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Chapter: Professional Ethics in Engineering - Engineering as Social Experimentation

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Engineering Experiments With Standard Experiments

There are many similarities and differences between engineering experiments and other standard experiments.

ENGINEERING EXPERIMENTS WITH STANDARD EXPERIMENTS:

 

There are many similarities and differences between engineering experiments and other standard experiments.

 

Similarity to Standard Experiments:

 

There are many aspects of engineering that make it appropriate to view engineering projects as experiments. The three important aspects are as follows:

 

1.     Engineering projects , like the standard experiments, are carried out in partial uncertainties. The uncertainties may include in the,

ü   Design calculation

 

ü   Exact properties of raw materials used

 

ü   Constancies of material processing and fabrication

 

ü   Nature of working of final products

 

2.     The final outcomes of engineering projects are also generally uncertain like those of other experiments For example, a nuclear reactor may reveal unexpected problems that endangered the surrounding people.

 

3.     Similar to standard experiments, engineering experiments also requires thorough knowledge about the products at the pre-production and post-production stages. Thus engineering, like any other experimentation, requires constant monitoring, alertness, and vigil on the part of the engineers at every stage of the project.

 

Contrast with standard experiments:

 

The study of knowing differences between engineering and other standard experiments is helpful to the engineers to realize their special and moral responsibility. Some aspects of these differences are given bellow:

 

1.     Experimental control:

 

ü   Experimental control is the most important difference between engineering and other standard experiments. 

In standard experiments, experimental control involves selecting members for two different groups randomly. The first group members are given the special, experimental treatment, whereas the members of other group are not given that special treatment. Even both the groups are subjected to same environment ; the group that was not given the special treatment is called "control group‟.

 

ü   In engineering experiments, usually there is no control group. Sometimes the control group is used only when the project is limited to laboratory experiments.


Because the engineering experiments involve human beings are experimental subjects. In fact, clients and customers have more control, as they own the authority of that project. So here the experimental subjects say clients or end user‘s are out of experimenter‘s control. In this type, it is not possible to select the member from various group randomly. Instead the engineers should work with the available historical and fair data about various groups randomly. Instead, the engineering should work the available historical and fair data about various groups that uses the end product.

 

The above discussion also justifies the view of engineering as a social experimentation.

 

2.     Informed consent:

 

ü   It is know that there is always a strong human interface in the use of the engineering experiments‘ result; and also the beneficiaries are invariably humans. Therefore engineering experiments are also viewed at par the medical experiments.

 

ü   When a medicine or an engineering product is to be tested on a person, then the moral and legal rights is to get ‗informed consent‘ for him.Informed consent consists of two main elements:

 

1.     Knowledge: The human subjects should be given all the information to make a reasonable decision.

 

2.     Voluntariness: The human subjects should show their willingness to be a human model voluntarily. The person should not be forced, deceived, fraud, etc.

 

ü   The manufacturer of the should give all the information about the potential risks and benefits of their products to their customers and users.


ü   The characteristics of a 'valid consent‘

 

The informed consent is called as ‗valid consent‘ when the following three conditions are met:

 

1.     The consent should be given voluntarily and not by force.

 

2.     The consent should be based on all information needed for the rational person to make reasonable decision.

 

3.     The consentient should be physically and mentally fit; then he should be major i.e., above 18 years.

 

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