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Topic Title: ET Magazine - Debate - The engineering oath
Topic Summary: Would you sign up to a professional oath for engineers?
Created On: 22 February 2012 10:56 AM
Status: Read Only
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 22 February 2012 10:56 AM
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jpwilson

Posts: 67
Joined: 16 May 2007

For:
Yes, I would sign up to a professional oath for engineers.

Against:
No, I would not sign up to a professional oath for engineers.
 22 February 2012 02:44 PM
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JVJONES

Posts: 4
Joined: 19 October 2011

I cannot see any downsides to signing up to an engineering ethical oath. I think it would be a positive progression for engineering in the UK.
 22 February 2012 03:02 PM
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turtonb

Posts: 1
Joined: 27 February 2003

A decision has to be made concerning whether the oath is meant to inspire or be a sort of members contract. If it is to inspire, then it needs to be short and powerfully worded. In short, uplifting and memorable (which it is not at present). If it is to be a form of members contract then you should pay attention to measurability and enforcement. Would you really throw someone out of the IET for not following the oath and if so how would you do this (rather like the GMC does for medics). The present solution seems to be neither one thing nor the other so I would like to see it changed.

Edited: 22 February 2012 at 03:45 PM by turtonb
 22 February 2012 03:40 PM
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JVJONES

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Joined: 19 October 2011

I have noticed that the UK seems to be fairly "unregulated" in terms of engineering. Other parts of the world appear to have put in place requirements and even legislation to regulate professional engineering services.
From reading bits on the web it seems this has been done to ensure that engineering work /services are carried out by people who meet certain criteria (of which experience is an important part, as well as qualification etc), I imagine the hope is that these regulations / requirements translate into better, safer engineering services.
I notice that Australia has implemented engineering regulation. In particular Queensland where to practice as an un supervised engineer it is a requirement (law) to be on their professional register (RPEQ), and this then requires the engineer to follow the relevant code of practice, which if not adhered to can lead to removal from the register, then it's back to having work supervised by someone who is on the register. I don't know but would assume that engineers on the RPEQ would have higher salary for having the extra personal responsibility?
An oath is basically a promise. In terms of an engineering ethical oath I suppose it would be a formal way of signing up to a code of practice, and taking responsibility to adhere to it. Not much value in promising to do something, if there is no recourse to those who make the promise and then break it.
 22 February 2012 04:19 PM
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burn

Posts: 127
Joined: 06 June 2003

I too would be happy to sign an oath. Anything that promotes higher standards has to be encouraged
If it is to be in the form of a contract however, we must ensure it does not become too difficult and therefore expensive to administer.
Maybe it would be helpful in elevating the status of engineers in the eyes of the general public. (or maybe I am being hopelessly optimistic)

Nick Burnett
 22 February 2012 06:02 PM
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Brinklow

Posts: 88
Joined: 09 November 2001

Yes, I would quite happily sign an Engineer's Oath.

I signed an oath in 1988 when I became a CEng.

I would have attached a copy of the oath if this software allowed it.

I think signed oaths and agreements should be used more often;
think how positive if
parents were to sign one (to remind them of their parental responsibilities)
employers
directors
pupils
students
employees when starting a new job
... etc.

-------------------------
Paul H. Brinklow,
Chartered Electronic and Radio Engineer,
CertEd,MA,PgDip,MSc,CEng,MIET,MCQI,FIfL.
 22 February 2012 07:30 PM
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ToshIC

Posts: 1
Joined: 04 October 2004

Yes, but not that one.
Minimising risk is an unrealistic objective which is leading us into meaningless and costly risk reduction measures. There is a balance between risk and reward which must be accepted in the real world. If we strive to eliminate all risk then we will eliminate all reward - this is a risk in itself which we risk overlooking in our efforts to minimise all risk.
I do fully support an oath, but not one that ties us to a dangerous objective.
 22 February 2012 10:15 PM
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tbird

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Joined: 18 January 2003

I agree with Nick Burnett.

Trevor Bird
 23 February 2012 12:02 AM
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JVJONES

Posts: 4
Joined: 19 October 2011

I'm not too worried about the "minimising health and safety risks" section. I think when an engineer is working on a project then considering minimising risk or risk management is very important and is useful, as it can make you look at things from several different view points.

I think the issue where engineers feel that the status of engineers and engineering could be higher is right. However if you take the example of GP's or surgeons and the status (and high salaries) these professions have and compare it to engineering positions, then I think in order to make them comparable engineers have to be prepared to take on the same level of responsibility, backed up in the same way with regulation / legislation, and I think the salaries would then have to reflect this. An oath based on a code of practice would be a very good first step.

The UK would not be the first to do this by any means, and therefore if other countries can do it we should be able to look around and pick the best bits from other countries that have already gone down this route.
 23 February 2012 12:44 AM
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ajones

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Joined: 20 November 2002

The IET already has a code of conduct covering most things on the "oath". I suppose the oath makes a good summary which people will actually read! The line about wrongdoing could be misinterpreted and needs the details in a code of conduct to underwrite what it means. It certainly shouldn't mean reporting your colleagues who put a capacitor the wrong way around on their schematic!
 23 February 2012 12:19 PM
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farhandxb

Posts: 2
Joined: 25 July 2008

Would be nice to hang on my wall. I would surely sign it, though it needs to be better worded. I dont get the point about staying on top of new developments though. Some Engineering professions may not necessarily require that in any one persons professional lifetime. Striving to do things better/learning and applying from our experiences and industry best practices might be more suited to this ethos.
 23 February 2012 04:09 PM
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TomThomson

Posts: 18
Joined: 31 July 2009

I'd be happy to sign up to a professional oath that made sense. I wouldn't dream of signing up to anything like this one. Therte are two clauses which I regard as unprofessional.
Limit environmantal impact: this clause is unprofesional bandwagon-jumping! If an engineer creates something that will allow an established industry to reduce by an enormous factor the pollution it produces at the same time as reducing production costs, that will have a vast environmental impact, so according to this clause he shouldn't do that. What nonsense!
Minimise H&S risks: more unprofessional band-wagon jumping; minimising H&S risks at the cost of everything else is absolute nonsense, and isn't in any case feasible (we don't have sufficient knowledge to evaluate all these risks, only some of them). For example it is not at all clear whether a high risk of causing an effect which, if caused, would result in a smallrisk to the life of one or two people is worse than a small risk of having an effect which will certainly damage the mental health of 50 million people: in fact that's not an engineering question, it's the sort of question about ethics which has been beyond the capability of people (including clergy in various religinns, famous and infamous philosophers, and professors of ethics) for at least a couple of millenia, and which we still have no viable way of answering - but this oath claims to answer it (since the high risk must be avoided in favor of the low risk, since both are H&S risks, and the requirement is to "minimise the risks" not "minimise the harmfullness of the (probability -theoretic) "expected" outcome. Engineering is about achieving a sensible balance between disparate aims, not taking one and arbitrarily promoting it above all others. "Minimise harm done" is something that might be acceptable, because it doesn't assume that H&S risks are the only harm we have to try to avoid, but even there we should be looking at minimising the expected harm (sum or harmXprobability across all possible outcomes), since the chances of being 100% certain of all consequences in some engineering projects is minimal; and even that isn't good enough, unless one somehow adds the benifits to the equation too; and, since it's about ethics and the impact on humans, on society, on civilisation, none of this arithmetic is going to make sense anyway. Maybe the physicians had it right: "first do no harm", or maybe they had it wrong and it should have been "first try to do no harm"?

-------------------------
Eur Ing Tom Thomson MA MSc MBCS CITP CMath FIMA CEng FIET
 24 February 2012 06:38 PM
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Ultima

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Joined: 13 March 2006

The manuscript is meant as a draft. I vote yes for the concept and the contents envisioned.
 25 February 2012 02:06 AM
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Ipayyoursalary

Posts: 265
Joined: 21 November 2009

Please can someone post a full plain text version of the oath. My browser's not displaying it for some reason (on the webpage linked above I just see "would you sign this oath:" then nothing. Maybe it's a javascript thing. I prefer to keep java scripts blocked since I don't want my PC getting pwned again by "Windows Defender" javascript virus).
 25 February 2012 10:53 AM
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jencam

Posts: 608
Joined: 06 May 2007

Originally posted by: JVJONES
I have noticed that the UK seems to be fairly "unregulated" in terms of engineering. Other parts of the world appear to have put in place requirements and even legislation to regulate professional engineering services.

From reading bits on the web it seems this has been done to ensure that engineering work /services are carried out by people who meet certain criteria (of which experience is an important part, as well as qualification etc), I imagine the hope is that these regulations / requirements translate into better, safer engineering services.


Imposing requirements and legislation of the sort is likely to open up a whole can of worms unless it is very carefully thought through beforehand complete with consultation from the public. A largely unregulated engineering scene in Britain has resulted in all sorts of people who are engaged in the design and development of electrical and mechanical products as a career. If legislation is put into place that makes it almost impossible to legally design and develop electrical and mechanical products without holding certain qualifications then many people could end up losing their jobs. The IET has no idea of the exact number of these people, their qualifications and credentials, or which companies they work for as they are only interested in people who possess accredited qualifications. Small businesses will bear the brunt of such legislation as they are the ones who tend to employ engineers without accredited qualifications. If they cannot afford to send their staff on any training courses to ensure that they meet the requirements of the legislation then the companies will close down. This could lead to a huge loss of engineering talent and severe damage to certain sectors of the economy, especially niche industries which the Britain has strengths in.

Originally posted by: JVJONES
I think the issue where engineers feel that the status of engineers and engineering could be higher is right. However if you take the example of GP's or surgeons and the status (and high salaries) these professions have and compare it to engineering positions, then I think in order to make them comparable engineers have to be prepared to take on the same level of responsibility, backed up in the same way with regulation / legislation, and I think the salaries would then have to reflect this. An oath based on a code of practice would be a very good first step.


Status is something that can't easily be quantified. For example, Porsche holds a higher status than Ford does in the eyes of the public despite Fords outselling Porsches.

The issue that is more important than status and image when comparing engineers to doctors and lawyers is their advantage in the marketplace. Doctors and lawyers have a signficantly greater advantage than engineers do due to legislation and regulation which makes it difficult to offshore their work to countries with lower wage rates inevitably resulting in their salaries remaining high and their jobs somewhat protected against foreign competition. Engineers do not enjoy such an advantage as their work can easily be offshored to countries with lower wage rates inevitably resulting in their salaries being dictated by the market - or even being priced out of the market altogether.

Regulating the engineering profession in Britain through qualifications or credentials without calling for protectionism against foreign competition will be futile, or could even cause more harm than good, if British businesses still have the easy option of offshoring their engineering work to any Tom Dick and Harry in the third world.
 25 February 2012 01:13 PM
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DavidParr

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Originally posted by: jencamThe IET has no idea of the exact number of these people, their qualifications and credentials, or which companies they work for as they are only interested in people who possess accredited qualifications.

Just felt the need to correct you here - the IET are very interested in people who do not possess accredited qualifications. Anyone who can demonstrate competence in the field of engineering and technology is welcome as a member, and can be professionally registered - I have first hand evidence of this "good news".

Regards,

-------------------------
David Parr BSc.CEng MIET
PRA
 28 February 2012 10:06 AM
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burn

Posts: 127
Joined: 06 June 2003

Why has this debate been moved? Is it still possible for anyone else to participate?

Nick Burnett
 13 March 2012 04:16 PM
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rossall

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Joined: 06 August 2001

We moved the thread to the most relevant category, in order to help more forum participants to find it. You can continue to contribute and vote unless and until a poll has been closed (in which case it is marked as such).

Regards

-------------------------
David Rossall
The Institution of Engineering and Technology
 15 March 2012 10:21 AM
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dannyneill

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Joined: 06 January 2003

why do we feel the need for an oath?
 15 March 2012 11:12 AM
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johnhind

Posts: 9
Joined: 15 February 2006

In a fit of relief at unexpectedly passing my finals, I typed the following on the back of my graduation certificate:

"I vow to strive to apply my professional skills only to projects which, after conscientious examination, I believe to contribute to the goal of co-existence of all human beings in peace, human dignity and self-fulfilment.

I believe that this goal requires the provision of an adequate supply of the necessities of life (good food, air, water, clothing and housing, access to natural and man-made beauty), education and opportunities to enable each person to work out for himself his life objectives and to develop creativeness and skill in the use of the hands as well as the head.

I vow to struggle through my work to minimise danger, noise, strain or the invasion of the privacy of the individual; pollution of earth, air or water, destruction of natural beauty, mineral resources and wildlife."

I neglected to credit the source of this oath, but if memory serves me still, it is by Professor M. W. Thring. Thirty years later, I am still happy with this oath. I would be much less so with the one in the article which seems to suggest we'd be better off just winding up the engineering profession. Only one item out of ten (and the last one at that) actually suggests that engineering might just be of some benefit to society! "Limit the impact of my work on the environment" is a bit of a kick in the teeth to those of us involved in environmental improvement projects and seems to buy into extreme Green propaganda that paints any change made by humans as negative.
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