Engineering Research and Ethics

  • Michael DavisEmail author
Living reference work entry


Engineering research takes place in at least four domains: the laboratory, the pilot, digital models, and “the field.” In the laboratory, engineering research most resembles research in physics, chemistry, or biology. Issues concerning accuracy, truthfulness, crediting, and the like are much the same in engineering as in the sciences. The chief distinctive ethical issue in engineering research in the lab is that the research should seek to improve the material condition of humanity, not just seek knowledge for its own sake. There is no “pure engineering.” Much the same is true of research using digital models. In research done with “pilot projects,” however, the ethical issues most resemble those of medicine when testing drugs for safety or effectiveness. So, for example, should a pilot project begin to threaten the public welfare, it would have to be ended even though an important opportunity to learn would be lost. In the field, the ethical issues in engineering research most resemble those in public health. For example, engineers should keep good records of complaints about their products; have procedures for quickly identifying threats to the public health, safety, or welfare; and have procedures in place for responding appropriately. Research in engineering is continuous with the practice of engineering.


Human welfare Laboratory Pilot Models Field Ethics 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Humanities DepartmentIllinois Institute of TechnologyChicagoUSA

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