Tiju Thomas

Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering
Indian Institute of Technology Madras
Sardar Patel Road, Chennai 600036, Tamil Nadu, India


ph. no: +91 8056456442
email id: tt332@cornell.edu or tijuthomas@iitm.ac.in

Our Research Group

Applied Nanostructures Engineering and Nanochemistry (ANEN) Research Group

ID6020 Panel Discussion notes (28 Sep., 2017)

Professional responsibilities of an engineer/applied scientist

Engineering and scientific ethics constitute a system of principles that an applied scientist is expected to uphold during the practice of his/her discipline. Almost any professional engineering/applied science society has an ethical code, which sets high standards of professional conduct for all its members.

In general, engineers and applied scientists are expected to accord the highest importance to the welfare and safety of the public. Some societies (eg. Institution of Civil Engineers) emphasize the responsibility that engineers have towards the well being of future generations. Disclosing valuable information (even if it is at a personal cost) that will benefit society at large is one of our professional obligations. (see for example, the codes of conduct laid out by IEEE and Institute of Industrial Engineers). Engineering societies often recognize their role in promoting other trades and vocations (eg. American Nuclear Society). Preservation of nature is also part of the professional practice (eg. American Institute of Chemical Engineers ethics code).

Honesty is considered a fundamental virtue by all engineering societies. Like wise, professionals are expected to be people of justice. Engineers are expected to withdraw from any professional practice that infringes on the rights of others (this includes ensuring proper merit system while identifying and defining intellectual property). Scientists and engineers are expected to have the willingness to learn for a lifetime. In addition, they are expected to be generous when it comes to sharing and disseminating knowledge. Those who find ourselves in positions of privilege, must consider ways of providing opportunities for education and training of workers, and other fellow men. Ensuring good social order and worker protection are obligations of every responsible technologist. An engineer is expected to do so while maintaining a demeanor that is rooted in dignity, honesty, sincerity, balance of spirit,fortitude, generosity and justice. (note: This paragraph is a snapshot of National Society of Professional Engineer's rules of practice and professional obligations)

Given that this article is meant for young scientists and engineers, who are almost at the beginning of their professional careers, I would like to add a few things that most ethics codes do not incorporate explicitly. In my opinion, valuing another person's time is also basic ethic. It is important to be on time in meetings, and complete projects in the stipulated time. People will trust you, if you value your own time and word. When you say something will be done; you should mean it. It is important to consider the task at hand, before you make promises. Careful choice of commitments and willingness to deliver is part of our professional code.

If you wish to learn about professional ethics (including ethics of technology) in greater detail, I encourage you to spend time browsing through the webpage of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). NSPE is an American engineering organization that is responsible for providing licenses to independently practising applied scientists and engineers. I like NSPE's codes because it is very carefully laid out and quite exhaustive. For more details, please check their webpage: http://www.nspe.org/Ethics/CodeofEthics/index.html

You will be surprised at how helpful a basic ethic is to furthering your career. For your own sake, and for the benefit of all of society, I hope you have a very successful career ahead!