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Engineering and Society: Challenges of Professional Practice 1st Edition

ISBN-13: 978-0201361414
ISBN-10: 0201361418
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap


The authors began with the question: What preparation for professional practice will engineering graduates going into the next millennium need?

Our first response was that the professional formation of engineers must continue to be based on a sound technical education. Nothing in this book should be seen as a detraction from this fundamental requirement or from our recognition of its importance. Of course, what a "sound technical education" means will change over time. Even in the short term we can look to increasing emphasis on systems approaches and more extensive use of computers in both synthesis and analysis.

The social dimension of engineering activity is also of central importance. The current challenges of professional practice require engineers to have breadth as well as depth in their education. Our book is designed to help meet this objective by introducing readers to the background and the present context for engineering. It draws significantly on a successful Australian book Engineering and Society: An Australian Perspective, been extensively reworked, and contains new chapters. Most of the case studies were specially written for this new work.

Our primary aim is to provide a textbook for college students in engineering and related technologies. It may be suitable for some freshman courses but is likely to be more relevant for senior students. However, no specialist knowledge is assumed; the book should interest both practicing engineers (whose original professional education is unlikely to have included much of this material) and the general reader with an interest in this area. The insights into how engineering has developed and the prospects for engineering in the future should be useful to a wide audience. We have deliberately drawn our illustrations from all the main branches of engineering.

Professional engineers spend much of their working lives managing the development and implementation of technology, so they need to understand how technology is developed and transferred. They must also be sensitive to its impacts on the society and environment in which they live and work. Engineers should be prepared to promote and defend their work, both within the profession and to the community at large.

There has long been concern by engineering employers that new graduates in engineering lacked skills and competence in communication and industrial relations, as well as in people, costs, and resources management. They are seen as insufficiently aware of the broad social context of engineering. Some of these issues probably reflect the fact that we lack a well developed philosophy of engineering. Without a philosophy of engineering there is not even a consensus about what problems should be addressed in the preparation of engineering students, let alone how the problems should be addressed. We have tried to shed light on these issues in this book.

During the 1990s a series of major reviews of engineering education around the world, including two each in Canada and the United States, have drawn attention to the changing content and context of engineering work. The American Society for Engineering Education report (ASEE1994) asserted that:

engineering education should be . . . relevant to the lives and careers of students, preparing them for a broad range of careers, as well as for lifelong learning involving both formal programs and hands-on experience; attractive so that the excitement and intellectual content of engineering will attract highly talented students with wider backgrounds and career interests . . .; connected to the needs and issues of the broader community through integrated activities with other parts of the educational system, industry, and government.

In an address to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, Charles M. Vest noted the importance of preparing students for the international environment in which engineering is already practiced. He went on to spell out the need to:

. . . de-emphasize narrow disciplinary approaches . . . pay more attention to the context in which engineering is practiced and . . . educate students to work better in groups ... because of the complexity of the tasks that engineers and their colleagues deal with today. (Vest 1995)

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is recognized in the United States as the sole agency responsible for accreditation of educational programs leading to degrees in engineering. One of our aims here is to respond to and anticipate ABET requirements on the teaching of social context and professional ethics. In its Engineering Criteria 2000 requirements, ABET places increasing emphasis on social and environmental areas (ABET 1998). Criterion 3, Program Outcomes and Assessment requires engineering programs to demonstrate that their graduates have:

(a) an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering
(b) an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data
(c) an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs
(d) an ability to function on multidisciplinary teams
(e) an ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems
(f) an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility
(g) an ability to communicate effectively
(h) the broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context
(i) a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning
(j) a knowledge of contemporary issues
(k) an ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice. (©1994 by the American Society for Engineering Education)

This book, Engineering and Society, is primarily concerned with components (f), (h), (i), and (j), thus augmenting the typical engineering curriculum, which would adequately cover the other components. The ABET criteria for accreditation go further. Criterion 4, Professional Component includes the requirement that:

. . . Students must be prepared for engineering practice through the curriculum culminating in a major design experience based on the knowledge and skills acquired in earlier coursework and incorporating engineering standards and realistic constraints that include most of the following considerations: economic; environmental; sustainability; manufacturability; ethical; health and safety; social; and political. (©1994 by the American Society for Engineering Education)

It is just these considerations that underpin this text that provides a wealth of material that can help engineering schools meet ABET accreditation requirements. STRUCTURE AND CONTENT OF ENGINEERING AND SOCIETY

Engineering and Society begins by recognizing that our present technologies are the outcome of along and exciting history of creative effort. Chapter 1 takes us through some highlights of this process. Chapter 2 carries the story into the present and on to the new millennium. These two chapters provide a basic historical framework to which later chapters add.

The social and political contexts in which engineers practice are outlined in Chapters 3 and 4. We see the practice of engineering as central to the generation of wealth in modern societies, raising questions that are explored in economic terms in Chapter 5. Chapter 6 describes how engineers create new products, processes, and systems.

Engineers need to work in diverse teams with other professionals, both to make the best use of their technical capabilities and to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of productive enterprises. Engineering leadership and management are discussed in Chapter 7.

Economic development and the choice and transfer of technology are explored in Chapter 8, and its race studies demonstrate the increasingly global character of engineering practice.

Challenges in reconciling development and long-term ecological sustainability are discussed in Chanter 9, with particular attention to the most fundamental resource, energy.

The distinctive character of engineering is discussed in Chapter 10, which suggests the possible nature of a philosophy of engineering. Chapter 11 is a capstone chapter that considers ethics and the profession of engineering, including spine of its prospects and challenges. Multidisciplinary Approach

The theory of multidisciplinary analysis developed by Kline (1995) and others indicates that analytical approaches adopted within any single traditional discipline will not provide a sufficiently comprehensive representation of the systems in use in modern industrial societies.

Accordingly, we have used a multidisciplinary approach in this book. It draws on those disciplines we judge most likely to be interesting and relevant to engineers and offers insights into both professional and personal development issues.

Continuity across the wide canvas we attempt to cover is provided by three central themes:

the nature of technology and its relationship to engineering; the nature of development and its relationship to engineering; the nature of professional engineering practice, and in particular, the roles it plays in the development of technology and the sustainable creation of wealth.

We explore what engineers do, the education, knowledge, and skills they need, and their roles and responsibilities. We discuss how these aspects of engineering are changing, and consider present and possible future norms for how engineers ought to behave, including codes of ethics. Key Concepts and Issues

We have tried to deal openly and constructively with a range of issues; some of which may be either unfamiliar to many readers or somewhat controversial. We highlight central questions in boxes showing "Key Concepts and Issues:" These include basic definitions and descriptions, state major assumptions underlying our approach to a topic, and (if appropriate) outline the variety of views and the main areas of disagreement. Case Studies

The case studies written for this book show some of the ways engineers work. As indicated more formally in the Acknowledgments, we are indebted to faculty and students in Stanford University's long-standing Science, Technology, and Society (STS) Program for their contribution towards these case studies, some of which include reflections on their own experience of engineering. Readers might develop their own case studies along similar lines. Discussion Questions

The discussion questions at the end of each chapter should help to test the reader's experience and ideas against our ideas and interpretations, as well as those of other writers. They are also intended to stimulate further exploration of the issues. At the end of each chapter there is also a list of suggested readings and other useful material such as films and videotapes. Personal Attitudes and Values

The practice of engineering is a social as well as a technical activity. It draws on the creativity and the values of the practitioner. Most engineering is now a large-scale, often corporate endeavor, but we all constantly make value judgments in our work. To understand the choice, development, and application of a particular technology, it is necessary to take account of the underlying values, assumptions, and attitudes of those who propose, develop, and apply it.

Our values, as authors, are inevitably reflected in this book. So are the values of those who contributed case studies. We make no apology for this; indeed we hope that this variety of views and attitudes will challenge and stimulate our readers to clarify their own thinking on the issues we raise. We do not ask you to agree with our views, but we do ask you to respect the values that underpin them and to reflect on how and why they may differ from your own. The authors share a belief that the only firm basis for moral and ethical action by the engineering profession is the informed moral autonomy of its members. This book is intended to challenge present and future engineers to think issues through and to come to their own conclusions.

Before you read on, you might care to think about values you hold strongly. How can you draw on these values to shape and influence your professional career, and to direct it into directions that you will find fulfilling? REFERENCES

ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) 1998, Engineering Criteria 2000, at: .

ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) 1994, Engineering Education for a Changing World. A joint project by the Engineering Deans Council and Corporate Roundtable of the ASEE. ASEE, Washington, DC.

Kline, S. J.1995, Conceptual Foundations for Multidisciplinary Thinking, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.

Vest, C. M. 1995, "US Engineering Education in Transition," Address to the annual meeting of the National Academy of Engineering, published in the Winter 1995 issue of the NAE journal The Bridge (Vol. 25> No. 4).

From the Back Cover

Engineering & Society utilizes a multidisciplinary approach to explore what engineers do, the education, knowledge and skills they need, and their roles and responsibilities in society. Three ongoing themes provide continuity to this text: the nature of technology and its relationship to engineering; the nature of development and its relationship to engineering; and the role that professional engineering practice plays in the development of technology and the sustainable creation wealth.

  • The history of engineering and engineering design
  • The social and political contexts in which engineers practice
  • How engineers create new products, processes and systems
  • Engineering leadership and management
  • Economic development and the globalization of engineering practice
  • The challenges of reconciling development with ecological consequences
  • Ethics and future challenges in professional engineering

Central topical questions are highlighted in boxes showing Key Concepts and Issues. These include basic definitions and descriptions, state major assumptions underlying the approach to a topic, and outline a variety of views that exist, allowing students to reach their own conclusions. The inclusion of Case Studies allows this book to show the ways that professional engineers work in the real world. The Case Studies explore the decision-making process that engineers must go through, how political pressure, a lack of time or resources, and human and environmental factors play a part in their professional lives.

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