First-Hand:Challenges IEEE Faced Supporting Ethical Behavior and Professionalism
This is My IEEE and Industry Professional and Ethics Experience
b. 1931, IEEE Life Senior Member, IEEE USA Ethics Task Force 1977, Presenter of the IEEE USA Member Conduct Committee Proposal to the IEEE Board of Directors 1977, IEEE Member Conduct and Ethics Committees, 1996-1998, Created the first WEB Pages for IEEE's Member Conduct Committee and IEEE's Ethics Committee 1997, IEEE Ethics HOT Line Responder and Advisor,IEEE Life Member of the Society on the Social Implications of Technology, Space Electronics and Telemetry Group 1963, IEEE 802 Local Area Networks Committee 1982, SAE High Speed Data Bus Committee, Chair 1983, IEEE USA Employment Guidelines Committee, IEEE USA Salary Survey Committee, Student Member of the AIEE and the IRE, Founder of IEEE's First Professional Activities Committee (PAC) following 1972 Change in its Constitution Adding Professional Activities, Chaired the IEEE Orlando Section Professional Activities Committee, 1973-74, IEEE Orlando Section Engineer of the Year for Professional Activities, 1974, IEEE USA Citation of Honor Award for Promoting Ethics 1998, Proposed First Professional Activities Session at IEEE SOUTHEASTCON held in Orlando, Fl 1974 where he presented 5 Professional and Co-Authored 1 Technical Paper. During his career, he was a guest lecturer at the University of Florida, University of South Carolina and the University of Central Florida on technical and professional/ethical subjects. Mr. Elden served on the Executive Committee of the IEEE Melbourne Section after retirement, where he Chaired the Professional Activities Committee for Engineers (PACE) . He was a guest speaker at a Joint Section/Florida Institute of Technology Student Chapter Meeting and discussed the History of IEEE and the Professional Standing of IEEE Members. In 1998-2000 he served on the Board of Directors of the National Institute for Engineering Ethics (NIEE). In 1999 he proposed to Carolyn Whitbeck at Case Western Reserve University, helped establish and was a contributor to the Online Ethics Center's Ethics HELP Line, which essentially took over the IEEE Ethics HOT Line, after it was terminated.
This article provides my personal experiences and viewpoints, recalled from over the 50 years I have been a member of the IEEE, watching and experiencing some of the challenges IEEE faced in supporting ethical behavior and professionalism of its members as well as that while employed in industry. While I believe most of the other IEEE Engineering Technology History WIKI, ETHW, articles will deal with Technological matters, I have chosen Professional matters as my main topic area, as a result of the IEEE membership voting to change its Constitution in 1972 to add Professional to its already well established Technical Activities.
Then a series of positive and then negative actions occurred in IEEE which at first promoted and supported both Professional and Ethical Support activities in the 1975 - 1997 period, followed by a change in IEEE Board policies which beginning around 1998 started terminating both ethical support and Pro Active Members on the Member Conduct and the Ethics Committees. It is my personal view that a part or most of what drove this negative change was led by Pro Business/Manager Members of the IEEE in leadership roles at that time. This was a complete turn about from the period of the 1970's where a great surge and enthusiasm for moving IEEE into Professional and Ethical Support activities were so well advocated and then in the mid 1990's until 1998.
It is my hope that by writing this First Hand personal account, newer and younger IEEE Members will study this history and once again take up the advocacy for Ethical Support and Professional Activities. But they need to go back to the early 1900's and understand what changes occurred then, affecting IEEE down to this day, in which Pro Business Members got fundamental changes made which allowed them to become Members with voting power they at first did not have, and with that new power took control of the AIEE from the founding Engineer Professionals and moved to use the AIEE for the business interests of their corporate employers, then the electric and telephone utilities. This history is the first area introduced in this paper and then moves to more modern events.
A TOTAL ENGINEER EQUALS THE SUM OF HIS/HER TECHNICAL AND PROFESSIONAL EXCELLENCE
I developed early in my career, because of the Professional and Ethics course taught to me at the University of Florida, the philosophy and believed that to become what I coined a Total Engineer, one must excel in both his/her Technical as well as Professional work. So at first I concentrated on performing my technical work as best as I could. But as time went on, I felt something was missing and I began to focus more on adding the professional aspects of engineering into my career practice. And the more that I placed emphasis on the Professional side, the more I encountered resistance both from my employers and well as in my activities in the IEEE. Therefore, before discussing the heart of this paper, I will set out the basis for my having become and accomplished Technical Engineer. After all, at that time, the IEEE's Constitution, only permitted it to engage in "Technical Activities". What follows initially, therefore, are highlights of my Technical resume. Throughout my career, of some 40 odd years, I was responsible for the Technical Designs of Products and Systems which ranged in value from a low of $ 100 Thousand to over $1 Billion.
"Our organization is powerful, is of a very high standing; it is up to us and it is within our power either to increase the standing of the electrical engineering profession, to put a ban on everything we consider improper, to raise the code of ethics of the electrical engineering profession, or to let matters slide and trust to Providence whether our standing shall rise and fall".
Charles Proteous Steinmetz (1865-1923) was Chief Consulting Engineer for the General Electric Company, President of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) from 1901 to 1902 and was one of the engineers who helped transform electrical engineering into a respected profession.
The above title "The Professional Standing of Electrical Engineering"is from a comprehensive paper which traces the origins of IEEE's two founding societies: the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the AIEE, beginning in 1884, and the Institute of Radio Engineers, the IRE, starting around 1912. The AIEE was a product of Power Engineering and Telegraphy whereas the IRE was a product of Wireless Radio Communications. The paper discusses how in the AIEE after the turn of the 19th century, there was competing forces competing to maintain and change the early direction of the AIEE. Conflicting interests between the founding Professionals and the Business leaders and Managers who wanted higher level membership to enable them to direct the AIEE activities more to support their business interests. With the help of the New York Supreme Court, they succeeded. Then the IRE engineers wanted to fucus just on the technical aspects and not get involved in a Code of Ethics or Professionalism that the AIEE professionals wanted. The reading of the history of the AIEE and IRE in this paper is highly recommended for it laid the foundation for who in the later part of the 20th Century had control of the IEEE in curtailing its ethical support activities.
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ But before going into depth about Professional issues, I first establish that fundamentally I was an accomplished Technical Engineer. I say this with the belief, which I developed early in my career based on a course in Professionalism taught at the University of Florida, that a Total Engineer equals the sum of his/her Technical and Professional accomplishments.
HOW A FEW CHANGES IN DIRECTION OF THE AIEE, AN IEEE CO-FOUNDING SOCIETY, BY PRO BUSINESS NEW MEMBERS, HAS AFFECTED PROFESSIONISM AND ETHICAL SUPPORT NEGATIVELY IN THE IEEE TO THIS DAY
Impact of the Revolt of AIEE's "Founding Professional Engineers"
I believe there were two basic "professional activities" problems over the years, from the era of 1912, which led to IEEE having severe challenges in the ethical and professionalism areas arising strongly in the early 1970's. Both of these had their genesis in the early transformation which occurred in one of IEEE's predecessor societies, the American Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or the AIEE. This was documented well by Edwin T. Layton, Jr. in his book "The Revolt of the Engineers" (The Johns Hopkins university Press, 1986). A Power Point presentation is available.
Edwin T. Layton, Jr. (1929-2009) was president of the Society for the History of Technology and a professor of the history of science and technology at the University of Minnesota from 1975 until his retirement in 1998. He was awarded the Dexter Prize of the Society for the History of Technology for his book The Revolt of the Engineers.
ABOUT THE BOOK
In examining the history of American engineering, this book emphasizes professionalism, social responsibility, and ethics. It explains how some engineers have attempted to express a concern for the social effects of technology and to forge codes of ethics which could articulate the profession's fundamental obligation to the public. The document's major sections address: (1) the engineer and business; (2) the evolution of the profession; (3) the ideology of engineering; (4) the politics of status; (5) the revolt of the civil engineers; (6) measuring the unmeasurable (scientific management and reform); (7) the engineer as reformer (Morris L. Cooke); (8) the engineering method personified (Herbert Hoover and the Federated American Engineering Societies); (9) the return to normalcy (1921-1929); and (10) the depression and the New Deal (the engineers ideology in decline).
I will highlight two of these impacts next.
Business Interests' Takeover of the AIEE from its "Founding Professional Engineers"
The first and earliest basic issue was that "businessmen" wanted full membership in the AIEE, so they could direct its interests and activities away from the "professional" interests and activities of the "founding practicing engineers", and toward the business interests of utilities and other industries which they managed. They accomplished this when the New York State Supreme Court ruled in their favor over a suit they brought to broaden membership rules to include them as "engineers" too in the AIEE. This led to the relaxing of the criteria that had been used to ascertain the technical/professional qualifications of the then early "founding practicing" engineers. Subsequent to this, the AIEE/IRE merging into today's IEEE, was limited by its Constitution to engage in Technical Activities alone. It was not until 1972 when the IEEE Members overwhelmingly voted to change IEEE's Constitution, did it begin to engage in "Professional Activities".
The Exemption of Industry Engineers from Being Required to be "Licensed Professional Engineers"
The second issue followed this takeover of the AIEE by "businessmen" again in which this time they used their corporate political power in the AIEE and industry to cause "practicing engineers" who were engaged in industry, to be exempt from being required to obtain and hold a valid legal Professional Engineer's license. This action in essence killed any motivation of the vast number of industry engineers from becoming licensed "professionals", as was envisioned by the earliest practicing founding engineers of the AIEE. By not holding a P.E. license, they were not held accountable to a legal Code of Professional Conduct, ethics, in their industry practices. Industry's argument for this change was that they, the corporation, would be held liable for engineering errors which might occur in their design practice of the corporation's products and services. This P.E. exemption of engineers practicing in industry still exists today.
IEEE's (AIEE's) First Code of Ethics in 1912
Dr. Schuyler Skaats Wheeler, was President of the A. I. E. E. 1905–1906. At Milwaukee in May 1906 Dr. Wheeler delivered his presidential address on “Engineering Honor” and it was from this address that the ideas were taken for the “Code of Ethics” for Electrical engineers finally adopted by the Board of Directors in 1912. He always took an active interest in the work of the Committee on Code of Principles of Professional Conduct of which he was chairman at the time of his death. This became in effect, IEEE"s first Code of Ethics and the first of any of the Founding Engineering Societies.
A proposal for the first AIEE Code of Ethics was published in 1907 under this publication:
PROPOSED CODE OF ETHICS OF THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF ELECTRICAL ENGINEERS COMMITTEE ON CODE OF ETHICS
The authors and co-signers of the proposal were:
- CHARLES P. STEINMETZ,
- HAROLD W. BUCK,
- SCHUYLER SKAATS WHEELER. Chairman.
In it, these PRINCIPLES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT FOR THE GUIDANCE OF THE ELECTRICAL ENGINEER were proposed:
- A. General Principles.
- B. Relations of the electrical engineer to his employer, customer, or client.
- C. Relations of the electrical engineer to the ownership of the records of his work.
- D. Relations of the electrical engineer to the public.
- E. Relations of the electrical engineer to the engineering fraternity.
- F. Relations of the electrical engineer to the standards of his profession.
But it wasn't until 1912 that it was finally adopted.
In the Late 1990's, The IEEE Withdrew Its Support of Ethical Engineers
While I served on the Member Conduct Committee, 1996-1998, I witnessed a top industry executive and former IEEE President state to the MCC that "he believed that the IEEE should not come between an employee engineer and his/her employer on ethical matters". That viewpoint essentially gutted the "ethical support" provision in IEEE By Law 112 and the second mandate to the Member Conduct Committee, to "provide support to engineers placed in employment jeopardy for ethical matters". And what followed over the next few years was the implementation of that viewpoint, causing the IEEE to go backwards and not forward in the areas of ethical support and professionalism, in my opinion. More about this follows below.
The two problems summarized previously, eventually, in my opinion, led to the IEEE withdrawing already established and operational resources in 1998 in support of ethical engineers who found themselves placed in employment jeopardy. The most important of these services which was terminated, was the operation of an Ethics HOT Line, wherein engineers could call in and receive advisory help. In some of these situations, the help led to referral to the IEEE's Member Conduct Committee, MCC, set up in 1978 to both discipline its unethical members, and to provide support to those placed in ethical jeopardy in their employment. Further, many of the key members of the MCC and Ethics Committees, who were Proactive in Ethics and Professionalism, were removed from their positions, and a reversal in promoting ethical support and professionalism began.
My Early Activities in the AIEE and IRE, the Founding Societies of Today's IEEE
I graduated from high school in June of 1950 and completed one year at the University of Miami pursuing becoming a Music Conductor of Band, Orchestra or Chorus. The Korean War had begun one month after graduation from high school and I was aware that I could and would be drafted into the Army by June of 1951. I elected instead to complete my Freshman year, then enlisted in the US Navy for a 4 year tour. Upon taking an IQ test at the Recruiting Center, I did well enough that I was be placed in the Aviation Branch and guaranteed attending a 28 week Electronics Technician school. In all, I received nearly a year's training, covering Aviation Fundamental Skills, Electronics and Sonar training.
For 3 years, 1953 - 1955, I maintained 3 pieces of aviation electronic equipment in Squadron VX-!, dedicated to Anti-Submarine Development, those being the Radar Altimeter, LORAN and IFF (Identification Friend or Foe). I assisted a Raytheon Field Engineer and collectively they caused me to switch my career from becoming a Music Conductor of Band, Chorus or Orchestra, to an Electronics Engineer, with the benefit of the GI Bill, which paid for my college education at the University of Florida.
At Florida, around 1956-57, I joined both the AIEE and the IRE Student Chapters, and have remained a Member ever since of their succeeding merger into today's IEEE, now nearly 60 years. One of the engineering courses I took, called Professionalism, Ethics, Economics and Safety, introduced me to the NSPE Code of Ethics and of becoming a Licensed Professional Engineer. It just so happened that our Engineering Dean, Dr. Joseph Weil, was the founders of the Florida Licensing Board of Professional Engineers, which led to the engineering students being informed about the professional side of their future practice, and that awareness, has stayed with me to this day. The most important outgrowth of this was that during the week of graduation, I had prepared, took and passed the then Engineer-in-Training (now call Engineer Intern) exam. This was the first step to becoming a Licensed P.E. later, once I had acquired 4 years of practice as an engineer.
I was particularly influenced by both the NSPE Code of Ethics and the Professional Engineering Licensing law. Together, they set the bar for what kind of responsible and competent engineer I wanted to become in my career and the image as a true "Professional" I hoped to garner from my career. Further, the proceedings of both the AIEE and IRE also had positive influences on me, in being able to see what my forefather engineers had set down on paper in professional/technical journals, presenting what the theory of my profession was all about. Collectively, these influences led me naturally to join the full membership in both IRE and the AIEE once I graduated and started practicing.
During My Earliest Years I Was a Systems and a Product Design Engineer
From 1958 through 1960, right out of college, I was the System Engineer with the Martin Company, in Orlando, Florida, responsible for specifying and over seeing 2 contractors develop the Telemetry Signal Conditioning equipment flown in testing the development of the US Army's new solid propellant Pershing Missile. Then from 1960 to 1965, I performed and also responsible for the design and development of Telemetry and Data Acquisition equipment for Airborne and Aerospace applications (high altitude research ballons, aircraft and missiles). I both worked independently and led design groups as a Project Engineer, with total responsibility. All of these equipment had to not only perform to performance specs but also operate while doing so in extreme environments. Initially these equipment were implemented using analog technology but later transitioned to digital through the use of discrete transistors and later integrated circuits. All of this work was done on fixed priced contracts, which we had to bid on to win the work. We created State-of-the-Art products.
Systems Engineering at The Martin Company 1958-1960
Here, below, are the first equipment I was given total system responsibility for, right out of college. They were the Telemetry Signal Conditioning equipments which were flown in the early test vehicles of the US Army's first solid rocket missile, the Pershing, which replaced the liquid fueled Redstone. Later, the Pershing missiles, tipped with Nuclear Warheads, created a defensive shield all along Eastern Europe, to hold back the Russian threat.
Product Development at Dresser Electronics 1960-1962
Beginning in 1960 I moved to one of the companies, Dresser Electronics in Houston, Texas, which had developed some of the above Signal Conditioning modules for the Pershing. I made this move to gain product design experience, as opposed to the systems engineering work I had just done at Martin. There at Dresser, I designed one of the Signal Conditional modules which made up the overall equipment flown in the Titan II ICBM, for the Martin Company in Denver, Colorado, and for the US Air Force.
The figures below show the Frequency Deviation Converter Module I developed, next is the overall Signal Conditioning Equipment it was housed in along with other module types, and in the last figure it shows a 2nd generation miniaturization that I achieved while at Dresser Electronics.
While at Dresser Electronics, I attended and obtained a MSEE degree in 1962 from the University of Houston. For my Master's Thesis, I undertook to investigate the use of Negative Feedback to see if it would negate the effects of temperature changes on the Frequency Deviation Converter I had developed. The work resulted in the inability of this to be achieved. Subsequently, I moved my family back in mid 1962 to Orlando, FL, where I worked for Dynatronics, Inc. a small leading developer of Ground and Airborne Telemetry and Data Processing equipment and systems.
Airborne Telemetry Product Design at Dynatronics, Inc. 1962-1965
At Dynatronics, in Orlando, Fl, I was in the Airborne Section, where we bid competitively to develop and manufacture state-of-the-art custom Telemetry and Data Acquisition equipment. I was a Project Engineer with total responsibility for technical, cost and schedule for work assigned to me, along with the direction of the team of engineers, technicians, draftsmen and planners who worked under my direction.
The products produced were used in High Altitude Research Balloons, Fighter Aircraft, Multi-Staged Satellite Launch Missiles and High Altitude Research Aircraft. Below are photos of examples of some to this equipment.
HICAT-High Altitude Clear Air Turbulence Research Data Acquisition System
This was a special project of mine, being the largest, most complex and the final equipment design I did before switching into Systems Engineering for the remainder of my career. I was assigned as the overall Project Engineer, with total responsibility for the design, development, verification testing, schedule, staffing, Team Direction and costs. The complexity of this work is shown in the photo below.
The Year 2015 Marks the 50th Anniversary of the HICAT Research Program (1965 - 2015)
A Joint US Air Force/Lockheed Aircraft/Dynatronics Team Effort
The purpose of this system was to enable an Air Force U2 aircraft to gather Clear Air Turbulence data at High Altitudes, around the world, where there was high amounts of turbulence. This was research being conducted to determine this effect so as to be able to design the Super Sonic Transport Bomber, SST. Ultimately this was for the US Air Force, and Lockheed Aircraft, Burbank, CA, was the Contractor. We were supplied 3 of the equipment shown in the above photo. One was an Ampex Data Recorder, another was an IRIG Time Code Generator, and the third was a Pilot's Control item. We developed the PCM Data Acquisition System and the Field Checkout Unit. What caused the DAS to be so large was the fact that each of 40 input channels had to be filtered to restrict the bandwidth to an extremely low frequency, and large components were required to produce the needed filtering. This was the first all Digital PCM System the Air Force had used and the first time Lockheed had employed Integrated Circuits. We accomplished both firsts on this one program.
Below are photos of the actual U2 which this was flown in and a prototype SST the data was intended for. This U2 was eventually retired and placed in the Air and Space Museum at Wright Patterson AFB, Dayton, OH.
I was fortunate enough to have spent a week training the Lockheed engineers about the HICAT system, then went with them to Edwards Air Force Base where I got to see it installed in the flight U2, and witnessed the first U2 fight test, which was successful. Thereafter the system was flown all around the world over the next 2 years where there was turbulence.
My Transition from a Product to a System Engineer
In 1965 I left Dynatronics to work again at The Martin Company, then re-named Martin Marietta. I was convinced during my interview, by a more senior and experienced system engineer, that it would be a better career move for me, which I followed. For the remainder of my career, I worked in what some called, Advanced Programs, as a Systems Engineer. All of these programs were aimed at developing and bringing in new business and focused on the bigger, total system, perspective. We were challenged to develop new solutions using state-of-the-art and sometimes new technologies and approaches.
Here, below, I highlight the several companies I worked for, and the new business systems I was involved with.
Martin Marietta, Orlando, FL 1965 - 1968
- US Army Time Division Multiplexer Voice/Data Sharing for Forward Field Observers
- Extremal Detector for Voice Encoding
- ATAC Army Tactical Area Communications System
- Automation of Technical Control Systems
Honeywell Communications Division, St.Petersburg, FL1968 - 1972
- ATACS Automating Air Force Technical Control Systems Study
- McNamarra Electronic Battlefield Detection System
Martin Marietta Communications Division, Orlando, Fl 1972 -1974
- AN/TSQ-85 Army Technical Control System
- Forward Artillery Controller Communications
- Communications for the HELFIRE System
- FAA Air Traffic Control Electronic Voice Switching System
- Army Tactical Communications System
- Air Force Nodal Area Communications System Study
Independent Consulting Engineer, Orlando, Fl 1974-1975
- Expert Witness in a Multiple Death Fire for Plaintiffs
Planning Research Corp/NASA Headquarters, Kennedy Space Center, 1975
- Electronic Voice Switching System for the Space Shuttle Base Communications Study
NCR Corporation, Columbia, SC 1975-1980
- Represented NCR on ANSI X3S37 Public Data Networks Standards Committee
- Packet Switching Networking and Data Link Control Communications
- Member of NCR System Network Architecture Committee
- Member of NCR Data Encryption Committee
Harris Corporation, Melbourne, FL, 1980-1997
- Reported to V. President of Development of a new Office Automation System
- Represented Harris Corp on the IEEE 802 Local Area Networks Standards Committee, Chairing its System Management Task Force
- Contributed Networking Solutions to Interconnect Distributed Office Terminals
- Member of SAE High Speed Data Networks Standards, Chaired a Committee
- Program Manager/Technical Investigator for Survivable Local Area Networks for Air Force
- Program Manager/Technical Investigator for Multimedia Communications Study for Air Force
- High Speed Data Networking for NASA Data Capture, Storage and Distribution
- Network Management Subsystem for the FBI Remote Data Terminal System
- Modeling and Multiplexer For Air Force Air Tasking Orders
- Packet Switching for an FAA Air Traffic Control System
- Classified Networking Technology Studies
- Organized an Annual Corporate Networking Conference with Exhibitors and Papers Presented
- Initiated a Corporate Seminar on the new Integrated High Speed Networking Standard
- Initiated Harris Corp celebrating Engineer's Week on an Annual Basis
- System Architect for the Defense Messaging System, DMS, for the Air Force
The Defense Messaging System, DMS Proposal to the US Air Force
The Defense Message System, referred to as DMS, was a US Air Force new procurement program to supply all of the Military Services and Civilian Agencies of the Federal Government, with a new, modern, secure, multi-media electronic messaging capability. Denny Hanson was assigned as the Chief Systems Engineer and I was assigned as the System Architect reporting to him, on the proposal, with Harris Corp serving as the Prime Contractor.
There were 3 major Subsystems: an X.400 Message Switching Element, an X.500 Directory Element and an overall Network Management Element, and User Agents (software in user terminals). There were over a dozen Teammates and Suppliers, one located in England. Our team worked on this proposal for 2 years. The DMS was intended to serve up to 2,000,000 users, on Large, Medium and Small sized bases, in addition to the Civilian demographics. It was required to be end to end secure, handle eMail, Messaging, Imagering, and Video. Additionally, there was a very special requirement to be able to handle an Emergency message in a specified time frame as well. There was a separate System Design Appendix to the proposal, in which we had to prove a variety of performance metrics. This was the most technically complex task I had ever been assigned responsibility for. I had 2 PhDs plus one MS engineers working full time using both simulation and calculation to produce the results called for.
This was the largest program in both scope and dollar value which I had ever been associated, with a proposed cost to the Government of over $1 Billion. Our proposal was rated #1 Technically, but the Government chose a competitor over our proposed offering and solution.
MY INCREASED INTEREST IN PROFESSIONALISM AND ETHICS
Impact on My Professional Conscience
From the time I first began to practice engineering in industry, as I progressed in my career from one company situation to another, I began to feel that something was missing as an engineer. I saw that other engineer disciplines' practice, such as the Civil, Structural, Electrical and Mechanical engineers who practiced in the Consulting field, were all Licensed Professional Engineers and seemed to be treated more as professionals than we engineers who were practicing in industry and not Licensed P.E.s were. That seemed to me to be an imbalance, based on what I had learned in that Professional course taken back at the University of Florida. And Ethics seemed to be more important to me, if I wanted to be considered a true Professional. I began to develop the view that we engineers in industry ought to be treated better than just mere workers, but how was one to go about achieving that status?
Working for a small company of a couple hundred people, winning fixed price contracts through competitive bidding with very aggressive schedules, led to engineers having to work extra hours on their own, without additional compensation. The technology involved was at the time "state of the art" and was very exciting to be involved with. But, over time, the constant working of up to 60 hours a week became old and I began to ask myself "Is this what an engineer is expected to do and still be recognized as a Professional?" During the entire period there was no emphasis or the speaking about adhering to a Code of Ethics or Professionalism in that work place, but I had remembered those topics from that course I took back at the University of Florida and that I was preparing to sit for the PE Exam to become licensed and so my work environment began to worry me and I realized it was having a negative impact on my family life.
The BART Ethics and Safety Case and IEEE's Amicus Curiae Legal Brief
Around 1972, while working at Martin Marietta, I came across an IEEE publication, called the Committee on the Social Implications of Technology, or CSIT, in which Steve Unger, PhD at Columbia University, had written about the plight of 3 engineers employed by the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, system in California. They had been fired for raising their concerns over safety defects they observed in the development of the new BART Train System, and then they brought a suit against BART. IEEE Spectrum magazine subsequently published articles shedding light on the specifics of what these 3 engineers had attempted to do to remedy the unsafe designs they had uncovered. Then a milestone in IEEE occurred when the IEEE Board of Directors, in 1974, approved entering the BART Case, with an Amicus Curiae, or Friend of the Court brief. In this, IEEE used the leading engineering Codes of Ethics to argue that "engineers had a responsibility to protect the public safety and to be fired for that action was unlawful". Ultimately, the 3 engineers settled with BART and the case did not go forward, unfortunately. If it had, the IEEE's brief may have produced a landmark decision regarding the responsibility of engineers to protect the public's safety and to discharge one for doing this was unlawful.
Here are the key accounts of the BART Case and the 3 affected Engineers:
Amicus Curiae Briefs of the IEEE:
- The Amicus Curiae Brief of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in the BART Case, IEEE CSIT Newsletter, December 1975
- Divided Loyalties, Purdue University Series, Complete Amicus Curiae Brief, pps 365 - 374
IEEE Ethical Support and Amicus Curiae Policies
The IEEE, under By-Law I-113, has had a policy for over 40 years to offer "ethical support" in situations as described above. Further, as part of this policy, the IEEE provides for the providing of an "Amicus Curiae," restricting it to matters of ethical principal, in ethical support requests. Policy 7.13 provides for the preparation of the Amicus Curiae, when approved by the IEEE.
In January 1975, the IEEE entered its first and only Amicus Curiae, in a "wrongful discharge" ethics matter, in the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) case. This involved 3 IEEE engineers, who brought suit against the BART District entity for their "wrongful discharge" for actions they took to "protect the public" in matters of engineering design of the automated train control system. Essentially, the IEEE legal brief made these statements of law to the court, in this case:
"In any charge to the jury herein, this court should instruct the jury that if it finds, based upon the evidence, that an engineer has been discharged solely or in substantial part because of his bona fide efforts to conform to recognized ethics of his profession involving his duty to protect the public safety, then such discharge was in breach of an implied term of his contract of employment."
The IEEE brief said that not only should this apply to Public employment bodies, but to private employers too.
Constitutional Change Adding Professional Activities, IEEE USA Formed
Since the founding of the forerunner societies to the IEEE, they being the AIEE and the IRE, their focus was upon strictly Technical Activities. Then when they were merged into today's IEEE, its Constitution continued to only permit it's activities to be Technical. However, beginning around the early 1970's, with the decline in the Aerospace industry, with large numbers of US engineers being laid off, suddenly there became a ground swell to have the IEEE get involved with career, employment, salary, ethics and professional activities, for the first time. This led to a vote of the membership in 1972 in which over 80% of the membership approved having IEEE change its Constitution, which added Professional Activities to its long standing Technical Activities. One of the long term outgrowths of this change was the creation of the IEEE USA entity. This focused on just the IEEE Members in the USA and established programs concentrating on the Professional aspects of engineering and Members' careers during employment.
IEEE's First Professional Activities Committee, PAC, Formed in 1972 in the Orlando Section of IEEE
With the announcement of IEEE adding Professional Activities, I attended the next meeting of the Orlando Section of IEEE, in December 1972, at which coincidently, then outgoing IEEE President Robert Tanner happened to attend. At that meeting, I asked for the Board to approve creating a Professional Activities Committee, or PAC, as now authorized by the changed Constitution, and got approval. This PAC, to my knowledge, was the very first one to be established under the changed IEEE Constitution, and I became its first Chairman.
With a PAC Charter, I proceeded to hold monthly meetings, with speakers on subjects such as Professional Licensure, Ethics, Employment Guidelines, Salary Surveys, Discrimination, Product Safety and Liability, to mention some. These meetings were always well attended. Then, as the Orlando Section was holding the next IEEE Region 3 SOUTHEASTCON in April of 1974. This was an opportunity to see if I could get approval to add a Professional Activities Program Session along side of the traditional Technical Activities Stream.
IEEE's First Professional Activities Session at Region 3 SOUTHEASTCON
I proposed this to the Orlando Section, got approval and sent out announcements calling for Professional Topic papers. This was going to be a first in IEEE and was a lucky happening. We received enough papers and so a Professional Activities session was organized. I had been documenting my findings on various Professional Topics and so just wrote papers on them and submitted them for consideration. In all, 5 of my papers were approved along with one Technical paper I co-authored with Terry Duffield on the results of a study we did for the US Air Force on Survivable Distributed Base Communications.
Professional Engineer Licensure and the Industry Exemption
History of How the Exemption of Engineers Working in Industry from Being Required to be Licensed Professional Engineers Came About
During SOUTHEASTCON 1974, my Chairmanship successor of the Professional Activities Committee, Ted, and I met with our former Dean of Engineering, Dr. Joseph Weil, who also attended the conference. We wanted to get from him, the history of how the exemption provision in the Professional Engineers licensure law, FS 471, in the state of Florida came about. Dr. Weil was in the best position to share this history with us, as he, while Dean of Engineering at the University of Florida, where Ted and I had both attended, personally helped establish the Florida Licensing Board of Professional Engineers and was a Founding Member. Further, he was there when the law was changed to remove the requirement for engineers employed in industry to be licensed P.E.s. He told us the following:
The Corporate Telephone and Electric Utilities "exerted enough political weight and got the Legislature to amend Florida Statute 471 to exempt engineers working in industry from the requirement to become licensed P.E.s". The argument used, he told us, was that "they, industry, would be liable for producing unsafe or defective products, and that would protect the public". At the same time, other State Boards were doing the exact same thing.
It is interesting to remember that during the early years of the AIEE, the then Businessmen, did a similar thing when they went to the New York State Supreme Court and got a ruling which changed and relaxed the membership requirements such as to permit them to now become voting members, taking the control of AIEE away from the founding professional engineers, and to direct the AIEE towards their business interests. During my most active times serving on professional and ethics committees of the IEEE, when I was active during the 1980's and 1990's, I continued to see examples of this corporate over influence in IEEE activities (my opinion, and more on this later).
I Became Licensed as a Professional Engineer in Florida
In light of the fact that my Communications Division was beginning to bid and develop products for the non-Military commercial market, I requested and got approval in 1973 to go to UCLA where I attended a one week course titled "System Safety and Product Liability" taught by an Attorney-Engineer named George Peters. He was licensed as an attorney, engineer, and psychologist. There I became knowledgeable about the responsibility of engineers to design safe products and the liability risks when they are not and fail or cause injury. I returned to my Company, Martin Marietta, with the mission to instill in my fellow engineers there, and in the local IEEE PAC, to importance of becoming Licensed P.E.s, to uphold ethics, design safe products and to strive to be recognized as a true Professional. Then In February 1974, I learned that the Florida Board of Professional Engineers had approved me to become a Licensed Professional Engineer. I had taken the PE Exam the previous November and this notification was received by me with excitement.
P.E. Licensure Exemption of Engineers Working in Industry, Product and System Safety
The hallmark of what I had considered true Professionalism was for an engineer to become licensed by the State with a Professional Engineer protected title. With this title, came the legal obligation of each P.E. to adhere to the Legal Code of Professional Conduct embedded in the Licensure law, as enforced by the State P.E. Board. Among other obligations, the "protection of the public's health, safety and welfare" were deemed paramount. That was the fundamental issue which the 3 engineers in the BART Case faced. Not only would the public benefit from this professionalism, but the P.E. engineer working in industry would be protecting one's own Employers from possible liability suits, as a result of this responsible safety consciousness. Then over time, the prestige and standing of P.E.s employed in industry would be hightened, I believed.
However, for the most part, in my view, engineers employed in industry were robbed of this incentive to become licensed P.E.s years previous when the Corporate powers to be at the time were successful in getting the States' P.E. laws to "Exempt engineers in industry from being required to become licensed".
My Professional Activities Became an Increased Obstacle for My Employer
Awarded IEEE Orlando Section Professional Engineer of the Year
At the 1974 Engineers Week Meeting, I was the recipient of the Engineer of the Year Award for Professional Activities, by the IEEE Orlando Section. This recognized that I had proposed and formed the first Professional Activities Committee in the IEEE, and led it through its first year of operating.
Management Pressured Me Not to Present My 5 PAC Papers at IEEE SOUTHEASTCON 1974
When IEEE SOUTHEASTCON was held, in Orlando, FL, for the Professional Activities Session, there were 10 papers presented, of which my 5 were included. My topics covered, System and Product Safety, Licensure of Professional Engineers in Industry and the Industry Exemption, Salary Survey, Employment Guidelines and Ethics. When my then Director of Engineering learned I was going to present these, he called me into his office and said that I was "an extremist and that no one else had ever done that" and pressured me not to go forward doing that. Not only was he a Licensed Professional Engineer himself, but additionally was a Senior Member of the IEEE, like I was. I disregarded his pressure, proceeded as planned and presented them, knowing this objection from my Management.
This was not the first time he offered his view that my Professional Activities Committee initiative and promoting them was not acceptable and both pressure and a series of unusual work assignments were starting to occur, coinciding with my PAC initiatives. This all happened during the period when I became licensed as a Professional Engineer, a recipient of Engineer of the Year for Professional Activities, the organizer of the first Professional Activities Committee in IEEE History, the organizier of IEEE's first Professional Activities Program at a major conference, that being the Region 3 SOUTHEASTCON, and then the presenter of 5 PAC papers and co-author of one Technical Paper.
I Was Forced to Resign "Under Coercion" for my Professional Activities
In July of 1974, I was called in to the office of him, the Director of Engineering, to receive my Performance Evaluation. In attendance, additionally, were 2 others. One, my Project Engineer whom I had been working for on an Army Communications Study, and the other my Administrative Section Leader. There I was made to read out loud the 4 page appraisal, which he had written, with some inputs probably from the other two. When I completed reading it aloud, I said, "This is all Bull Shit". Later, I did an analysis of its accuracy, and concluded that around 85% of what had been written was not true, fabricated and written to frame me. On August 24, 1974, I was called again into The Director of Engineering's office, where this time his boss, the Vice President of Engineering, was present. I was given the option to either resign or be terminated for "not meeting schedules", which was never commented on in the Performance Appraisal the prior month. Ever since that Performance Review, I had contacted an outside lawyer as I felt the future did not look good. I requested and was allowed to call and speak with him, explained what was happening, and he advised that I "resign under coercion". And that is what I did. I was then escorted out of the building.
I had been saving key papers and documents just in case this might happen, and over the next several years wanted to bring suit against that former Employer, but at the urging of my wife, I did not. I did submit a charge of violation of the IEEE Code of Ethics against that Director, to the newly formed IEEE Member Conduct Committee, but they declined to approve going forward with it. That whole experience then changed my life for the better in the technical field and I got very involved with Professional Activities in the IEEE at the highest levels, even tho at the time I could not see that happening.
The Transitioning of My Career After Being Terminated
It was nearly a year before I became fully employed again. During this period, my emotional state was such that I was not ready to re-enter industry to work. I focused on my activities in the Florida Engineering Society, the state organization of the National Society of Professional Engineers, NSPE, on its Engineers in Industry Committee, in which I focused and researched the topic about the Exemption of Engineers in Industry From Being Required to be Licensed P.E.s.
During this period I was able to make good use of my P.E.License when I consulted through an Engineering Safety firm, in which I was engaged to investigate the likely cause of a fire in a home trailer, which killed the young two children. I was deposed under oath for 6-8 hours, by the 2 companies I had concluded whose products were the most likely source of what started the trailer fire. Subsequently, I was informed that during the weekend prior to when the trial was to begin, both companies settled with the parents, out of court, and the case ended. I felt my testimony must have been a persuading factor, leading to this outcome for the parents, who lost their 2 children.
Eventually, I accepted a position (downgraded as it was at the time) with an outsourced engineering firm located on the Kennedy Space Center of NASA, in the Headquarters Building. There I developed a set of requirements for a voice telephone system, which was to be used in the Space Shuttlle program. Because of the practice at the time of having one company bid against another to become the outsourced contractor at NASA/KSC, but continuing to employ most of the same engineers, always at a very reduced salary, this became recognized as being very un-professional but continued.
Then I moved my family to Columbia, SC where I was fully employed again at a proper salary, in the Advanced Development arm of an International commercially based company (my first time not working on military or Governmental programs). In this new environment, I became involved in a brand new technology, Public Data Networks, employing Packet Switching technology based on National and Internationally agreed standards. I volunteered and bacame the representative of my company on the ANSI X3S37 Public Data Networks standards committee. I also became a member of my company's Network Architecture and Data Encryption Architecture/Standards Committees. On the ANSI Committee, I volunteered and Chaired a Task Force where we advocated adding in the standard coverage for Datagram service as well. This work with this company led to my writing and presenting several technical papers at conferences.
After a period of 5 years working in this new commercial technology, I was approached, interviewed and accepted a further upgraded position reporting to the Vice President of Development back in my home state of Florida. There, it was developing a new Office Automation System. Eventually I remained employed for 18 years with the parent company and ultimately retired in 1997.
A lesson learned from having been laid off earlier in my career, for my proactive professional and ethical activities, was that it led me to a new career, learned new technology, upgraded my position and salary, and made my wife and daughter very happy.
My Networking Standards Work with Dr. Vinton Cerf, the Co-Founder of the Internet
When I attended the meetings of the ANSI X3S37 Public Data Networks standards meetings from 1976-1980 in Washington, DC and around the country when they moved, I was fortunate to meet and associate with the Co-Father of the Internet, he being Dr. Vinton Cerf. At the time, he was with DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, At DARPA, he funded the early researchers and Universities which created the early version of the ARPANET, as it was originally named. When I was given approval to form and lead the Datagram Task Force, he volunteered to join it, along with others representing a major Corporation and a Carrier. Further, members who worked for the Defense Communications Agency, DCA, were also members of the ANSI X3S37 Committee and contributed. These DCA engineers were working on the design of the key networking protocols which became the glue which tied the networks together, the TCP/IP protocols (Transmission Control and Internet Protocols).
Dr. Cerf advocated that the public and private data networks should best be built on a Datagram-based set of networking protocols, which is what the IP protocol was. I supported that belief and became my reason for forming the Datagram Task Force, aimed at getting that service made a part of the international CCITT X.25 Public Data Network interface standard. These protocols were aimed at creating Wide Area Networks. Later, I joined the IEEE 802 Local Area Networks standards committee, which worked on Ethernet, Token Ring and later, Wireless Local Networking, which together worked under the family of TCP/IP protocols.
The IEEE Member Conduct Committee for Ethical Discipline and Support 1978
The creation of the Member Conduct Committee was an evolutionary process spanning nearly a decade, beginning in the early 1970's culminating in the Board of Directors approving its establishment in February 1978. A detailed account of the history of this was written by Dr. Stephen H. Unger, (Columbia University Professor of Electrical Engineering and was one of the co-founders of IEEE's Committee on the Social implications of Technology, CSIT). The article appeared in the December 1977 issue of the CSIT Newsletter, titled:
A more detailed account is given for the period 1970 - 1975 in the following book: Divided Loyalties, Whistle-Blowing at BART, pps 321 - 336
Formation of IEEE's Member Conduct Committee, the MCC in 1978
There are two well documented accounts of the modern history of IEEE's involvement with ethics, member discipline, ethical support of engineers placed in jeopardy, an ethics hot line, a legal defense fund, and more. These were written by Dr. Stephen H. Unger, X, Y, starting with IEEE's support of the 3 BART Case engineers, and leading to the formation of the original Member Conduct Committee in 1978. I strongly urge the viewer to carefully read these plus a third one Y, I wrote in support of Steve's second article, of which I had first hand knowledge.
In the mid-late 1970's, the IEEE USAB had an Ethics Committee under it, focusing on advancing each of the ethics initiatives identified previously. In the late 1970's, when I was employed by the International commercial company in Columbia, SC, I was appointed to the USAB Ethics Task Force, charged with developing proposals for 2 ethics initiatives. One was for disciplining IEEE Members found to have violated its Code of Ethics. The second was for providing support for engineers who were placed in jeopardy for upholding ethical standards.
One Saturday morning, in the Spring of 1997, this Ethics Task Force, met in a New York City hotel and developed the framework and procedures for both ethics initiatives. We sketched these on large sheets from a pad on an easel; one for Discipline and one for Support. I sketched the Support process flow diagram, and in the late 1990's-early 2000's, I submitted it to the IEEE History Center. Recent efforts to retrieve the Support chart have not been successful.
It is ironic to now look back and realize that it was Steve Unger and I, with others, who, in the Spring of 1977, drafted the initial two sets of procedures for creating the Member Conduct Committee, and that I was the one whom the IEEE United States Activities Board President, John Guarrera, asked me and I did go to the San Diego meeting of the IEEE Board of Directors and presented these proposed procedures to them for adoption. Later, they were merged with another set developed independently by then IEEE member Jim Fairman, an Engineer/Attorney, into what created the Member Conduct Committee. The MCC went into effect in February 1978, some, nearly 40 years ago now. Jim then became its First Chair.
IEEE CSIT and the MCC's First Ethics Support Case - Virginia Edgerton and Police Car Dispatching
One day in 1978, I received a phone call from a Virginia Edgerton. She had an ethics support need and sought my help in the matter. She was engaged working on a computer dispatch 911 system for New York City and encountered some irregularities in response times which she tried to get corrected, to no avail, she told me. Subsequent to this she was terminated. At the time, I was in no situation to give her direct help, but what I did was to refer her to the best qualified and motivated person in IEEE whom I knew would assist her, and that person was Dr. Stephen H. Unger, a Computer Scientist at Columbia University. He had personally investigated, wrote articles and led the CSIT effort to get the IEEE to enter into the BART case dealing with ethical responsibility of engineers. While the Member Conduct Committee had by then been established, I had not experience with them but knew of Steve's success in the BART Case, knew him and felt he would do the right thing for her
Ultimately, it was not the MCC which investigated Edgerton's claims and request for ethical support, but rather was the Committee on Social Implications of Technology, or the CSIT, under Steve Unger's leadership in the investigation. And it was the CSIT/SSIT direct appeal through the Technical Activities Board, then the Executive Committee, which sent it to the Member Conduct Committee which caused them, the MCC, to undertake their first "request for ethical support" case. In the end. the IEEE acted positively on the MCC recommendation to support Virginia Edgerton, and published what her request and issues were all about, not in the flagship IEEE Spectrum, but in the CSIT Newsletter, supporting her allegations. Later, Virginia Edgerton was the 2nd recipient of the 1979 SSIT BARUS Ethics Award.
Here are the links about Virginia Edgerton, her Ethical Support Case and the 1979 IEEE SSIT BARUS Award:
- Police Cars, Computers and Engineering Responsibility
- Reports on IEEE's First Ethics Case
- Award for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest
- Virginia Edgerton - (IEEE Barus Awardee 1979That was the good news about the workings of the new Member Conduct Committee. The bad news, however, was that for the next 15 or more years, it essentially did nothing more in the ethical support area, as pointed out in Ungers' writings. Some of my personal experiences while serving on the MCC later sheds light on why this was.
The IEEE SSIT Carl Barus Award for for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest
Beginning in 1978 and going through 2013, there have been 11 Barus Awards handed out. The 3 BART Engineers were the first and Mark Edwards the most recent. These awards are made by the Awards Committee of IEEE's Society on Social Implications of Technology, the SSIT.
Carl Barus From about 1985 through 1990 Carl Barus chaired SSIT’s Awards Committee. He carefully and thoroughly gathered and evaluated information about each proposed candidate. Published articles, internal reports, memos, and letters were supplemented, as appropriate, by oral interviews with knowledgeable people. Thus, when SSIT gave its Award for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest, which, by its very nature goes to people involved in controversies, we were confident that the society would not be embarrassed by the sudden surfacing of information detrimental to the awardee. The high reputation of this award owes a great deal to the work of Carl Barus. In many other ways this very able, wise man quietly contributed to the development of SSIT and its predecessor committee. It is therefore highly appropriate to have the award named in his honor, and dedicated to his memory. –S. H. Unger (3/23/95)
Between 1977 and 2013 there were 11 Barus Awards given out.
The 1st award went to the 3 BART Engineers.
The 2nd award went to Virginia Edgerton.
My Appointment to the Member Conduct Committee and How I Received a Very Cool Welcome When Joining it
During the final meeting of the IEEE Board of Directors in 1995, Dr. Steve Unger, then Chair of the IEEE Ethics Committee, succeeded in getting me appointed to a normal 5 year term to serve on the Member Conduct Committee, which he, others and I, worked in 1977 to get established. I replaced a long serving Member, who was then appointed as a non-voting Consulting Member. Upon joining the Committee at its first meeting, it was apparent that some of the other Members did not like my appointment and showed it in ways. Further, ever since the first Ethical Support case of Virginia Edgerton back in 1978, there basically had been nothing heard from the MCC for the next nearly 20 years until I joined them. Steve Unger and I were well aware of this "inactivity" and concerned us.
Activities During My First Year, 1996 - Getting Started
During my first year, 1996, I was assigned by the MCC Chair to investigate several requests which came into to the Committee, some asking for advice on ethical matters, or others requesting help on matters which were solely outside of ethics, which had to be explained to them. Then I was apponted to serve as the MCC to Ethics Committee Liaison, becoming a non-voting member of the Ethics Committee, chaired by Steve Unger. That committee, Ethics, was comprised of a number of well qualified IEEE Members, representing the USA, Germany and India.They were working to establish an Ethics HOT Line, a Legal Defense Support Fund for Members placed in ethical jeopardy, among other business. On the MCC, I began to become "proactive" in support of the rank and file "practicing engineer Member of IEEE". When cases came into the Committee, I was supportive of those seeking ethical support for the most case, and this advocacy began to rattle most of the long serving MCC Members. I tried to maintain a supportive role with the then MCC Chair, then he explained to me he was resigning to spend more time in his outside religious work at home. His replacement as Chair was a long term MCC Member, a former IEEE Regional Director, and a very conservative protector of the Engineer/IEEE Management perspective.
My Second Year Activities Became Proactive and More Heated - 1997
The new MCC Chair and I had different perspectives as to the true role of the MCC and how much it was intended to be proactive in supporting the ethical engineer placed in employment jeopardy. This came to a boiling point, when I became active supporting the new Ethics Committees' Ethics HOT Line, in my role as MCC-Ethics Committee Liaison. There I was one of the volunteers who would be given a new ethics request inquiry from a member to look into it and make a determination of its validity in the form or either a complaint alleging misconduct or a request for ethical support.
Negative Environment Existed for Supporting Ethical Engineers Placed in Employment Jeopardy
During the period in which the Ethics Hotline was first proposed, approved, established, operated, and then terminated, I was active in both the IEEE Ethics Committee and the IEEE Member Conduct Committee (MCC) from 1996-1998. I was one of those operating the Hotline, responding to inquiries from IEEE members. What concerned me then and subsequently, was the negative environment that existed on the IEEE Board of Directors and the Member Conduct Committee, to thwart supporting engineers placed in jeopardy for trying to uphold and practice ethically, for operating and use of the Hotline by IEEE members, and the pressure applied to proactive ethics IEEE activities by members. One example of the pressure applied to me is discussed next.
Infant Respiratory Defect Ethics HOT Line Request for Ethical Support Case
One important inquiry I handled dealt with an engineer alleging that a defect in an infant respiratory device, which under certain circumstances, might cause serious injury or death. Having brought this to his employer's attention, he was terminated, and now was requesting IEEE Ethical Support. We had an IEEE Member expert in this field look into the technical claims and he concurred with the IEEE Member's concerns. This matter was then referred to the MCC, to take over it as a formal "request for ethical support" case.
At the San Francisco Meeting where the MCC held a meeting, I, in my MCC-Ethics Committee Liaison Role, presented the infant respiratory case to the MCC, on behalf of the Ethics Committee, discussed its background, what I had learned about it, what the IEEE Member Expert had concluded, and was then asked by the new MCC Chair, to "recuse myself from the case". I was shocked by this, but not surprised by this Chair. I immediately refused. This led to a heated exchange, which led to our going into an "Executive Session" to air this out. Afterwards, I remained active with the others and we worked on this Request for Ethical Support case. The bottom line resulted in our recommending to the IEEE Board of Directors that this case had merit and therefore some form of ethical support should be given. The Board of Directors voted to provide support once the engineer's case had progressed further to a certain point. We believed this was the first Ethics Support case the Board had acted on since the 1978 Virginia Edgerton case, nearly 20 years previous.
Creation of the First MCC and Ethics WEB Pages
With my knowledge of designing WEB pages, I took the initiative and created the first WEB pages for the MCC and the Ethics Committee. These enabled IEEE Members world wide to now easily access valuable information letting many know for the first time that there even was a 20 year old MCC, where they could find the IEEE Code of Ethics, what IEEE By-Law, Policy and Procedures existed for filing an Ethics Complaint or Requesting Employment Ethical Support, that there was an IEEE Ethics HOT line where they could get advice, etc.
An Accusatory Statement Made to the Board by the MCC Chair
In the Annual Year End MCC Report made to the IEEE Board of Directors by this same MCC Chair, he wrote that I had been the cause of a prior MCC Chair to resign from the Committee because my proactiveness had affected him too much. I was never told of this by the resigned MCC Chair, as his explanation to me for resigning was that he wanted to spend more time in his religious work, outside of the IEEE.
In My Third Year on the MCC There Was Promise and Then It All Came to an Abrupt End for Me in 1998
At the start of my third year on the MCC, a former IEEE President, a woman, was appointed the new MCC Chair. I felt this was a positive and welcomed change. Also, another former IEEE President, who later Chaired the Ethics Committee, and was active on the IEEE Nominations and Appointments Committee, became a MCC Member that same year. When he was IEEE President,he would also sit in on meetings of the Ethics Committee.
An Ethics Conflict Resolution Service ECRS Proposal
Our new MCC Chair, proposed an initiative, which I fully supported, that would, when approved, provide an
She gave us the framework of what she envisioned. I immediately volunteered to become the Editor, to lead the effort to flush out from her ideas to a full document which could go forward to the IEEE Board of Directors for action. I solicited and received inputs from MCC Members and prepared a document which described what the service could consist of and was ready to go forward for presentation to the full IEEE Board of Directors for its consideration at the end of my 3rd Year on the MCC.
A Disturbing Viewpoint Was Expressed by the Former IEEE President MCC Member
I witnessed, from my Professional "proactiveness" viewpoint, a disturbing statement expressed by the then MCC Member, who was also a recent IEEE President. In the context of both what a IEEE By-Law created to "provide support to ethical engineers placed in employment jeopardy for upholding the IEEE Code of Ethics", he stated with conviction, that he believed "the IEEE should not be involved in engineer employee-employer ethical conflicts".
Now, if the IEEE were to have adopted that position, I did not see how it could carry out the provision in the By-Laws to provide "Ethical Support to Engineers" and the ethics support task assigned to the Member Conduct Committee would have its authority to act removed. During our mutual interactions on the Committee, it was becoming apparent to me that our viewpoints towards the role of the IEEE in supporting ethical engineers placed in employment jeopardy, were opposite each other. He was expressing the "business person's view", while I the "practicing engineer's view".
Looking back to that time, and his Pro-Business viewpoint which he expressed, it has now become clear that his position was carried into the Board of Directors, leading to a number of efforts which systematically began to and did terminate the key ethical support programs and Committee Members, that had been put into place, but more on this later.
Publication of 20 Year Anniversary of the Member Conduct Committee in the INSTITUTE
In line with my Proactive actions in the Professional area, and having been a co-founder of the Member Conduct Committee proposal in 1977, I recognized that in the next year of 1998, the MCC would be 20 years old, but no public document or news article had been published about it or its operations, since the then one and only Ethical Support Case, the Virginia Edgerton 911 matter. So, I undertook the initiative and wrote an article, which the Ethics Committee had published in the INSTITUTE as one of its Bi-Monthly Ethics articles. It was titled,
Substantiation of MCC's Inactivity Supporting Ethical Engineers
"After Virginia Edgerton requested support, SSIT’s predecessor, the IEEE Committee on Social Implications of Technology (CSIT), completed its investigation of that case and presented its report to the IEEE Executive Committee. They turned the case over to the newly formed MCC which reviewed the CSIT’s work and issued a report paralleling the conclusions embodied in the CSIT report.
Arguments from CSIT persuaded the IEEE to authorize publication of the reports - although CSIT’s newsletter is the only IEEE periodical that printed them in full. There was no follow up of the case by the MCC. Since then, the MCC has not publicly reported on any other case. On one other occasion it recommended support for an engineer, but the IEEE Executive Committee rejected the idea. In only a very few other instances (most notably the Heneage case) has the MCC provided support of any kind to an ethical engineer in trouble."
Its interesting to note that up to the 1998 publication of this article, no other case than the 1978 Edgerton one had ever been published, in spite of pleas recommending this be done, by the following:
- 10 Annual MCC Reports to the Board of Directors
- All 4 of the Five-Year Review Committees
In which each stressed the need to publicize the existence and purposes of the MCC to the IEEE Membership and to publicize closed cases, protecting confidentiality.
My 5 Year Appointment Term Was Abruptly Terminated at the End of 3 Years in 1998
Later, the worst example of pressure to shut me up was when my final two years on the MCC were abruptly terminated, when in December 1998 I was informed that I was being replaced and would not complete my five-year term. I do not believe up until then that this had ever happened to a prior MCC member. It is ironic to now look back and realize that it was Steve Unger and I, with others, who, in the Spring of 1977, drafted the initial two sets of procedures forcreating the Member Conduct Committee, and that I was the one whom the IEEE United States Activities Board President John Guarrera asked and I did go to the San Diego meeting of the IEEE Board of Directors and presented these proposed procedures to them for adoption. Later, they were merged with another set developed independently by then IEEE member Jim Fairman, an Engineer/Attorney, into what created the Member Conduct Committee in February 1978, nearly 50 years ago now.
My MCC Liaison with the IEEE Ethics Committee
During the period in which the Ethics Hotline was first proposed, approved, established, operated, and then terminated, I was active in both the IEEE Ethics Committee and the IEEE Member Conduct Committee (MCC) from 1996-1998 in a Liaison role. I was one of those operating the Hotline, responding to inquiries from IEEE members. I was then serving a five-year appointment on the MCC, starting in 1996, thanks to Steve Unger’s effort to get me appointed by the IEEE Board of Directors. We attended several meetings of the Sections Congress at which we held an Ethics session. I spoke about the Member Conduct Committee and its procedures for both Ethical Discipline and Ethical Support. I was maintaining the Ethics Committee WEB page also during this period.
Archived Bi-Monthly Ethics Articles Published in IEEE's The INSTITUTE
The Ethics Committee and IEEE Spectrum's 1st Ethics Roundtable - "Doing the Right Thing" 1996
In 1996, Dr. Steve Unger invited me to be a member of the 1st Ethics Roundtable and that IEEE Spectrum would be there to publish an article on the event, which they published in the December 1996 issues, titiled
Doing the Right Thing
I was excited of the prospect. Having just made contact with Charles A. "Bud" Eldon, a Past IEEE President, we exchanged a few family stories and suddenly realized we must be related, having ancestors from the same birthplace in the Bahamas Islands. As his experience represented the highest Management levels in both his former employer's business (Hewlett Packard) and IEEE President, I felt he would articulate the business side whereas some of the other participants and myself would represent the practicing engineer employee. Steve agreed and he was invited and participated.
My Involvement in other IEEE Professional Activities
This will show that I made contributions in other professional areas of IEEE activities.
My Experience Serving on the IEEE USA Employment Guidelines Committee
While working for my final employer, before retiring, in the mid-1990's, I was appointed to the IEEE USA Employment Guidelines for the Professional Employment of Engineers Committee. This originally began as a joint engineering society endeavor, in which there were prior editions of this key document. The Guidelines spelled out under several categories, what was considered the responsibility of the Employer and the Employee in the work place.
During one period when the Committee was trying to agree on revision language for the document, there was one or two topics where I advocated the view of the Employee, as I saw the situation. Prior to a vote on final language, which I had expressed a different wording from others, the Chair phoned me in advance and tried to persuade me to change my position and vote along the line of the Employer. We discussed this and I made it clear I could not support what had been proposed. During this exchange, I felt an inappropriate amount of pressure was bieng applied upon me to try to get me to abandon my position. I did not change my position. Subsequent to this, I was not contacted any longer to participate in the Committee's activities.
My Contribution to IEEE USA Salary Survey Committee
In the early 1990's, my Employer needed to adjust its Overhead rate to remain competitive, we were told. My Administrative Manager ranked his engineers on a Totem Pole, as where I fell produced a 15% reduction in my salary. This really ticked me off. I felt I had been unfairly discriminated against, as I was just a couple years from retiring and this particular Manager had done other things which affected me personally in a negative way. Prior to retiring, I wrote a white paper identifying this incidents, took it to his boss, the Director of Engineering, discussed it with him and the end result was that nothing was done. A result of this was that it de-motivated me and as much as practical, when it became 5:00 I left and went home, no longer motivated to give that extra effort in my job.
A more positive result of this was that it motivated me to volunteer to serve on the IEEE USA Salary Survey Committee and was appointed. During one vacation, I spent days at home on my own preparing graphs taken from the 1997 biannual survey to create visual graphs showing what the salaries of IEEE USA Engineers were. These were extensive and very informative. I used these in 3 ways:
a. I presented them to the Salary Survey Committee for their use
b. I used them and briefed my Division General Manager/Vice President and the Director of Human Resources. During this presentation, I wanted to alert them how below in salaries were the employed engineers working there compared to others, based on factors such as age, degrees, region of the USA, type of employment, engineering titles, etc. I suggested if not becoming more competitive, some engineers may choose to leave. I did not see any change come about from this sharing of salary data.
c. I shared my data with co-workers whom I learned were dissatisfied and were considering leaving for a better paying place of employment. Some found other higher paying jobs using this data.
At one of the meetings of the IEEE Florida Council, which I had been attending, its Chair, also a Region 3 Director, spoke to me about my data and, while speaking favorably about what I had developed, shared the view that if all my charts were to be published, they would not sell as many Survey Reports, so while a large number were used on the WEB, some had been cut out, which I understood to reasoning for.
In 2002, I gave a talk at the Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Fl, attended by student members of the IEEE Chapter. The talk, titled, The Professional Status of the IEEE USA Engineer, included an extensive update to the salary survey data since my first effort in 1997, this time reporting on 30 years worth of salary surveys, spanning 10 year increments from 1970 to 2000. The data used to produce those charts were loaned to me by the IEEE USA Salary Survey Committee Staff.
Awarded the 1998 IEEE USA Citation of Honor
In 1998, I received a phone call from the then IEEE USA President. He informed me that I was being awarded the Citation of Honor, for promoting Professionalism.The award was made at an IEEE USA PACE Conference held in Phoeniz, AZ.
Rights and Responsibilities of Engineers Working in Industry
Around 2000, I undertook on my on initiative, to develop a statement on the Rights and Responsibilities of Engineers working in industry. Yes there were Codes of Ethics and Professional Responsibilities, and there were Guidelines for the Professional Employment of Engineers, but what about a statement of their rights and responsibilities? I found 2 papers which I considered the beginning of such a document, by Whitelaw and Flores. I found the paper by Flores, titled The Professional Rights of Engineers and tried to build upon what he established as a beginning statement. So, I found the worldwide Declaration of Human Rights document and started from there as a template.
I submitted my statement to the NSPE, which then published a narrative on its ethics WEB titled "Ethical Rights and Responsibilities of Practicing Engineers" . After this, I found that a University in Brussels had published it on its Ethics Course WEB and was using it.
An Alternative Proposal to Having to "Blow the Whistle" in Ethical Dispute Matters
I submitted the following to the Professional Ethics Report, which published it in its Volume IX, Number 2, Spring 1996 issue, a Publication of the AAAS Scientific Freedom, Responsibility and Law Program, in collaboration with the Committee on Scientific Freedom and Responsibility.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Dear Editor: What happens in an engineer's employment situation, when he or she finds it necessary to dissent on ethical or technical grounds and the inevitable employee-company conflict develops? This may be engineer to engineer, engineer to manager, or even manager to engineer. How should it get resolved in a professional and fair manner so that the engineer can avoid feeling compelled to go outside and "blow the whistle"?
I propose the establishment of a profession-wide set of ethical/technical dissent due process guidelines. These would provide a spelled out procedure to follow in order to resolve ethical conflict or technical dissent situations arising during an engineer's practice of his/her profession. The context for applying this due process procedure would be within an organization or company where the engineer is employed. Such a procedure could contain the following elements, described in writing:
The process for filing a complaint based upon ethical conflict or technical dissent,
- a preliminary investigation to determine whether or not a basis of cause or merit exists and if it likely can be substantiated,
- a determination to hold a hearing, giving hearing notices, and stipulating the issues in the matter,
- assembling a hearing panel, presentation of the complaint with substantiation provided,
- the presentation of alternative views or positions,
- debate on all views presented,
- rendering of a decision by a hearing panel,
- review and processing of any appeals of the decision,
- and final disposition of the matter.
If such a due process procedure were instituted, hopefully the need to go outside and "blow the whistle" would be greatly reduced. Anyone or organization interested in collaborating to develop such a due process procedure are invited to contact me by E-Mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, Walter L. Elden, P.E., Member, IEEE Member Conduct Committee.
COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY, CSIT, NEWSLETTERS
We now are fortunate to have almost all of the CSIT Newsletters published between 1972 and 1981, archived on an IEEE Server and saved for historical research about this important time when Professional Activities and Ethical Support became formally established in the IEEE. Much credit for the writings about ethics, BART and ethical support goes to Dr. Stephen H. Unger, now retired from Columbia University.
Here is the main link to these archived Newsletters:
Articles of interest are listed for these four categories:
A. ETHICAL SUPPORT ARCHIVED ARTICLES
B. MEMBER CONDUCT COMMITTEE ARCHIVED ARTICLES
C. THE BART CASE ARCHIVED ARTICLES
D. THE SSIT BARUS AWARDS ARCHIVED ARTICLES
TOPICS TO BE DEVELOPED AND DISCUSSED
- Lack of Openness About MCC Actions/Support
Charles Bud Eldon, Past IEEE President
- Ethics Committee, Codes of Ethics, Replacing Engineers with Members in Code
- Ethics HOT Line
- IEEExecutives or Engineers ???
TOTAL QUALITY AWARD TREATMENT BY MY EMPLOYER
Walter L. Elden, P.E. (Ret),
2028 Crane Lakes Blvd.,
Port Orange, FL 32128,