The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) requires that engineering programs demonstrate that their graduates possess an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility.

Martin and Schinzinger (1989) define "engineering ethics" as

  • the study of the moral issues and decisions confronting individuals and organizations involved in engineering, and
  • the study of related questions about moral conduct, character, ideals, and relationships of people and organizations involved in technological development.
They suggest engineering ethics involves three distinct types of inquiry:
  • Normative: the practical aim being to provide reasoned evaluations of the conduct and character of individuals, the functioning of organizations, and the alternative responses available to solve concrete problems. Interwoven with this is the more theoretical aim of justifying the major moral principles which ought to be affirmed by individuals and organizations involved in engineering.
  • Conceptual: concerned with clarifying basic ideas, principles, issues, and types of argument concerning the moral problems in engineering.
  • Descriptive: seeking to provide factual information needed for understanding and dealing with both conceptual and normative issues

It is within this context that the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Lehigh University has developed this commentary concerning engineering ethics:

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering graduates must demonstrate an understanding of and a commitment to practice according to the Fundamental Canons of Ethics and the associated Guidelines to Practice Under the Fundamental Canons of Ethics. They must be willing to thoughtfully and carefully weigh alternatives when values conflict; such an outlook being crucial to the responsible conduct of engineering. The Chemical Engineer is to hold paramount public safety, health, and welfare.

The American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the National Institute for Engineering Ethics, the National Society of Professional Engineers, and the Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science, among numerous other organizations and websites, are sources of additional information regarding the professional and ethical responsibilities of engineers.