Engineering, Social Justice, and Sustainable Community Development

Engineering, Social Justice, and Sustainable Community Development Workshop

National Academies Building
2101 Constitution Ave, NW
Washington DC
Nathan Khal
Contact Nathan Khal

The focus for this meeting began with questions about the potential for conflict that can arise among the various positive goals -- of humanitarian welfare and social and environmental justice -– in contexts of poverty and crisis, where engineers and organizations in which they are employed and volunteer can be found. This potential and the recognition that the field of engineering ethics may not have recognized or addressed it, gave rise to the agenda for this two-day meeting.

The NAE Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society convened this workshop which was co-sponsored by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, and partially supported by the National Science Foundation (Workshop Abstract) and a grant to the Center from NAE member Harry E. Bovay, Jr.

Attendee List


OCTOBER 2, 2008
National Academies Lecture Room
8:30 Opening Session:
Moderator: John Ahearne, Chair, NAE Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society (CEES) Advisory Group
8:30 Welcome - Charles M. Vest, NAE President
8:45 Laying the Groundwork - William A. Wulf, Past NAE President, Distinguished Professor, University of Virginia
9:00 CEES Meeting Overview and Logistics -
John Ahearne, Chair CEES Advisory Group
Rachelle Hollander, Director, CEES
9:15 Session I: Engineering and Special Vulnerabilities
Engineers and engineering organizations operate in circumstances of crisis, ranging from conflict to disaster. They operate where human rights problems are highly visible, and where issues of sustainable community development arise. This session reports perceptions about the technical and social constraints and opportunities they face, and whether and how aims for humanitarian action, social justice and sustainable community development can be met.
  • Moderator:
    Henry J. Hatch, NAE Member, Former Commander, US Army Corp of Engineers
  • Presenters:
    Abul Barkat, Economics, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
    Abul Hussam, Chemistry, George Mason University, and winner of the NAE Grainger Challenge Prize for Sustainability
    Chris Seremet, Technical Adviser, Water and Sanitation, Catholic Relief Services
    Anu Ramaswami, Civil Engineering, University of Colorado, Denver
  • Discussants:
    George Bugliarello, NAE Member, University Professor, Polytechnic University
    Deborah Goodings, Engineering and Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park
11:00 Break
11:15 Session II: Engineering, Ethics, and Society
This session explores the interface of engineering, ethics, and practice. Do humanities and social sciences disciplines bear on problems for engineers and engineering professions in such circumstances? Has the field of engineering ethics drawn adequately from this scholarship or the real exigencies of engineering practice? This session will examine technical, political, historical, environmental, economic, and cultural constraints that shape outcomes.
  • Moderator:
    David Crocker, Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park
  • Presenters:
    Ron Kline, Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University
    Carl Mitcham, Philosophy, Colorado School of Mines
    Wesley Shrum, Sociology, Louisiana State University
  • Discussants:
    Priscilla Nelson, Provost and VP for Academic Affairs, New Jersey Institute of Technology
    Donna Riley, Science and Environmental Policy, Smith College
12:45 Lunch
1:45 Early Career Engineers Panel
What led you to your career choices? How do you see them in relationship to the goals of this meeting, to enhance engineering research and practice and improve engineering education through attention to issues of engineering, social justice, and sustainable community development?
  • Moderator:
    Joseph Le Doux, Biomedical Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Panelists:
    Rebekah Green, Institute for Global and Community Resilience, Western Washington University
    Daniele Lantagne, Centers for Disease Control
2:30 Session III: Implications for Engineering Education
Engineering educators and professional societies can promote attention to engineering in circumstances of social conflict and environmental challenge, and prepare students and members to address issues responsibly. What kinds of challenges do such activities bring to engineering education? How are educational and professional programs responding? What structural, programmatic, and/or curricular changes, if any, are underway? What alliances are needed?
  • Moderator:
    Woodie Flowers, NAE Member, Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Presenters:
    Linda Abriola, NAE Member, Dean, School of Engineering, Tufts University
    Caroline Baillie, Materials Engineering & Engineering Education, Queens University, Canada
    Kevin Passino, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Ohio State University
  • Discussants:
    Richard Anderson, SOMAT Engineering, Inc.
    David Daniel, NAE Member, President, University of Texas, Dallas
3:45 Break
4:00 Small Group Sessions**
Participants will deliberate on interventions and actions to enable engineers and organizations to develop and assess strategies for change as well as make proposals for implementation.
5:30 Adjourn for the day

OCTOBER 3, 2008

8:00 Continental Breakfast
8:30 Small Group Sessions II: Prepare for Plenary
9:30 Plenary
Presentation and discussion of the small group reports will be followed by general discussion and suggestions for next steps.
11:00 Roundtable: Addressing the Intersection of Humanitarian Action, Social Justice, Sustainable Community Development
This roundtable will consider how engineering and engineering ethics research, practice and education might better address the complex choices and cultural conflicts facing engineering in these circumstances. What research and practical efforts are needed? What sources of support for these efforts exist and can be promoted?
  • Moderator:
    Sheila Jasanoff, JFK School, Harvard University
  • Presenters:
    Carlos Bertha, Philosophy, US Air Force Academy
    Regina Clewlow, Founding Director, Engineers for a Sustainable World
    Juan Lucena, Liberal Arts and International Studies, Colorado School of Mines
  • Discussants:
    Garrick Louis, Systems Engineering, University of Virginia
    Bill Wallace, Wallace Futures Group and Engineers without Borders, International
    Dennis Warner, Senior Technical Advisor, Catholic Relief Services
1:00 Lunch, Informal Review of Results, and Next Steps
2:15 Workshop adjourns


**Small Group Sessions and Topics

  Group One: 
Engineering for Social Justice and Sustainable Community Development –- how to get there: engineers' perspectives. This group will assess the first session, identifying the main assumptions and findings, as well as what was overlooked.
Group Leader: Jimmy Smith, National Institute for Engineering Ethics, Texas Tech University
Rapporteur: Karen Smilowitz, Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences, Northwestern University
  Group Two: 
Engineering for Social Justice and Sustainable Community Development –- how to get there: social perspectives. This group will assess the second session.
Group Leader: Ed Harris, Philosophy, Texax A&M University
Rapporteur: Michael Loui, ECE, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  Group Three: 
New approaches in engineering ethics research and education. This group assesses session three.
Group Leader: Keith Miller, EECS, University of Illinois, Springfield
Rapporteur: Bruce Seely, Social Sciences, Michigan Technological University
  Group Four: 
Roles for NAE and engineering societies.
Group Leader: Alice Agogino, NAE Member, Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley
Rapporteur: Joseph Herkert, Technology and Ethics, Arizona State University, Polytechnic Campus<