) Ethics Division, and the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE), the National Academy of Engineering Online Ethics Center (OEC) is hosting a series of panel discussions on “Engineering Solutions for the Next Pandemic: Exploring Ethics Concerns.” We’ll explore how engineers might prepare for future pandemics, through new engineering solutions developed with the insight and knowledge gained during this current crisis. What will it take to develop future solutions that adhere to fundamental principles and codes of engineering ethics? What can we learn from this situation that can inform engineering education?
Panel 1

People are asking FDA and other institutions to “change the rules” because of the extenuating circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic. Others would argue that it’s never appropriate to compromise the rules of ethics we have already agreed upon.  That, in fact, times of crisis are when we should adhere most closely to principles of ethics in guiding our choices and behaviors, as they are directly challenged by competing interests and threats.

This panel will consider how important is it to adhere to established ethics guidelines and codes for engineering R&D during a pandemic, such as we are facing now. What are the questions of ethics that arise when we change the rules in a crisis? Right now, as we proceed to develop and institute responses to the virus, lacking is a common understanding, a shared social agreement, on how far we can deviate from acceptable ethical norms. Compromises are being made because of the crisis context. What engineering standards still apply? What engineering standards are to be considered malleable because of a crisis? Do engineers have a crisis standard that comes into play? Guardrails are needed to ensure safety while still moving ahead quickly. And since another pandemic is likely in the future, how might crisis standards of ethics help us to prepare?