History of the OEC: Key Personnel and Funding

Expanding the OEC

Starting in 2014, a five year grant from the National Science Foundation is enabling the site to expand content and functionality under the guidance of the Joint Advisory Group (joint because of its collaboration with the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering).

Redesigned and augmented content (e.g., enhanced with new pedagogical resources and ethical commentaries) as well as the collection of new content will provide information for practitioners, educators, and students about ethical, social justice, diversity, and globalization considerations associated with science and engineering. Content editorial boards in five areas are reviewing, identifying, and developing materials and working with various communities to meet their needs. Co-PI Karin Ellison from Arizona State University will lead the way with her plans for the Life and Environmental Sciences Editorial Board. A team from the University of Delaware, led by Thomas M. Powers, will expand the collection on international issues. The Content Editorial Boards are:

The project is also redesigning and strengthening technical and communal aspects of the site that support both the resource collection and the community of users and authors. The new site will offer expanded searching abilities and other updated features as well as a new users’ community that will connect author profiles to resources and enable users to comment on the value of resources. Collaboration with project partner the Ethics Education Library (EEL) of the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions at the Illinois Institute of Technology will provide access to a wider array of materials and promote interactions with other repositories of ethics-related information.

For further information on the first year of the expansion, please see our paper presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Society of Engineering Education.

The OEC Comes to the NAE

The OEC owes its existence to the founding leadership of Professor Caroline Whitbeck, who at a 2003 NAE conference on “Emerging Technologies and Ethical Issues in Engineering” proposed to NAE president Wm. A. Wulf (1997–2007) the transfer of the OEC from Case Western Reserve University to the NAE. The conference was funded by NAE member Charles J. Pankow (1923–2004), and the proceedings published by the National Academies Press. After the conference Dr. Wulf appointed a committee to advise him on next steps for the NAE to address ethical activities. The committee, headed by NAE member Norm Augustine, reported that, contingent on funding, the NAE should house a center that would focus on research, education, and outreach activities in this field.

In 2007 the NAE launched the Center for Engineering Ethics and Society (CEES) and effected the transfer of the OEC to CEES with a gift from NAE member Harry E. Bovay, Jr. (1914–2011). In addition, a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) provided funds (grant number 0936865) to develop new OEC resources to assist individuals and institutions in complying with the new America COMPETES Act requirements. The grant also enabled a restructuring of the website to facilitate searches and provide a more user-friendly interface.

The OEC has been guided by a distinguished group of advisors since its inception. They come from a variety of disciplines in addition to engineering and the natural and physical sciences, including philosophy, psychology, history, and sociology, and include individuals with oversight responsibilities for ethical behavior for professional societies, corporations, and government agencies as well as academics. Advisors for both the OEC and CEES were combined into the CEES Advisory Group in 2012. Caroline Whitbeck provided valuable direction as chair of the OEC Advisory Group through 2010. Rachelle Hollander led the OEC beginning in 2007, with Simil Raghavan joining the team in 2008. Frazier Benya took over as director of OEC operations in 2010. After Frazier moved to a different project in 2017, Beth Cady oversaw the OEC until the current director, Rosalyn Berne, joined the NAE in 2018.

Pre-NAE Inception

Seed money from Raymond Stata, president of Analog Devices, funded the prototype for the OEC in the early 1990s. Grants from the National Science Foundation (SBR-9511862, SBR-9871169, SES-9976500, SES-0135585, and SES-0428597) supported its development and operation until its transfer to the NAE. NAE member Harry E. Bovay, Jr., president of MidSouth Telecommunications Company, contributed funds for the transition and continuing support.

Students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and, from 1997 to 2007, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) were the primary creators of many of the OEC pages and made many invaluable contributions to its design, maintenance, and accessibility. The OEC moved with Dr. Whitbeck to Case Western Reserve University in 1997 when she became the school’s first Elmer G. Beamer–Hubert H. Schneider Professor in Ethics. CWRU students worked as technical consultants and content developers for the site. They included Francy Acosta, Marlon Buchanan, Anila Jahangiri, Xiaobo Li, Michael Melamed, Juliet Midgley, Andrew Penry, Andrew Roksandic, Amanda Shaffer, Laura Simna, and Toni Thayer. Renee Holland provided able administrative assistance from 1999 to 2007.

Cite this page: "History of the OEC: Key Personnel and Funding" Online Ethics Center for Engineering 5/1/2007 OEC Accessed: Wednesday, March 20, 2019 <www.onlineethics.org/about/history.aspx>