Ethics Case Discussions
The Ethics Case Discussions (ECD) is a successor to the Online Ethics Center's Ethics Help-Line. The biggest difference is that discussions of cases and other topics is publicly viewable on the ECD, whereas only the Help-line team saw the inquiries that were sent to the Help-line. Because the discussion topics posted on the ECD are publicly viewable, the ECD serves an broader educational function than did the Ethics Help-line.
The Ethics Help-line was primarily intended to provide support for engineers, scientists, and trainees by helping them think through ethical problems they encountered in their work in the and so assist them in maintaining high ethical standards and in acting wisely when confronted with multiple and potentially conflicting responsibilities, even where this may lead to conflicts with organizational superiors.
The ECD can still serve the function of helping engineers and scientists think through ethically significant problem situations that they encounter if they send descriptions of the situations without any details that would identify others at topics of discussions. Many of the former Help-line team members will post comments on the ECD.
Topics and Cases need not stem from currently experienced problems. They should all directly bear on ethically significant aspects of the work of engineers and scientists, however.
Students who submit their homework problems are likely to be disappointed for two reasons:
- Some of those problems are unrealistically simplistic, are not of interest to working engineers, and thus do not warrant posting in the ECD
- Those topics and cases that do merit discussion will probably take some time to be fully discussed.
Any student who does use material form the ECD should fully cite the ECD source.
Those who are seeking a judgment against other parties are also likely to be disappointed, since the ECD is not equipped to do investigations or ascertain whether a case description fits any actual events. Because the ECD does not do investigations its policies are designed to prevent it being used to malign any party. Cases with identifying information will not be posted.
An engineer or scientist who wishes to post either a new topic/case or a comment to an existing discussion should begin by setting up a (free) account with a username of your choice and a working email address. (Only the username will be publicly viewable.)
The wishes of ECD users with respect to confidentiality will be respected. However, although every effort will be made to preserve confidentiality, it must be recognized that confidentiality might be breached due to imperfect electronic security or due to special legal circumstances.
When used to gather perspectives on a situation one is actually facing, the ECD is intended to supplement, rather than replace other sources of advice on ethical matters. It should be understood that difficult situations may arise in which intelligent, knowledgeable, people of goodwill may disagree as to the best course of action, and the discussions contained here can only offer information and advice; it cannot guarantee a good outcome.
Note: The ECD is not intended to deal with employee grievances unrelated to ethics, the Help-Line will not give legal advice, and the Help-Line does not have the resources to do investigations. It is not intended to replace other sources of help, such as, an ombudsperson or ethics office in the scientist's or engineer's own organization.