The case for lay participation in the accreditation of engineering programmes William Grimson, Mike Murphy Dublin Institute of Technology fPET 2010 Colorado School of Mines, Golden 10thMay 2010
Two opening thoughts: “Without Trust we Cannot Stand” “Confucius told his disciple Tsze-Kung that three things are needed for government: weapons, food and trust. If a ruler can't hold on to all three, he should give up the weapons first and the food next. Trust should be guarded to the end: "without trust we cannot stand" . Confucius' thought still convinces. Weapons did not help the Taliban when their foot soldiers lost trust and deserted. Food shortages need not topple governments when they and their rationing systems are trusted, as we know from WWII” Onora O’Neill 2002 Reith Lecture BBC Radio 4
… and G B Shaw: The Doctor’s Dilemma … the professions are conspiracies against the laity What is behind this polemic ? It is said that Shaw’s hatred of doctors stemmed from a bungled operation on his foot … notion of ‘hiding of shortcomings’ - something Shaw felt was a problem within all professions
Engineering in some respects is just like other professions The idea that engineers are markedly different in behaviour to other professions is hardly tenable So let us look at some recent cases in other professional areas where things have gone wrong
Michael Neary's actions caused national outrage, shock and even horror. Michael Neary's actions caused national outrage, shock and even horror. The idea that a well-known consultant obstetrician could needlessly remove women's wombs, and get away with it for so long, was shocking in itself, but the delay in discovery and investigation created a media storm. The biggest thing to come out of the inquiry, however, was the complaints made against three well respected Dublin obstetricians who in 1998 wrote two reports appearing to clear Dr Neary of any wrong-doing and defending his treatment of nine women whose wombs he removed.
The abuse of children in Dublin was a scandal. CHILD SEXUAL abuse was covered up by the Dublin archdiocese and other church authorities for almost 30 years, according to the report of the commission of investigation. State authorities facilitated this cover-up by not fulfilling their responsibilities to ensure that the law was applied equally to all, and by allowing church institutions to be beyond the law, it says. The Irish Times - Friday, November 27, 2009
Irish guarantees were led by fears of imminent bank failure The background to what has been described as the biggest blank cheque in the history of the Irish state appears to have been the fear that one of Ireland’s biggest banks would declare itself bankrupt at the opening of business on Tuesday morning. The Times, October 2, 2008
Tribunals in Ireland THE future of two long-running tribunals at Dublin Castle is being privately questioned in political circles for the first time amid fears they could continue into 2012 and leave the taxpayer with a final bill of almost €1bn McCracken Tribunal… irregular payments to politicians Mahon Tribunal… inquiry into certain planning matters and payments Moriarty Tribunal… irregular payments to persons who were members of the Houses of the Oireachtas
Could engineers be vulnerable to the same degree? Or do engineers inhabit the best of all possible worlds?
Response of those charged with overseeing the education of engineers ABET : programme accreditation criteria EUR-ACE : programme accreditation criteria
EUR-ACE accreditation criteria for engineering programmes The six Programme Outcomes of accredited engineering degree programmes are: ◦ Knowledge and Understanding; ◦ Engineering Analysis; ◦ Engineering Design; ◦ Investigations; ◦ Engineering Practice; ◦ Transferable Skills.
EUR-ACE contd. Under the Knowledge and Understanding outcome the Framework states that ‘Graduates should demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of their engineering specialisation, and also of the wider context of engineering.’ In the Engineering Analysis outcome the Framework gives that graduates ‘should be able to recognise the importance of societal, health and safety, environmental and commercial constraints’ For Engineering Design the Framework that the graduates should be capable of realizing that ‘specifications could be wider than technical, including an awareness of societal, health and safety, environmental and commercial considerations’.
EUR-ACE contd. With respect to the Investigations outcome it is noted that the graduate should be capable of undertaking work that ‘may require that data bases, codes of practice and safety regulations are consulted’. In Engineering Practice the outcome should be that graduates ‘should also recognise the wider, non-technical implications of engineering practice including ethical, environmental, commercial and industrial concerns’. For Transferable Skills the outcome states that the ‘skills necessary for the practice of engineering, and which are applicable more widely, should be developed within the programme.’
Key (undergraduate) Programme Outcomes An understanding of the need for high ethical standards in the practice of engineering, including the responsibilities of the engineering profession towards people and the environment; The ability to communicate effectively with the engineering community and with society at large.
Competences of a Chartered Engineer Competence 1: Use a combination of general and specialist engineering knowledge and understanding to optimise the application of existing and emerging technology Competence 2: Apply appropriate theoretical and practical methods to the analysis and solution of engineering problems. Competence 3: Provide technical, commercial and managerial leadership. Competence 4: Use effective communication and interpersonal skills. Competence 5: Make a personal commitment to abide by the appropriate code of professional conduct, recognising obligations to society, the profession and the environment.
Competence 5(a): Comply with Codes and Rules of Conduct Chartered Engineers must: 1) Place responsibility for the welfare, health and safety of the community at all times before responsibility to the profession, to sectional interests, or to other engineers; 2) Comply with the Code of Ethics of Engineers Ireland; 3) Apply professional skill in the interests of employer or client, for whom they act in professional matters, as a faithful agent or trustee; 4) Give evidence, express opinions or make statements in an objective and truthful manner and on the basis of adequate knowledge.
Issues Lack of clarity (e.g. What constitutes a high ethical standard?) Inadequate quality assurance processes to ensure compliance Lack of independent non-engineering input in the process does not engender trust
Instead does it not make good sense to involve experts and independent persons? BUT ...
The Council shall establish an Ethics and Disciplinary Board … Engineers Ireland The Ethics Board shall have a maximum membership of sixteen persons including the Chairman and shall include up to four persons who are not members of the engineering profession. Why leave it until something has gone wrong before involving lay persons?
Proposed solutions Involve experts in re-framing the ethical-based accreditation criteria perhaps using supplementary text. There is a greater need for elaboration than in the purely technical criteria. Involve experts in providing case material with particular emphasis on ethics and the concerns of society. Case studies are often too simplistic. Include ethics experts in accreditation panels. And give the thing teeth!
A closing thought: “Without Trust we Cannot Stand” “It isn't only rulers and governments who prize and need trust. Each of us and every profession and every institution needs trust. We need it because we have to be able to rely on others acting as they say that they will, and because we need others to accept that we will act as we say we will. The sociologist NiklasLuhman was right that 'A complete absence of trust would prevent [one] even getting up in the morning.‘” Onora O’Neill 2002 Reith Lecture BBC Radio 4