Ethical Dimensions of Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems

Lesson Resources


Lesson Resources

Assignment Suggestions

I want you to think of the approach and cases we cover in this class as more like "ethics forensics" and how to apply tools for ethics investigations, as opposed to learning strict ethical theory, moral laws, etc. Perhaps another way to put it, in pop culture terms, is that our course is more like a detective show than a courtroom drama.

As such, I don't expect you to have the absolutely correct answers or perfect choices for examples. I want you to try ideas out, experiment with different hypotheses, suggest various paths of action, etc. I want you to notice things, looking closely at important details. (You certainly may not have time to look at all of the details; but, in time, you will begin to notice things as you go.)

The matrix assignments are all intended towards helping you discover possible ethical issues when evaluating a given topic of interest – in this case, in renewable energy and sustainability-related issues. Each of the columns represents a different dimension in which ethical issues can be viewed. You can take a topic, as broadly or narrowly defined as you like and apply this matrix. It is best to stick with one topic at a time, i.e., the same topic evaluated according to each column. Complete the assignment in column form or written out as paragraphs or in some combination... as long as I can recognize what you are doing, then that should work.

Suggestions for completing Matrix 1

The first column should get us thinking about the issues concerning professional and research integrity that help keep processes safe, transparent, honest, etc.

The second column should prompt us to think about questions concerning the work that could affect other people, society, the environment, and other broader impacts.

The third column requires thinking closely about the processes and technologies that can embed certain ethical choices, perhaps without even realizing it. This kind of analysis is a bit tricky and requires an understanding of the professional and/or research practices themselves. The choices we make as professionals can have consequences we may not have considered.

Let's try an example: Consider public architecture in the U.S. before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Architects were free to design public buildings that were difficult, if not impossible, to access for citizens in wheelchairs. Leaving out consideration of access to a public space by not just people in wheelchairs, but pretty much anyone not on two good legs, produces significant inequity in opportunities and access to public resources for that group. Using the first column (professional and research integrity), we would say that architects at the time were following the best practices of their field, meeting code and other professional expectations, so all was ok there. Using the second column, we would begin to see, however, that a significant sector of society at any given point (even people on crutches, with a broken leg, who may at other points be bi-pedal) may not be able to access a public building (courthouse, town hall, library, etc.) without significant difficulty, if at all. Using the third column, we would see that architectural practice and design of public spaces did not take into account the wide variety of human variability, and the only way to change that is to change that practice of the design of public spaces. After 25 years of significant protest (which began with the wave of returning injured soldiers returning from Vietnam), regulation and sets of guidelines were designed that became law in 1990. We can see this as a process in that the ADA goes back and significantly changes the first column which now makes following these considerations professional responsibility, and not following these regulations will not pass inspection. This is a historical process that reflects these three dimensions, but we can, and will, use it in a variety of areas.

Lesson 1 References

Ethical Dimensions of Scientific Research and supporting theory

Davis, M. 2006. Engineering ethics, individuals, and organizations. Science and Engineering Ethics 12 (2):223-231.

Devon, Richard. 1999. Toward a social ethics of engineering: the norms of engagement. Journal of Engineering Education 88 (1):87-92.

Holbrook, J. Britt. 2005. Assessing the science–society relation: The case of the US National Science Foundation’s second merit review criterion, Technology in Society 27:437-451.

Schienke, Erich, Seth Baum, Nancy Tuana, Ken Davis, and Klaus Keller. 2010. Intrinsic Ethics Regarding Integrated Assessment Models for Climate Management. Science and Engineering Ethics.

Schienke, Erich, Michelle Stickler, and Nancy Tuana. forthcoming. Assessment of Impacts of an Educational Intervention on Learning Responsible Conduct of Research Principles. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics.

Schienke, Erich, Nancy Tuana, Don Brown, Ken Davis, Klaus Keller, James Shortle, Michelle Stickler, and Seth Baum. 2009. The Role of the NSF Broader Impacts Criterion in Enhancing Research Ethics Pedagogy. Social Epistemology 23 (3-4):317–336.

Shrader-Frechette, K. S. 1985. Science policy, ethics, and economic methodology: some problems of technology assessment and environmental impact analysis. Dordrecht; Boston, Hingham, MA: D. Reidel Pub. Co.

Shrader-Frechette, K. S. 1985. Risk analysis and scientific method: methodological and ethical problems with evaluating societal hazards. Dordrecht; Boston Hingham, MA: D. Reidel.

Shrader-Frechette, K. S. 1994. Ethics of scientific research. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield.

Star, Susan Leigh. 1985. Scientific Work and Uncertainty. Social Studies of Science 15 (3):391-427.

Research Integrity and Responsible Conduct of Research

Committee on Assessing Integrity in Research, Environments, Council of National Research, and Integrity, United States. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. Office of Research. Integrity in Scientific Research: Creating an Environment That Promotes Responsible Conduct. National Academies Press 2002. 

Committee on Science, Engineering, Policy Public, Sciences National Academy of, Engineering National Academy of, and Medicine Institute of. 2009. On being a scientist: a guide to responsible conduct in research. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.

Kalichman, M. 2002. Ethical decision-making in research: Identifying all competing interests - Commentary on “Six Domains of Research Ethics”. Science and Engineering Ethics 8 (2):215-218.

Kalichman, M. 2003. Ethics and the scientist. Scientist 17 (20):43-43.

Kalichman, M. 2009. Evidence-Based Research Ethics. American Journal of Bioethics 9 (6-7):85-87.

Steneck, N. H. 2006. Fostering integrity in research: definitions, current knowledge, and future directions. Science and Engineering Ethics 12 (1):53-74.

Steneck, N. H., and R. E. Bulger. 2007. The history, purpose, and future of instruction in the responsible conduct of research. Academic Medicine 82 (9):829-834.

Steneck, Nicholas H., and Integrity, United States. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. Office of Research. 2004. ORI Introduction to the responsible conduct of research. Rockville, Md.; Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Office of Research Integrity]; For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O.

Teaching Research Ethics

Davis, M. 2006. Integrating ethics into technical courses: Micro-insertion. Science and Engineering Ethics 12 (4):717-730.

Herkert, Joseph. 2005. Ways of thinking about and teaching ethical problem solving: Microethics and macroethics in engineering. Science and Engineering Ethics 11 (3):373-385.

Herkert, J. R. 2001. Future directions in engineering ethics research: microethics, macroethics and the role of professional societies. Science and Engineering Ethics 7 (3):403-14.

Hollander, Rachelle D., Deborah G. Johnson, Jonathan R. Beckwith, and Betsy Fader. 1995. Why teach ethics in science and engineering? Science and Engineering Ethics 1 (1).

Hollander, R. D. 2001. Mentoring and ethical beliefs in graduate education in science. Commentary on ‘Influences on the ethical beliefs of graduate students concerning research’. (Sprague, Daw, and Roberts). Science and Engineering Ethics 7 (4):521-4.

Kligyte, Vykinta, Richard T. Marcy, Sydney T. Sevier, Elaine S. Godfrey, and Michael D. Mumford. 2008. A Qualitative Approach to Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Training Development: Identification of Metacognitive Strategies. Science and engineering ethics. 14 (1):3.

Kligyte, Vykinta, Richard T. Marcy, Ethan P. Waples, Sydney T. Sevier, Elaine S. Godfrey, Michael D. Mumford, and Dean F. Hougen. 2008. Application of a Sensemaking Approach to Ethics Training in the Physical Sciences and Engineering. Science and engineering ethics. 14 (2):251.

Korenman, Stanley G., Alan C. Shipp, Aamc Ad Hoc Committee on Misconduct, and Ethics Conflict of Interest in Research. Subcommittee on Teaching Research. 1994. Teaching the responsible conduct of research through a case study approach: a handbook for instructors. Washington, D.C.: Association of American Medical Colleges.

External Resources

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

“Through its Ethics and Member Conduct Committee, IEEE aims to: foster awareness on ethical issues; promote ethical behavior among those working within IEEE fields of interest; create a world in which engineers and scientists are respected for exemplary ethical behavior.” Review the IEEE Code of Ethics. • Review ethics cases.

National Academy of Engineers (NAE)

“Founded in 1964, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) is a private, independent, nonprofit institution that provides engineering leadership in service to the nation. The mission of the National Academy of Engineering is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshaling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology.”

Within the NAE

“The overarching mission of Center for Engineering Ethics and Society (CEES) is to engage engineering leaders in examining the ethical and societal challenges of engineering and bringing them to the attention of the engineering profession and society.”

Online Ethics Center

“The Online Ethics Center (OEC) is maintained by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and is part of the Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society (CEES). The CEES started in April 2007 and plans conferences and other research and educational activities under the direction of the CEES advisory group.”