National Institute for Engineering Ethics

Background, Mission, and Purpose

Unethical behavior

It's the stuff that feeds the news media and, more importantly, brings about real-life tragedy. From the Oval Office to corporate board rooms, professional ethics are under public scrutiny now more than ever before. Along with physicians, attorneys and journalists, engineers have begun to pay more serious attention to the ethical questions their jobs pose. This nation depends on its engineers for everything from safe drinking water to sturdy bridges, industrial processes to consumer products. An engineer's action or inaction can have dire public safety consequences. An engineer's work can be life-saving or life-threatening to thousands. As both business-persons and guardians of the public's trust, engineers daily face new ethical challenges spawned by advances in technology - this in addition to the age-old tensions inherent in competition in the marketplace versus our responsibility to hold paramount the health, safety and welfare of our society. The National Institute for Engineering Ethics has been established to promote the study and application of ethics in our nation's engineering schools and throughout the profession. We invite you to join us as we encourage engineers of all disciplines toward the ethical practice of engineering.

In October 2001, with approvals of the NIEE Board of Directors and the Texas Tech University Board of Regents, the Presidents of NIEE and TTU signed an agreement for Texas Tech University (TTU) to provide a permanent home and assume financial, administrative, management and leadership responsibilities of the Institute.

Viewed as a cooperative effort among many engineering organizations with potential for far-reaching influence and impact, NIEE can and should bridge the various disciplines within the engineering profession.

University Commitment to NIEE

In order to assure the success of NIEE, in 2001, Texas Tech President and Engineering Dean jointly made a five-year commitment of major funding for NIEE operating and development efforts. Recently, in 2005, Texas Tech Provost William Marcy extended and significantly increased the university commitment and made it more permanent. This recent commitment is to encourage and support engineering ethics by providing funds to hire a full time director of NIEE. This position is part of the university Quality Enhancement Plan.

Mission and Purpose

The name shall remain the National Institute for Engineering Ethics (also known as the Institute) and it will remain a recognizable entity with an unchanged purpose within the non-profit status of the University. The mission and purpose of NIEE remains unchanged with this transition, but the Institute has changed from a "dues-paying membership type" organization to a "ethics programs and projects type" organization where individuals, companies, universities, and engineering societies can support projects that they view important to the profession, with either time or funding or both.

Principal thrusts of NIEE

The principal thrusts of NIEE are education, communication, program and project development, and practice applications in the area of engineering ethics. A primary role of the Institute is to encourage cooperation among individuals, universities, professional and technical societies and business organizations with regard to engineering ethics and professionalism issues.

NIEE owns and markets three highly successful engineering ethics videos, which have been used at most engineering colleges in the nation as well as in industry and society presentations: Gilbane Gold © 1989, Incident at Morales ©2003 (produced with major support from the National Science Foundation), and Henry's Daughters © 2010. Information regarding the videos is available on the Engineering Ethics Videos page.  Other NIEE activities include sponsoring, developing, and implementing engineering ethics workshops, seminars, and symposia.