Ethics

Conversations on Engineering Ethics: Canon III

“Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.”

The third item from the fundamental canon of the Engineering Code of Ethics from the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) discusses issuing public statements objectively and truthfully. It is also the same or similarly worded first fundamental canon of Code of Ethics from professionally engineering societies like the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Again we examine what does this actually mean?

ASME’s Society policy on ethics which we have previously explored does not have this statement or a similar statement as a third canon. Instead, this organization values continued professional development and ethical development of the engineer as its third most important quality.

ASCE’s Code of Ethics expands even further on the idea of objective and truthful public statements,. The organization explains that “[an] engineer may apply his or her technical expertise only when competent to do so, must indicate when a statement has been paid for by an interested party, and may not promote his or her own interests in a manner derogatory to the integrity of the profession.”

NSPE further expands by highlighting three points on issuing public statements, including professional reports and testimony.

  1. Engineers shall be objective and truthful in professional reports, statements, or testimony. They shall include all relevant and pertinent information in such reports, statements, or testimony, which should bear the date indicating when it was current.
  2. Engineers may express publicly technical opinions that are founded upon knowledge of the facts and competence in the subject matter.
  3. Engineers shall issue no statements, criticisms, or arguments on technical matters that are inspired or paid for by interested parties, unless they have prefaced their comments by explicitly identifying the interested parties on whose behalf they are speaking, and by revealing the existence of any interest the engineers may have in the matters.

Both NSPE and ASCE take note of the engineer’s competence when issuing statements which lead back to ASME’s canon on professional development. Do you consider being able to issue statements and reports in an objective and truthful manner a higher priority than the continuing professional and ethical development of the engineer? In my view they are two sides of the same coin, the engineer must continue to learn and develop to maintain competence in order to be able to issue statements and reports in an objective and truthful manner.

Sources:

  1. NSPE Code of Ethics
  2. The Seven Fundamental Canons of ASCE’s Code of Ethics
  3. ASME Society Policy: Ethics
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