IEEE Ethics History Repository (IEHR), part 2


This update highlights IEEE’S historical practice that for over the past 22 years its EMCC has denied providing ethics advice and ethical support to its members. If it was legal doing so, then what changes are needed to restore both services, as they were provided during the MCC’S first 20 years, as was demonstrated in the Virginia Edgerton case in 1978 and the Salvador Castro case in the mid '90's? Further, what changes or improvements can be considered for improving the services the Ethics and Member Conduct Committee, EMCC, was created to its members? These will be explored to find both their historical record and opportunities to make improvements into the future.

The first material to be presented are the collection of policy items comprising the top-down collection of statements which collectively govern how IEEE administers its Member Discipline, Ethics Advice and Ethical Support services to the members. It is from one or more of these materials where IEEE gets its authority in these matters.

For IEHR Part 1, visit the IEEE Ethics History Repository (IEHR) page spanning from the 1880's til the mid 1990's

Walter L. Elden.jpg

#0 EDITORS AUDIO: Welcoming Comments of Walter L. Elden, IEHR Editor

"To the fullest extent possible, it is my intent to use IEEE approved policy statement first, to update the IEHR's Part 2. Where this material is not possible to be obtained or approved for use, as some Board/ExCom decisions made may still be considered IEEE PROPRIETARY, in these circumstances, material from 1st and 2nd hand witnesses and/or published papers will be relied upon instead."

Walter L. Elden, P.E. (Ret), IEHR Editor

IEEE and SSIT Life Senior Member,

Concerned Ethics Volunteers, CEV, Editor

IEEE Ethics History Repository (IEHR), part 2 #A Summary Overview - Collection of Editor's Audio Comments. Listen to These Audios First


The Evolution of IEEE and Ethical Support, From Its Origins With AIEE and IRE to Today

Editor's Audio #2: Commentary on My 1st Hand Account of IEEE's PRO Ethics Advice and Ethical Support History

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the largest technical society in the world with more than 375,000 members in 150 nations; it publishes 30 percent of the global technical literature in electrical and computer engineering. The organization was formed in 1963 through a merger of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE, founded in 1884) and the Institute of Radio Engineers (IRE, formed in 1912 when two local organizations founded in Boston and New York were merged).

In its early years the AIEE struggled to espouse professionalism in engineering despite strong pressure to the contrary from the businesses (mostly electric utilities) that employed the great majority of its members (Layton, 1986). Indeed, the famous engineer and socialist Charles Steinmetz served as president of the AIEE in 1901–1902. By the late twenties, however, business interests dominated the AIEE, evidenced by a lower membership standards that admitted business executives in the utility industry, restriction of the activities of local sections to purely technical matters, censorship of publications critical of business practices, stifling of dissent and public discussion of the profession through restrictions in the code of ethics, and abandonment of open elections in favor of a nominating committee. Many observers would argue that the AIEE's predisposition toward business interests was carried over to the IEEE and prevails to the present day (Herkert 2003).

The IRE was founded in part out of dissatisfaction with the growing dominance of business interests in the IEEE's affairs and in part due to the strong scientific basis and rapid growth of the field of radio engineering, which resulted in a higher sense of professionalism (McMahon 1984, Layton 1986). The IRE also aspired to become an international organization. Ironically, however, the IRE shied away from speaking for its members on professional and policy matters (Layton 1986). By the time of the merger the IRE had surpassed the AIEE in membership, buoyed by the explosive growth in electronics following World War II. The merger, an inevitable result of this development, resulted in a blending of the two institutional cultures that incorporated the IRE's decentralized management structure and professional groups, now known as technical societies (IEEE History Center 1984).

The AIEE promulgated one of the earliest codes of engineering ethics in 1912. The code provided that the "first professional obligation" was to protect the interests of the engineer's clients or employers (Layton 1986). In 1950 the AIEE code was revised to incorporate the cannons of the code of ethics of the engineers' council for professional development, including a provision that the engineer "will have due regard for the safety of life and health of the public and employees who may be affected by the work for which he is responsible" (CSEP 2004). The first IEEE code of ethics was adopted in the 1970s (Unger 1994) following revisions in 1979 and 1987 (CSEP 2004). The current IEEE code of ethics (adopted 1990), in parallel with other contemporary engineering codes, pledges its members to protect the "safety, health and welfare of the public." Unlike others, however, the IEEE code also includes specific language regarding ethics support, committing its members "to assist colleagues and co-workers in their professional development and to support them in following this code of ethics."

The IEEE has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the more proactive professional engineering societies in the ethics area. This positive image derives primarily from ethics activity in the1970s, including preparation of a friend of the court brief supporting the three whistle-blowing engineers in the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) case. Much of this activity was encouraged by the formation of a Committee on Social Implications of Technology by Stephen Unger and other organizational activists, which evolved into the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT). The SSIT, though only 2,000 members strong, has remained an important voice in the IEEE for ethical responsibility and concern for societal implications of technology. The SSIT publishes a quarterly journal, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, hosts an annual conference, and periodically bestows its Carl Barus Award for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest on engineers who uphold the highest ethical standards of the profession. As noted earlier, the IEEE sub-unit that represents the interests of U.S. members has also been active in ethics issues. At the level of the parent organization, however, ethics activity was generally dormant between the late-1970s and mid-1990s (Unger 1994).]

The IEEE reputation for promoting engineering ethics was, in the opinion of many observers, seriously tarnished by events that began to unfold in the late 1990s when a staff and volunteer leader backlash crushed gains in ethics support (Unger 1999, Herkert 2003). Prior to 1995, the only committee of the IEEE Board of Directors (BoD) charged with dealing with ethics was the Member Conduct Committee (MCC), founded in 1978. The MCC's purpose was twofold: to recommend disciplinary action for violation of the Code of Ethics and to recommend support for members who when following the Code encountered difficulties such as employer sanctions.

A BoD-level Ethics Committee, formed in 1995 as a result of efforts by members to elevate the prominence of ethics in the organization, was intended to provide information to members and advise the BoD on ethics-related policies and concerns. As one of its first actions, the Ethics Committee, whose membership included Stephen Unger, in 1996 established an Ethics Hotline designed to provide information and advice on ethical matters to professionals in IEEE fields of interest. Cases brought to the attention of the Ethics Hotline included falsification of quality tests, violations of intellectual property rights, and design and testing flaws that could result in threats to public safety. In some instances, such cases were referred to and acted on by the MCC (Unger 1999).

The Executive Committee of the BoD suspended the Ethics Hotline in 1997 after less than a year of operation. In 1998 the Executive Committee rejected and suppressed its own task force report, which recommended reactivation of the hotline. In the same year, the IEEE implemented bylaw changes that reduced the terms in office of members of the MCC and Ethics Committee, and, in apparent disregard of the IEEE Code of Ethics, prohibited the Ethics Committee from offering advice to any individuals including IEEE members. The cycle was complete in 2001 when the Ethics Committee and the MCC were merged. Like the old MCC, the combined committee has a dual-charge of member discipline and ethics support, but its activities are limited by IEEE Bylaw I-306.6: "Neither the Ethics and Member Conduct Committee nor any of its members shall solicit or otherwise invite complaints, nor shall they provide advice to individuals."

(Text by Joseph R. Herkert, from

The Founding of the AIEE, an IEEE Predecessor, by Leading Engineer Professionals

IEEE's First Code of Ethics, 1884 - 1912

When the IEEE first began, it was first created by a former founding Society, the AIEE. This was composed of practicing electrical professionals who were working engineers. They formed the first society, the AIEE, and by 1912 they had adopted the first code of ethics. Even then the adoption of this code came with some controversy as it actually took six years before it got approved in it's first version.

The 1884 Announcement to Form the American Institute of Electrical Engineers

Nathaniel S. Keith in 1884 issued a call for a New York meeting to organize a society of electrical professionals to represent the United States to foreign dignitaries who would be attending the International Electrical Exposition the Franklin Institute was hosting in Philadelphia that fall. They met in New York on May 13, 1884 and established the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the AIEE.

The AIEE's First Technical Meeting is Recognized as an IEEE Milestone

Pre-IEEE Merger Background History 1884 - 1912 - 1963

Ethics initiatives in AIEE 1906

"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 Steinmetz "I believe we should not do that". Charles Steinmetz, American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the AIEE, 1906

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.

1912 Code of Ethics

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 as a proposed code of ethics.

The authors and co-signers of the proposal were:



  • 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.

The Takeover in 1913 of the AIEE by Its Business Member Interests From AIEE's 1884 Founding Member Professional

By a ruling of the New York Supreme Court, in 1912, the founding engineer professionals had their power to control the AIEE taken away and given to non-engineer practicing professionals, who were business and industry leaders/executives, and were not for the most part able to pass the necessary criteria that practicing engineers were able to. They wanted to and did direct the AIEE thereafter to advance their own business and industry interests, through developing industry standards and limiting the activities to just technical, and not professional.

Business Leaders Versus AIEE's Founding Engineer Professionals

The Professional Standing of Electrical Engineering by A.M McMahon 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.

From IEEE's beginning, there were two basic "professional activities" issues, 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. The Revolt of the Enginers, The Revolt of the Engineers

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.

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".

For a detailed account of this transformation from the AIEE being led by its founder Professionals to the new Business leaders, read in Layton's book, "The Revolt of the Engineers", pages 79 through 93. This is a MUST READ for IEEE Members, to learn from where the AIEE started, to the takeover by Busniess leaders. It is contended that this control carries on to the present, 2016, and led to the dual restriction prohibiting the Ethics and Member Conduct Committee today from offering ETHICS ADVICE and ETHICAL SUPPORT.

The AIEE formed in 1884 to be able to host an International Meeting of Foreign Electrical Engineers meeting at the Franklin Institute. It attracted persons from the Telegraph, Power and Telephone industries. It adopted the first Code of Ethics in 1912, the same year the Institute of Radio Engineers formed.

The IRE formed in 1912, the same year the AIEE adopted its first Code of Ethics. It attracted engineers engaged in electronics and grew faster than the AIEE did, with more younger members. It restricted its mission to Technical and Standards Activities. The IRE did not engage in Professional Activities.

For more in depth history, see The Making of a Profession - A Century of Electrical Engineering in America

A List of AIEE's Presidents

A List of IRE's Presidents

In the 1930's Business Interests Succeeded in Getting Engineer Professionals in Industry Exempted From Being Licensed

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.

History of the Industry P.E. Exemption In Florida

During IEEE SOUTHEASTCON 1974, my Chairmanship successor of the IEEE Orlando Section Professional Activities Committee, Ted Stefanik, and I met with our former University of Florida 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).

Debating Against the P.E. Exemption of Engineers Working in Industry

During the 1970's, I engaged in several debates on the P.E. Industry Exemption of Engineers. Some were done at IEEE meetings and others at NSPE State society meetings in Florida and South Carolina, when I resided and worked there. I always took the side AGAINST the exemption. Most of those I debated, who took the IN FAVOR position, were Managers working in large Fortune 500 companies, one example was the General Electric Company. Both viewpoints were presented with strong convictions. I stressed the points that this be in the interests of business, to show that its engineers in responsible charge held Professional Engineer licenses. Further, being licensed, the PE would be held accountable to his/her licensing Board for upholding and practicing in accordance with one's State legal Professional Code of Conduct/Ethics.

Prior to my engaging in these debates, I had written a few papers on my views towards Professional Engineering licensing, P.E.'s practice in Industry, and upholding both Professional and Legal Codes of Ethics, as follows:

The Dilemma of the Professional Engineer Employed in Industry

Professional Ethics - The Employment of Engineers in Industry, and A Model of the Future

In Industry, the Title Engineer Should Be Issued Only to Licensed Engineers

At one particular debate, held at an IEEE Section meeting in Boston, it became apparent that my opponent had become quite upset hearing my arguments and at one point lost his cool and called me a "Communist" for advocating for industry engineers to hold a valid State Professional Engineers license. He never justified why he chose to label me with that. One possible explanation was that he wanted to advocate his business employer's objective to control the work of engineers, not the State. His/their fear was that to allow engineers in industry to be required to be licensed by their States, would mean they, the engineers, would have a legal obligation to uphold their legal P.E. code of professional conduct/ethics which could at times be at odds with how industry Managers viewed what their priorities should be. Using today's interpretation of the New York law covering what Non Profit Organizations' Directors first loyalty was suppose to be, it could be argued it being against the best interest of the IEEE's members and in favor, instead, of Businesses and their interests first. This position to me seemed to be a modern day repeat of early AIEE Business Leaders takeover from the Founding Engineer Professionals. That, in my opinion, is seen to still exist to this day, as is discussed later in this Repository.

This accusation, I felt was ironic, for this engineer held a Manager position in a large Company, was active at the International level in IEEE, was even a member of the new IEEE Member Conduct Committee, was the recipient later of IEEE awards, and finally, today has an IEEE Award named in his honor. At one particular event, when both he and I each received an IEEE award, that was the last time I saw him, before his death.

Looking back to this debate incident, I see a parallel with events which happened in the early days of the AIEE (discussed at the top of this Repository) when the Business Members wanted and got the power to become members of the Board of Directors and focus AIEE's activities to support what their industries wanted and needed, at the expense of what the early founding member Professionals set out for the AIEE to champion.

Walter L. Elden

The AIEE and IRE Were Merged in 1963 to Form the IEEE, but Only Supported Technical Activities, then IEEE'S Constitution Was Amended in 1972-73 Adding Engaging in Professional Activities

In 1972, IEEE’s members voted 82+% YES to amend its Constitution and added Professional Activities to its once only Technical Activities charter. Then about the same time, 3 engineers, working on the design of the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, system in the San Francisco Bay Area, raised concerns over safety concerns. When Management disregarded their issues raised, and the 3 then took them to the highest level, they were fired, followed by their suing BART for wrongful discharge.

In 1973 the IEEE amended its constitution changing it from a strictly "learned" society to one that also represented the professional interests of its members. As a result, the United States Activities Board (USAB) was formed to represent the interests of U.S. members. (IEEE History Center 1984, McMahon 1984). The USAB and its successor organizations have played an important role in ethics activities of the IEEE and in promoting policy favorable to the U.S. engineering and business community. The affect of the USAB's presence on efforts to globalize the IEEE has been more controversial.]

In 1975, IEEE Entered a Friend of the Court Brief in the BART Case of 3 Fired Engineers and Expressed New Ethical Principles

Articles published in IEEE’s Spectrum and efforts led by Dr Stephen Unger, Chair of the Committee on the Social Implications of Technology, CSIT (forerunner to today’s SSIT), resulted in the IEEE in 1975 to entering the case by filing an Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) brief and argued on behalf of the ethical duty engineers had to “protect the public” and against their wrongful discharge. This led to an out of court settlement BART made with the 3 engineers.

Then in 1974, CSIT adopted its historic resolution calling for the support of ethical engineers and in particular intervene and enter into the BART case.

Legal View of Engineering Practice Presented by IEEE Attorneys in 1975 BART Case of 3 Fired Engineers

In the early to mid 1970's, in the Bay Area of San Francisco, there was being developed a rapid transit system, referred to as BART. During the engineering phase, 3 IEEE member engineers, working independently, uncovered design flaws/problems and attempted to get them corrected. They were not able to get the BART management to follow their recommendations. So having then taken it to higher Management, this led to their immediate supervisor to fire them.

The 3 engineers then sued for wrongful discharge, and IEEE's attorneys, Cummings and Cummings, entered the case, by filing an Amicus Curiae, or Friend of the Court brief in 1975, to bring to the court's attention, but not take any side in the dispute, to highlight existence and importance of Codes of Ethics, an engineer's obligation to follow the code, and then cited implied "at-will" employment law which had a bearing on whether the engineers' discharges were legal.

Here, following, are salient points from the BART brief which bear on the employment of engineer professionals doing design work.

Key Points IEEE Attorneys Made in the BART Case on Employed Engineer Professionals

From the IEEE BART Case Brief:


Based upon the foregoing, we submit and we urge this Court to acknowledge that an engineer has an overriding obligation to protect the public. Specifically, we urge this Court:

(1) To rule that evidence of professional ethics is relevant, material and admissible in this case; and

(2) To rule, as to any motions for judgment or any jury instructions, that an engineer is obligated to protect the public safety, that an engineer’s contract of employment includes as a matter of law, an implied term that such engineer will protect the public safety, and that a discharge of an engineer solely or in substantial part because he acted to protect the public safety constitutes a breach of such implied term.


1. See also Slochower v. Board of Higher Education of the City of New York, 350 U.S. 551 (1956).

2. This court may, but need not, decide the extent to which the principles of this case would be applicable in the case of a private employer. The complaint in this case alleges that a public employer discharged public employees because those employees informed the public of a danger to the public safety. In a very real sense, the public at large was the “employer” of the plaintiffs herein; whatever may be the limits of the duties of public disclosure by the engineer in private employment, there is clearly a higher duty in the case of public employment.

3. Not all members of IEEE or other professional engineering societies are (nor are they all required to be) licensed to practice engineering in their home states. The ethical standards covering both licensed engineers and other engineers are the same, and this is particularly true where both types of engineers are working together on the same project, as was the case, we understand, in the BART situation".

(Source: Controlling Technology-Ethics and the Responsible Engineer, 3rd Edition, Stephen H. Unger, PhD)

The most important legal points IEEE's attorneys made in the BART case were:

1."That evidence of professional ethics is relevant, material and admissible in this case]]

2. That an engineer is obligated to protect the public safety, that an engineer’s contract of employment includes as a matter of law, an implied term that such engineer will protect the public safety, and that a discharge of an engineer solely or in substantial part because he acted to protect the public safety constitutes a breach of such implied term

These will be shown to be relevant to IEEE's obligation to providing Ethics Advice and Ethical Support to its members next.

ImageCSIT Adopts Historic Ethics Support Resolution in 1974.png

Shutting Down of IEEE's Ethics Committee HOT LINE and other Ethics Committee Activities, 1996 - 1998

The Assault on IEEE Ethics Support and the Ethics HOT Line

As soon as the IEEE Boad/Ex Com terminated the IEEE Ethics HOT Line, the key members of those who operated it (Steve Unger, Walter Elden, Ray Larsen, Mal Benjamin, Joe Herkert, Gerald Engel, Joe Wujik, and others) approached Dr. Caroline Whitbeck, of the Online Engineering and Ethics Center, and proposed for it to take it over. Once it was put into operation, it ran successfully for several years, without incident. Later, it was transferred to the National Academy of Engineering at this location:

National Academy of Engineering Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science

It became ironic that while the IEEE terminated its own Ethics HOT Line, later, the IEEE's Ethics and Member Conduct Committee established a relationship supporting the Online Ethics HOT Line, and provided a link to its WEB page.

Ethics Committee Bi-Monthly Published INSTITUTE Articles

Beginning in 1996, the Ethics Committee began publishing ethics articles in the INSTITUTE on a Bi-Monthly basis. This continuted until it was terminated in 2002. The complete set of published ethics articles are at this link:

Bi-Monthly Ethics Articles Published in the INSTITUTE

It is hoped that this activity will be resumed, as an on-going education tool for the Membership.

IEEE'S 1996-1998 YEARS

IEEE Board Approved Source Material Being Sought

SOURCE ITEM 1. Board of Directors/Executive Committee Materials which terminated providing Ethics Advice and Ethical Support to Members by the MCC starting in 1998.

DECISIONS AND POLICIES RESULTS: No Materials were provided for updating the IEHR.

SOURCE ITEM 2. A copy of the 1998 Final Report of the Board/ExCom Special Task Force which looked into the issues with operating an Ethics Hotline recommending you continue a HOTLINE and continue the Ethics Committee.

DECISIONS AND POLICIES RESULTSː No Materials were provided for updating the IEHR.

NOTE: Given that the Above 2 Items Were Dealt With in Executive Session of a Board Meeting in 1998, It May Not Be Possible Today to Gain Public Access to Their Contents for Disclosure Herein, So the Following 1st Hand Accounts are Being Relied Upon

First Hand Accounts of How “IEEE Ethics Advice and Ethical Support” Were Eliminated are Used in Place of Unavailable Board/ExCom Documents

The Case of the Vanishing Ethics Article -by Unger

The Assault on IEEE Ethics Support -by Unger

IEEE Has Shown Disregard Towards Proactive Ethical Activities -by Elden

1998 - 2005

SOURCE ITEM 3. Items 1.3 and 1.4 in the EMCC Operations Manual need to be justified

The above Item 1.3 prohibits Ethics Advice to “individuals”, but IEEE Membership considers “individuals” not as IEEE members, but as those qualified to become members. So how was denying members “Ethics Advice” from 2005 to today justified?

Item 1.4 statement “shall not be involved in employee-Employer disputes” conflicts with 42 year old approved IEEE Bylaw and Policy statements “to provide ethical support”.

What then was the justification to add this restriction? How did IEEE approve this then in 2005 and justifies it to this day?

DECISIONS AND POLICIES RESULTS: No Materials were provided for updating the IEHR.

Consider Additional Ethics Cases

Take some time and consider other types of ethics cases. A good source for doing that is the 3rd Edition of Steve Unger’s book, “Controlling Technology-Ethics and the Responsible Engineer” plus Unger wrote an article about different cases which came to the IEEE, next.

Some Ethics Cases Which Have Come to the IEEE via its ETHICS HOTLINE

Cases of Engineers Needing Ethics Advice and/or Ethical Support-S.H. Unger‘S Book “Controlling Technology-Ethics and the Responsible Engineer”, 3rd Edition

I created Table 1, next, from cases in Steve’s book, above. There are 14 presented. I organized their data into these categories:

  • Ethics Cases
  • Professionals Involved
  • Technology Issue
  • Ethical Action
  • Action Resulting

There is a wealth of information provided by Steve in his book. A Kindle version, handy for teaching, is very inexpensive.

Table 1 - Unger’s Cited Cases of Ethical Engineers Raising Safety Concerns in His Chapter 2
Ethics Case Professionals Involved Technology Issue Ethical Action Action Resulting
DC-10 Daniel Applegate and some associates Faulty and failed Cargo Door was recognized and predicted Written Warning to Management but did not go further to press concerns Engineers caved in and did not press the issue; were more concerned with money damages
BART Holger Hjortsvang, Max Blankenzee & Robert Bruder Unsafe Train Control System conditions found by each of 3 Raised concerns to Management and BART Board 3 Fired, they sued, IEEE intervened, they settled out of court
NY Police Dispatch Virginia Edgerton Degraded Performance Advised Management of Degradation Issue Found Edgerton was fired, IEEE supported her ethical position , gave her first Barus Award
C5-A Aircraft Ernest Fitzgerald Cost Overruns Revealed by Him Testified About Cost Overruns Fired and Blackballed for Reporting Waste
Surry Nuclear Reactor Carl Houston Faulty Welds Found Reported the unsafe welds Sufferred financially, but vindicated
3 Mile Island Nuclear Laurence P. King, Richard D. Parks & Edwin H. Gischel Inadequate Lifting Crane Capability Notified Management of Unsafe Crane Retaliated Against Using Physical, Medical, Financial Means Against Them
Power Generators Ben Linder Helped the Poor and Worked in Enemy Territory Volunteered to Build Generators for the Poor Linder was murdered by the Contras in Nicaragua
University Plant Improvements David Monts Unsafe Cost Cutting Done by an Inexperienced Administrator Raised Unsafe Warnings, Filed Suits, Fought to Correct Unsafe Designs, H/W Monts was fired, he sued, failed in Courts, Received IEEE Barus Award for his ethics Actions
Coast Guard Ships Michael DeKort Significant defects & Faulty Equipment Use Uncovered and the Project was Bungled DeKort wrote reports, went public on You Tube, 60 Minutes and testified in Congress. DeKort was transferred, then fired. IEEE awarded him the Barus award. He adhered to the highest ethical standards.
Kinds of Work Objections Victor Paschkis, Viron E. Payne, Sr., George C. Minor, Richard Hubbard, and Dale Bridenbaugh Mass distruction weaons, nuclear systems, others they did not agree with Refused to work on such equipment against their ethical beliefs. Some did not work on some and others left their companies rather than do that work.
Giving up Ethics-To Eat Allen Kammerer Corrupt Awarding of Contracts and bribery Paid bribe to get contracts. Testified and given immunity.
Deficient Engineering Charles Pettis Deficient design in road construction Expressed his concerns and gave warnings Was discharged.
Lower in-house cost predicted over using outside contractor Timothy Reid Expressed that doing work in-house would be cheaper Brought his opinion to Management but ignored at first. He was harassed, got ill, but received an award for saving $192 million.
Lead in Water Marc Edwards Reported excessive lead in water At his own expense did research and reported findings Agencies backed down and took appropriate action


The Universal Rights of Engineers

This was a first attempt to establish a comprehensive set of Rights and Responsibilities of practicing engineer professionals.


The Ethics and Member Conduct Committee 2002 - Present

Around the year 1999-2000, the separate Member Conduct Committee and Ethics Committee, were combined into the one Ethics and Member Conduct Committee, or EMCC, of today. This was intended to improve intra-committee communications and reduced expenses. Here is the link to the present day EMCC

Today, the Ethics and Member Conduct Committee advises the IEEE Board of Directors on ethics policy and concerns and makes recommendations for educational programs to promote the ethical behavior of members and staff, among other activities.

Vision: A world in which engineers and scientists are respected for their exemplary ethical behavior and the IEEE and its Ethics & Member Conduct Committee are recognized as a major drive in this regard.

Mission: The Ethics and Member Conduct Committee advises the IEEE Board of Directors on ethics policy and concerns as well as fostering awareness on ethical issues and promoting ethical behavior amongst individuals and organizations working within the IEEE fields of interest.

Limits on activities: The Ethics and Member Conduct Committee, which is governed by IEEE Bylaw I-305, shall make recommendations for policies and/or educational programs to promote the ethical behavior of members and staff, and shall consider instituting proceedings, as defined in IEEE Bylaws I-110 and I-111, related to matters of member and officer discipline and requests for support.

Neither the Ethics and Member Conduct Committee nor any of its members shall solicit or otherwise invite complaints, nor shall they provide advice to individuals.

Additionally, the following restriction is contained in 1.4 of the EMCC Operations Manual:

1.4 Limits to Activities IEEE Constitution, Article 1, Section 2

“The IEEE shall not engage in collective bargaining on such matters as salaries, wages, benefits, and working conditions, customarily dealt with by labor unions.”

"The Ethics & Member Conduct Committee shall not be involved in employee-employer disputes".

This second statement in bold above is not actually contained in the IEEE Constitution not in any other Governance Document other than in the EMCC Operations Manual, but instead was a restriction added by the Board of Directors around 2005, but was practiced informally since around 2000, according to previous EMCC and former IEEE Board Member Chair Charles W. Turner in a statement to Walter L. Elden.

Responsibilities of the Ethics and Member Conduct Committee 1978 - Present

As in the matter of a complaint of unethical conduct, this too can involve Employee to Employee, Employee to Employer, Employer to Employer and Employer to Employee situations. The more likely situation will be Employee to Employer of the four. Here, the Employee sees an engineering situation needing correction, brings the matter to his next higher authority but gets a NO response to do anything to correct it, then the Employee may go above this Higher Authority or go outside to Blow the Whistle, which leads to some form or reprisal or termination, thus affecting the Employee’s livelihood, and he/she seeks the IEEE EMCC help to resolve it. This then may lead to the IEEE getting involved in an Employee-Employer type dispute, or at best may only be filing an Amicus Curiae legal brief in any court action, expressing the requirement of the Employee to uphold the IEEE Code of Ethics, but not being an Adversary in the proceedings. The BART Case is an important precedent for this kind of ethical support action by the IEEE, as was the Virginia Edgerton and Salvador Castro cases. At any rate, only professional/ethical issues are involved and are fully authorized to be handled by the EMCC, thus overriding the subject restriction.

IEEE'S 2005-2015 YEARS

IEEE's Position Paper on Ethical Conduct Awareness

This statement says the following:

Upholding IEEE Code of Ethics

All IEEE members are required to uphold the IEEE Code of Ethics as a condition of renewing their membership each year. One of the most important principles enshrined in the Code concerns the conduct of members in carrying out their professional duties. The Code states that IEEE members should maintain the highest possible standards of conduct in dealing with colleagues and subordinates, specifically:

Article 8: to treat fairly all persons regardless of such factors as race, religion, gender, disability, age or national origin.

Article 9: to avoid injury to others, their property, reputation, or employment, by false or malicious actions.

The Ethics and Member Conduct Committee (EMCC) believes that there is a special responsibility placed on IEEE members in leadership roles in their profession. Supervisors, teachers, professors, or those elected as officers in IEEE have an even higher duty to uphold the IEEE Code of Ethics because of the influence they have on students and younger members. This responsibility also extends to:

(1) bringing cases of misconduct by others to the attention of the appropriate authorities, and (2) ensuring that correct procedures, as defined in IEEE Bylaws and Policies for example, are always followed.

The EMCC emphasizes that IEEE is committed to being supportive of any member who acts to uphold the IEEE Code of Ethics. It recognizes that voicing concern about ethical violations could jeopardize a member’s career opportunities. Nevertheless, the EMCC believes that by raising awareness of IEEE’s strong stance on ethical conduct through this Position Paper, its members in industry, academia and elsewhere will be helped to carry out their professional responsibilities in a manner consistent with the highest traditions of IEEE.

For further information on the use and implementation of the IEEE Code of Ethics contact IEEE Ethics and Member Conduct Committee staff at

NOTE: Commentary on the Above Position Highlighted Paragraph:

This seems to contradict actual practice of the EMCC, in denying giving both ethics advice and ethical support, as imposed by the Board of Directors, discussed above. On the one hand, the underlined statement professes to support ethical conduct and Members placed in jeopardy for upholding IEEE's Code of Ethics, but on the otherhand, they are restricted by Board Policy in the EMCC Operations Manual from actually offering ethics advice and ethical support.

Past Members of the Member Conduct and Ethics Committees


Editor's Audio #6: My First Step Taken Towards Restoring Ethics Advice and Ethical Support 2015-2020

Engineering Ethics - How IEEE Can Play an Important Part of the Process, a Presentation to the IEEE Daytona Beach Section, December 3, 2015, Walter L. Elden, P.E. (Ret)

The Charles Turner Briefing 2008 Slides Revealed IEEE's Practice Against Ethics Advice and Ethical Support


During the summer of 2015 I happened to come across a set of 2008 briefing slides, prepared by Dr Charles Turner, a Past Chair of the IEEE Ethics and Member Conduct Committee], which, at the bottom of his Slide 11, quoted the statement I had heard Former IEEE President Wally Read, then President of the Canadian President Electricity Association, express during a Member Conduct Committee, MCC, meeting I attended as a member. He had expressed the view that “IEEE should not get involve in employee-employer disputes”

Finding his Slide 11 started me on the effort to try and get the IEEE to nullify that view, and to return to providing Ethics Advice and Ethical Support to IEEE members.

A 2015 Position Statement White Paper on Denial of Ethics Advice and Ethical Support

Editor's Audio #7: My 2015 Year End Efforts to Raise Awareness About Denial of Ethics Advice and Ethical Support


Editors Audio #8: TAB Appointed 2016 Task Force to Identify Ethics Gaps and Steps to Fill Them

Dear Walter,

I am trying to work through this a step at a time. Here is where we are up to:

1. At the November 2015 TAB I raised an issue about what ethics activities TAB and the Societies were undertaking, and whether it was sufficient.

2. With the support of TAB I then circulated a survey to societies to solicit information about their activities.

3. TAB then established the Ethics, Society and Technology initiative (this month), which I am chairing. While most of its initial focus is to encourage a discussion on ethics and the design of artificial intelligence, one of its activities this year is to complete the review of current activities and gaps.

4. Following this, we can come up with proposals on how to address gaps.

I agree with you that there is a gap between the final point on our Code of Ethics and the absence of advice on ethical issues to members, and your suggestions will be considered in working out how to close that gap.

The approach I would like to take is to continue along this path: By the end of the year we will have identified the relevant gaps, and can prepare proposals for 2017, including proposals to amend policies or structures if that is the best way to address any problems.

I would much rather see your letter presented in T&S in the context of what is already happening and how the prospects look. If we aim to include your letter in the December issue we could achieve that.

Regards, Dr Greg Adamson President, IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology +61 423 783 527,

(Suggestions from Drs Greg Adamson and Stephen H. Unger, both of IEEE SSIT, incorporated)

A discussion on ethics

"For more than 100 years, IEEE has had a code of ethics. Ethics are important as part of our role as a professional organization. At the November 2015 Technical Activities Board (TAB) meeting, the TAB Management Committee asked SSIT to work with some other society representatives to prepare an initial report for the February 2016 TAB meeting on current TAB and society ethics activities, and how these are meeting the needs of our members.

"Walter Elden, a longtime member of SSIT, has written the following background paper – ‘IEEE’s Involvement in Ethics and the Gaps Needing Fixed’ on his experience with IEEE's approach to ethics as input to that report. These are Walter's own views, based on his own experiences. I encourage anyone with experiences or views on the general issue to send these to me,, before the end of January 2016. If you are unable to respond by then, but want to express your views, please drop me a note.

Dr Greg Adamson, President (2015-16), IEEE SSIT,

The IEEE, starting with one of its founding Societies, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the AIEE, in 1912 adopted its first Code of Ethics. Since then it has since been involved in ethics in various forms through 2015. However, there have been several gaps which have occurred, which this article addresses and advocates being corrected.

For those Members of the IEEE, in particular some of its Directors and Officers who are relatively new in the IEEE, may lack the history of IEEE’s ethics involvement and then the gaps which subsequently developed. So it will be important for those to read up and learn this important history, to be in an informed position to decide what corrective actions should now be made to restore IEEE to its former leadership role in ethical advice and support of code compliance practices. This article presents a mere overview introduction of this.

Commentary on the Proposed Revisions to the IEEE CODE OF ETHICS Media:Commentary_on_Proposed_Changes_to_the_IEEE_Code_of_Ethics_3r.docx

Why IEEE Members Need Ethical Support When Employed as At-Will Employees Media:Why_Employed_Engineers_Need_IEEE_Ethics_Advice_and_Support.docx.pdf

How an Internal Ethics Advice and Support Effort Achieved a WIN-WIN Outcome in an Industry Conflict

Products Produced by this Initiative at the End of 2016

The purpose of this Initiative is to ensure every technologist is educated, trained, and empowered to prioritize ethical considerations in the design and development of autonomous and intelligent systems.

  • View specifics regarding the Mission and deliverables for the Initiative
  • See a list of The Initiative’s Executive and other Committees
  • Learn more from Frequently Asked Questions

At the end of the 2016 year, I had received nothing nor did I find anything which the Board approved. There may have been things approved but I was not provided anything.

Relevant New Technology

Ethically Aligned Design

Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Wellbeing with Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems represents the collective input of over one hundred global thought leaders from academia, science, government and corporate sectors in the fields of Artificial Intelligence, ethics, philosophy, and policy.

Tech Ethics

The overall technology ethics landscape covers three key areas:

  • professional guidelines (e.g., codes of ethics) that help define intended behavior by professionals in the field;]
  • the impact of (and response to) professional behaviors in the context of those codes of ethics; and,]
  • ethical and societal impacts of the technologies themselves.

These are interdependent aspects, with each influencing and/or being influenced by the others.

The IEEE TechEthics program focuses on the third bullet, seeking to ensure that ethical and societal implications of technology become an integral part of the development process by driving conversation and debate on these issues. Since IEEE does not directly fund research, we instead seek to accelerate the generation of ideas, facilitate the vetting of those ideas, and, where applicable, drive consensus around those ideas. The IEEE TechEthics program achieves this through event production, content development, audience engagement and other activities.



IEEE Board Committee on Ethics Programs


Editor's Audio #9: IEEE Board Tasks New 2017 IEEE Ad Hoc Committee on IEEE Ethics Programs

IEEE Board of Directors sets ethics as a priority in 2017.

To coordinate this range of activities the IEEE Board of Directors has created the IEEE Ad Hoc Committee on IEEE Ethics Programs. This will focus on creating a roadmap for linking all the various activities as a part of making IEEE a global focus for ethics in technology.

New 2017 IEEE Ethics Initiatives

This presents a contribution to the IEHR by Dr. Greg Adamson, IEEE Technical Activities Society on Social Implications of Technology President reporting on new initiatives begun in IEEE in the Ethics area.

We now have several significant activities across IEEE (and I am aware of several other smaller initiatives):

  • A new TAB ad hoc, Design for Ethics, for 2017, continuing the work of the task force
  • A Standards Association initiated Global Initiative on ethics and AI, which has released an early draft of a major document
  • A Standards Association standard on designing ethics, P7000
  • The two-yearly IEEE Ethics conference is going annually, with the next one being organised by the South East Michigan Section in November
  • TAB has established TechEthics, which has received funding from the IEEE Foundation to hold a workshop later in the year
  • There is discussion of setting up a Board of Directors ad hoc on ethics

I am involved in some way in all of these, and I am also on EMCC for 2017. With so much happening the most important thing is to get some coordination happening. I am letting everyone know about the History Ethics Repository, and so you should start to see material being contributed in coming months.

Amidst all of this I haven't forgotten your key point, that under our Code of Ethics we have an obligation to assist members in meeting their ethical obligations, but EMCC is bound not to provide advice. I hope to make progress on this in 2017.

You may be interested to know that a White House co-organized event on AI in 2016 specifically proposed that IEEE and ACM review our Codes of Ethics (and AAAI create one) in order to reflect issues raised by AI.

Regards, Greg

Dr Greg Adamson

The following was a request from Chair Adamson, requesting inputs from the CEV:

Inputs Requested from the Ad Hoc Committee on Ethics Programs

The following recommendations were made to the Ad Hoc Committee by the Concerned Ethics Volunteers, CEV:


Ethics, Society and Technology Initiative

Technology Ethics - Autonomous Devices and Artificial Intelligence

As many of you know, IEEE has been working on a plan for better addressing technology ethics (TechEthics). This began as a response to some recent BoD strategic planning discussions. As a first step, we have asked that forms for approvals, such as in NIC, FDC, and PARs, include sections on TechEthics. On a more substantive note, we have chosen to focus the first TechEthics efforts in the area of autonomous devices/artificial intelligence. Two groups have been created to address the area of Autonomous Systems; they are:

  1. TA Ethics, Society & Technology (EST) Program: This group, which will be overseen by an ad hoc committee, will lead efforts to create conversations around TechEthics considerations in a variety of technologies, beginning with autonomous systems. They will strive to broaden the thinking, open up possibilities for solutions, and debate issues, which will help inform the IC group’s push towards consensus. The EST Ad Hoc committee was launched in May and has begun developing technical event programming and planning conversations with other associations in the AI space.
  2. SA Industry Connections (IC) group: This group will focus on the creation of standards and consensus agreements and strive to narrow the discussions to create consensus in the marketplace. More mature matters will be directed to this group to address globally open consensus building, producing codes and standards recommendations, and delivering related workshops. We have named the IC group IEEE’s Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in the Design of Autonomous Systems It was launched in April and we are very happy to announce that it has surpassed 100 members, indicating a clear market need. Participants include global thought leaders from industry, academia, NGOs, governmental agencies and International Organizations such as the United Nations and the World Economic Forum.

To date, the Initiative has already produced two proposals for standards projects and by March of 2017 several more will be submitted. The EST has scheduled an AI Association Meeting at IJCAI in July. In addition, EST and Initiative sessions at ECAI in August are being produced.

This TechEthics approach provides a further embodiment of IEEE’s aspiration to advance technology for humanity through frameworks that consider explicitly critical, non-technical dimensions of technology such as ethics. This new area adds to our already strong areas of technology discovery, definition, applications support, and standards, as well as complementing the new policy area. This can be a transformative new narrative for the IEEE, empowering our technical communities to implement methodologies and products resulting from our consensus building efforts to deliver values driven, ethical innovation defining the modern marketplace. Educational opportunities also exist to engage the general public on ethics issues and concerns, offering an additional opportunity for the IEEE. No other organization has the potential to build such a holistic and beneficial story.

Government organizations and global corporations have begun to understand our unique potential and are offering IEEE privileged relationships and financial support. We believe that within a year IEEE will have access to the C-level leadership of the most powerful corporations in the world. We would be pleased to facilitate any discussions about these important developments and milestones at your convenience.

Dated May 22, 2016

For additional information, contact:

Mary Ward-Callan ( or Konstantinos Karachalios (

  • Industry Connections Activity Initiation Document (ICAID)
  • About Us: The Global Initiative
  • The Executive and Other Committees
  • What Social Robots CAN and SHOULD Do

Timeline: Elevating Ethics for Engineers

Key Milestones Missing From an Ethics Support Timeline on the Institute


Assessing the EMCC’s Effectiveness as an IEEE Ethics Program

Contradictory Statements by IEEE on Ethics Advice and Ethical Support Media:Contradictory_Statements_of_IEEE_on_Ethics_Advice_and_Ethical_Support.docx

Ethical Support by IEEE for Members Placed in Professional Employment Jeopardy Media:Ethics_articles_10.pdf

IEEE’s Concerned Ethics Volunteers CEV-Who They Are

The CEV came into being in 2017 to express expert opinions aimed at getting Ethics Advice and Ethical Support restored to IEEE’s members. Here are the members and their qualifications.



Editor's Audio #10: 2018 IEEE President Jim Jeffries Appoints Greg Adamson as the IEEE Ethics Champion and the CEV Published 4 Ethics INSTITUTE BLOGS

IEEE: Perspectives on Technology, Society, and Ethics, 3-4 April 2018

Assoc. Prof. Greg Adamson, IEEE Board of Directors Ethics Champion

Digital Inclusion through Trust and Agency (DITA)

As indicated in its Code of Ethics, IEEE has a unique position: being the largest global association of professionals working with technologies; and addressing the impact of those technologies.

The program Digital Inclusion through Trust and Agency (DITA) is an example of the special role IEEE can play based on this unique position.

“Cyberspace”, the digital world, emerged in the second half of the 20th Century. Access to this on-line world, this world of information, is a precondition for engagement in the 21st Century global community.

IEEE has adopted as policy the aspiration of Internet for All. The DITA program works across the gamut of issues, including access, trust, and human dignity.

Workstreams in DITA

The DITA program takes an end to end view of the challenge, addressing many environments. One of the most important is maintaining human dignity in design of human-to-machine and machine-to-machine handling of identity, including privacy. Cyber security is a key aspect.

This area has proven of particular interest to lawyers working with technology. Technologies considered include IoT and Blockchain.

DITA is also paying particular attention to health technologies including pharmaceutical supply chain provenance.=====

DITA is modelled on IEEE’s highly successful Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems, which resulted in a major report prepared by 250 global experts.=====


Do IEEE’s Ethics Policies and Practices Support Its Tagline, 'Advancing Technology for Humanity?’

Significant Milestones Over the Past 40 Years

When Advice and Support Went Dark

Nine Ways to Restore Ethics Advice and Support to Strengthen IEEE’s Tagline


Editor's Audio #11: IEEE President Jose Moura Convenes a Telecom Meeting to Plan 2019's Ethics Work


IEEE 2019 President Elect Jose Moura, convened a WEBEX Telecom meeting on August 17, 2018. Attending were Jack Bailey, General Counsel, Greg Adamson, Ethics Champion, Walter Elden, Concerned Ethics Volunteers Editor and Steve Unger, CEV and a Past Ethics Committee Chair.

During a round table set of discussions, various problems, issues and suggestions were shared. Moura and Bailey agreed to meet the following week and to brief then IEEE President Jim Jefferies on what the meeting accomplished and to lay plans for the 2019 year to work on the issues raised.

Ethics and EMCC Issues Raised

1. Need to restore ethics advice and ethical support by changing Items 1.3 and 1.4 in the EMCC Ops Manual

2. EMCC Membership needs to be on staggered terms to create continuity from year to year

3. Need to permit non-member to member complaints to current member to member

4. Need to handle harassment complaints

5. Member education on ethics and the EMCC needed

6. Younger members need to be recruited to get involved in ethics

7. Articles need to be published in SPECTRUM and INSTITUTE about ethics, the EMCC and ongoing ethics programs

8. Need to develop a family of Ethics Implementation Guidelines along the lines of TAB's technical societies

Board Establishes Committee on Diversity, Inclusion and Ethics, the CDIE



CDIE CHARTER Media:CDIECharter.pdf

CDIE SUBCOMMITTEES AND TASKS Media:SubcommitteesMembersCharters_and_Key_Links.docx

Q and A With Chair of New Committee on Diversity, Inclusion and Ethics, CDIE



In 2019 IEEE President Jose Moura requested for Walter Elden to prepare a document with the markups needed to update IEEE Policies which would restore Ethics Advice and Ethical Support. Next are pages 1 and 2 of that document. It was submitted to President Moura and assumed that it was sent to Andrea Goldsmith, Chair of the then Committee on Diversity, Inclusion and Ethics, the CDIE, to prepare and submit for the June 2019 Board of Directors to consider approving it.

NOTE: There is no record of President Moura's intent was ever implemented.

Advice and Support Policies Markup Page 1 of 2.jpg
Advice and Support Policies Markup Page 2 of 2.jpg

Select this link next to see the entire document.


Results of Moura Requested Ethics Restoral Paper

Nothing was ever found out about what the CDIE did with the Moura requested paper

CDIE 2019 YEAR END REPORT TO BOARD Media:Cdie-final-EOY-Nov142019v2.pdf

IEEE 2019 Board Approves a New Diversity Policy



Board Continuation of the Committee on Diversity, Inclusion and Ethics, CDIE

Proposed Changes to IEEE’s Code of Ethics Are Out for Comment


IEEE Ethics and Member Conduct Committee - EMCC



The original Member Conduct Committee of the IEEE was first established on February of 1978. It was empowered with 3 services to provide:

  1. Member Discipline
  2. Ethics Advice
  3. Ethical Support

Later, In the mid 1990's, an Ethics Committee was formed. It operated an Ethics HOTLINE, published ethics articles, promoted that upon renewal of an IEEEE membership, one had to agree to abide by the IEEE Code of Ethics.

Then during 1997/98 the Executive Committee and Board of Directors terminated most ethics services, retaining only Member Discipline for the MCC to provide. Around 2005 the Ethics Committee was combined with the Member Conduct Committee to form today's Ethics and Member Conduct Committee, or EMCC.


2020-2030 and Beyond-Considerations for the Future

Editor's Audio #17: A Vision of Distributing Ethics and Member Conduct Committee Entities



EDITOR'S AUDIO REMARKSː # 19 The Importance of Recognizing that a Contract Relationship Exists Between each IEEE Member and the IEEE Corporate Body

In any employee-manager dispute wherein a member gets into a situation threatening to his/her employment and where it becomes necessary for the member to request ethical advice and/or ethical support from the IEEE, the member needs to remember that

upon joining or re-joining the IEEE, they entered into a contract agreement, which would take precedence over any other IEEE governance policy to the contrary, other than restrictive language contained in IEEE's Constitution.

What this refers to is as followsː

Upon joining or re-joining the IEEE, each member is required to agree to practice abiding with the IEEE Code of Ethics, and in return, Canon 10 of that Code obligates the IEEE to provide ethical support to the requesting member. This thus is a mutual contract performance agreement.

If the member fails to uphold provisions in the Code they may be penalized by the IEEE. But if IEEE fails to support a member, what penalty against IEEE might there be there?

Discussion of Relevance to IEEE's Governance Policies

In the following material is provided a comprehensive list of governing IEEE Policies, presented in a top down fashion, beginning at the top with its New York, USA Certificate of Incorporation. Most of the listed governance items touch on Member Discipline, Ethical Advice and Ethical Support to one extent of another. However, it seems that the above Member-IEEE contract agreement would take precedence and thus create a binding relationship between the two parties; one or more members and the IEEE as a corporate entity. That is why the above contract agreement was presented first.


Corporate Governance Slides No 1.jpg
Corporate Governance Slides No 2.jpg
Corporate Governance Table No 1.jpg
Corporate Governance Slides No 3.jpg
Corporate Governance Slides No 4.jpg

New Topics to Address

  • Ombudsman
  • EMCC Oversight
  • Long Range Ethics Plan
  • ACM CODE as a model
  • From Global A/IS to Society Guidelines
  • Add other ethics groups

EMCC Bylaw/Policy to Process Flow:

  • Discipline a Member
  • Advise a Member on Ethics
  • Support a Member Ethically

Break down each Ethics Practice Activity

  • IEEE
  • ACM/ CS
  • SSIT ?
  • CDIE

I envision the following for managing and coordinating all IEEEE ethics activities into the 2020 decade

  1. An IEEE ETHICS CHAMPION is established with a senior Ethics Coordinating Committee or Council to assist achieve the mission. This entity is a separate centralized OU from multiple Member Conduct Committees MCCs, which are distributed out into each Region.
  2. The ECC develops and interprets the high level Code of Ethics for IEEE. Due to the number and complexity of technologies IEEE Societies handle, this Code will focus on broad, high level canons, intended to provide the principles of good professional conduct to be practiced by the members in their design and development work.
  3. There will be an OMBUDSMAN function, to be called upon to assist in resolving complex ethical discipline, advice and/or support matters.
  4. The more technically driven design practices, tailored to each technology area, will be the responsibility of each Society to create in specific Implementation Guidelines. These guidelines will be intended for Technologists to follow and apply in the design and development of technologies, products, equipment and systems.
  5. When issues and questions arise about the proper ethical choice to be made, the cognizant Society, with assistance as needed from the ECC, will be applied.
  6. Requests for Ethical Advice will be handled first by RegionalTechnical Societies with assistance from the ECC where needed.
  7. Regional MCCs will exist to handle and resolve charges of Misconduct and Requests for Ethical Support in matters where a conflict endangers the employment livelihood of the Member.
  8. This shall be developed and details flushed out further.

Notes on Legal Argument to Restore IEEE Ethics Advice and Ethical Support

  1. Bylaw 110 contains both Discipline and Advice/Support. EMCC docs omit Ethical Support
  2. Policy 7.11 Ethical Support was omitted from xxxx text
  3. Bylaw 305.X in Ops Man uses word “individuals”, whom are qualified but are not yet members
  4. Ops Man adds a sentence restricting involvement in employee employer conflicts. No approval source other than Ops Man exists and resides at lowest level of Governance so it lacks overriding authority and does not negate Advice and Support
  5. IEEE BYLAW’s Code of Ethics Canon 10 states positive ethical support of members to be provided. Must be provided.
  6. Years 1978-1998 MCC provided Ethics Advice and Ethical Support; then IEEE BOARD/ExCom terminated both in 1998 with no justification
  7. IEEE’s Tag Line “Advancing Technology for Humanity” is a shallow/misleading promise without affirmative Ethics Advice and Ethical Support
  8. IEEE BART, Edgerton and Castro Advice and Support cases are strong precedents for S and S to be continued
  9. Technology Complexity, Liability of Members/IEEE/Employers create need need to protect public from harm done by mid-designed AI embedded in ROBOTS by providing Ethics Advice and Ethical Support in the future

Stephen Welby, IEEE Executive Director

I am writing to bring to your attention, that the governance documents for IEEE’s Ethics and Member Conduct Committee, EMCC, our flagship committee which disciplines and is also suppose to support members ethically, are flawed and therefore need correcting. This practice has existed for nearly the past 20 years, thus denying our membership with a valuable supporting service I can attest some have needed as they tried to practice professionally and ethically. As a result I am appealing for you to take the steps necessary that will restore both the providing of Ethics Advice and Ethical Support back to our members, as IEEE did the first 20 years of the Member Conduct Committee.

I will explain herein where today’s Ethics and Member Conduct Committee, EMCC, needs changes in its governance documents made to restore these two services to our members. But first, I need to present my qualifications for what I am bringing to your attention for the corrective action needed.

Background of Elden

I am an 88 year old Life Senior Member of IEEE and the SSIT therein and a member of IEEE since a student in 1957 at the University of Florida. My involvement in IEEE ethics and professionalism began when the members voted YES by 83+% in 1972 to amend its Constitution adding Professional Activities to its 80 years of Technical Activities. I formed IEEE’s first Professional Activities Committee for Engineers in 1973 in the Orlando Section, then formed IEEE’s first Professional Session at SOUTHEASTCON 1974, presenting both Professional and Technical papers.

Shortly afterwards, IEEE’s involvement in the BART Case in 1975, wherein it entered an Amicus Curiae legal brief in the 3 engineers suit for wrongful discharge against BART, arguing engineers had a legal obligation to practice in accordance with a Code of Ethics, led me to an appointment to a USAB Ethics Task Force wherein I led the drafting of procedures for providing IEEE members Ethics Advice and Ethical Support in Wrongful Discharge situations. At the same meeting Dr Stephen Unger, then a SSIT co-founder, led the drafting of Member Discipline procedures. Later, USAB President John Guerrera asked and I presented USAB’s proposals to the November 1977 IEEE Board meeting, which led to the forming of the first IEEE MEMBER CONDUCT COMMITTEE in February 1978 to Discipline, Advise and Support Ethical practice.

About that same time I assisted Virginia Edgerton (deceased) get in touch with Steve Unger and CSIT, which led to her Wrongful Discharge case becoming the first one handled by the MCC. Later from 1996-98 I served on the MCC. There I introduced Salvador Castro ‘s Wrongful Discharge case from the Ethics Committee’s Ethics HOTLINE. The Board agreed to enter his case once it got into court. Each of these cases, BART, Edgerton and Castro later were recipients of the SSIT Barus award for Service in the Public Interest.

  1. Bylaws 110 and 111 are both cited as applying to the EMCC today. In Bylaw 110 it still authorizes the original 3 MCC services; Member Discipline, Ethics Advice and Ethical Support. However only Member Discipline is being acted upon. Nevertheless Advice and Support are still authorizes on the books but need to be recognized and implemented.
  2. In the text of xxxxx the Ethical Support Policy 7.11 is omitted in spite of it being authorized at the end of Bylaw 110. Therefore the text needs changing to add Policy 7.11 together with Policy 7.10 there today to be in conformance with all of Bylaw 110.
  3. Bylaw 305.X has language to the effect that prohibits providing advice to what are referred to as “ individuals”. Uber Membership rules, individuals are not considered as IEEE Members, but rather as persons qualified to becomes Members. Given this distinction then there is no restriction causing Advice to not be given to members. The language as written just does not prevent giving advice on ethical/professional matters to already established IEEE Members. It will reduce confusion if that current language were deleted.
  4. In the EMCC Operations Manual, at the end and outside of 1.4 is the sentence which reads: “cxxxxxxxxxx”.In the Bylaws where 305.X originates, this sentence does not appear. It apparently got created and added when 305.x was added to the Ops Manual. Therefore it lacks the status of Part of a Bylaw and has the least Governance Wright as the whole zOps Manual, at the bottom of Governance hierarchy, and therefore carries no weight to that of any of the Bylaws or Policy statements. Again this sentence should just be deleted from the Ops Manual as it carries no weight to be applied.
  5. In the current IEEE Code of Ethics, which is Bylaw xxxxx, Canon states that IEEE Members are to be supported. Being at a Bylaw Governance Level, this has high weight of importance and concurs that Ethical Advice and Ethical Support are to be provided.
  6. From 1978 when the MCC was originally created, til 1998, the 3 services of Member Discipline, Ethics Advice and Ethical Support were provided. For reasons yet to be fully revealed, the IEEE BOARD/ EXCOM terminated Ethics Advice and Ethical Support , along with all Pro Ethics members of the EC and MCC. This was done behind a closed door Executive Session, in spite of being advised to the contrary by a Special Blue Ribbon Task Force which recommended retaining the ETHICS HOTLINE and Ethics Committee. Steve Unger’s paper “The Assault on IEEE Ethics Support” is the only written record of those events and Board/ExCom actions. The net result was that from 1998 til 2020 only Member Discipline was practiced by the EMCC.
  7. IEEE’s Tag Line “Advancing Technology for Humanity” without the EMCC authorized to provide Ethics Advice and Ethical Support to members in need, will become a shallow, misleading promise in the era of Ethically Autonomous Robotic products and systems
  8. During the first 20 years when the MCC first existed and successfully handled the BART, Edgerton and Castro cases of Wrongful Discharge in attempting to advance safe ethically designed products and systems, each practice of Member Discipline, Ethics Advice and Ethical Support were successful services which each IEEE Member could call upon.
  9. The bottom line one could conclude is that IEEE’s members the first 20 years of a MCC/EC Were afforded the 3 original ethics services, but during the last 20+, only Member Discipline were supported. Being that products and systems to be created in the next decades, will become more complex, sophisticated and will imbed more and more AI ROBOTIC capabilities. This certainly will place more responsibility and pressure upon IEEE’s designers. As a result they will need even more so Ethical Advice and Ethical Support.

Profession of Engineering

In today's enlightened work environment, engineers should be employed as the professionals they are and not be referred to or treated as just employees. The fact that in the 1998 verbal statement by then Past IEEE President and then a member active on the Member Conduct Committee, saying that: "I do not feel the IEEE should get involved in employee-employer disputes", lacked the recognition that those employees he referred to were in reality highly educated, trained, experienced, ethical professionals. Further, IEEE even had a contract agreement such that it was obligated to provide "support" to those professionals as they practiced following the tenants of IEEE's own Code of Ethics (one of the requirements of IEEE membership). Then to add that same reservation quote after Item 1.4 Limits to Activities in the EMCC's own Operations Manual, years later, showed continued non-recognition that IEEE's members were professionals, and being more than mere employees.

What Does It Mean Then for an Employee to Practice as a Professional

To begin with, employed IEEE members in engineering are to be treated as members of a "profession", as opposed to being employed in an occupation. Here, from Wikipedia, is a short discussion of what an engineer is.

"Engineers, as practitioners of engineering, are professionals who invent, design, analyze, build and test machines, complex systems, structures, gadgets and materials to fulfill functional objectives and requirements while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, regulation, safety and cost. The word engineer (Latin ingeniator) is derived from the Latin words ingeniare ("to create, generate, contrive, devise") and ingenium ("cleverness"). The foundational qualifications of an engineer typically include a four-year bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline, or in some jurisdictions, a master's degree in an engineering discipline plus four to six years of peer-reviewed professional practice (culminating in a project report or thesis) and passage of engineering board examinations" (from

Engineering is the application of science to the common purpose of life and Engineering is the profession in which a knowledge of the mathematical and natural sciences, gained by study, experience, and practice, is applied with judgment to develop ways to utilize, economically, the materials and forces of nature for the benefit of [hu]mankind". (from

Finally, it is important to note that engineering is a "profession" as opposed to a job or an occupation. As such, it requires education, ethical practice, skills, independent judgement and the exercise of discretion. Engineers at times may be pressured to "think like a manager, not an engineer in his/her decision making" when working for a non-engineer. However, "the boss made me do it" is never an available defense and may hold you to discipline for misconduct for negligence in the practice of one's engineering profession. "Source: Florida Board of Engineer Examiners"

Here is a link to an additional validation of executives taking over engineer professionals employed in Industry, getting legislation passed to exempt them from being required to hold P.E. licenses.

IEEE'S Curtailment of Its Ethics and Ethical Support Activities

Editor's Audio #3: An Important Historical Source for IEEE Denying Ethics Advice and Ethical Support

Following in 1978, IEEE then, in collaboration with the IEEE United States Activities Committee, USAB, established a Member Conduct Committee, MCC, charged with 3 missions:

  1. Member Discipline
  2. Provide Ethics Advice
  3. Provide Ethical Support

This was approved in spite of IEEE’s Board of Directors only initially supporting Member Discipline while the IEEE United States Activities Board (USAB) additionally supported providing Ethics Advice and Ethical Support. Eventually all 3 were approved and were in IEEE Bylaws and Policies to this day, and were authorized to be practiced the first 20 years of the MCC.

But then in 1998, the IEEE Board/ExCom acted without notice to its membership and, without changing its Bylaws or Policies, caused its MCC to cease all Ethics Advice and Ethical Support activities, in a secret Executive Session Meeting. It acted while disregarding advice from its own Special Blue Ribbon Task Force’s recommendation to the contrary, advocating continuing its once successful Ethics Committee ETHICS HOTLINE and associated activities.

Concerted efforts by former MCC an EC Blue Ribbon members, since 2015, by way of its Concerned Ethics Volunteers CEV efforts, have been unsuccessful in getting Ethics Advice and Ethical Support to be reinstated in actual practice, in spite of the original IEEE Bylaws and Policies, first approved in 1978 establishing the MCC and its 3 missions, still remaining on the books, unchanged.

In Steve Unger's 1st hand account paper, "The Assault on IEEE's Ethical Support", it captures what actions were taken, begun in 1997, which terminated all ethics activities and ethical support.

Editor's Audio #4: The Need to be Provided Official Board/ExCom Records Documenting Terminating Ethics Advice and Ethical Support to Members

The Assault on IEEE Ethics Support - Steve Unger


As a life fellow of the IEEE, I am deeply concerned over a number of recent events that I feel have had a devastating effect on IEEE ethics related activities.

1) The IEEE Executive Committee (ExCom) terminated the Ethics Hotline on what appear to be unsubstantiated grounds. This was done without giving the Ethics Committee (EC) a chance to present its case. The ExCom rejected out of hand the clear recommendation of its own specially appointed task force to reinstate the Hotline.

2) After having just been reelected by the IEEE Board of Directors (BoD) as EC chair, I was not permitted to remain in the room while the IEEE attorney presented his opinions on this matter to the ExCom.

3) I was amazed to be told that the report of the task force, which certainly does not contain any confidential information, will not be released to anybody - my requests for a copy have been to no avail.

I believe that the effect of these events has been the termination of an activity of great value to the IEEE, to its members, to our profession as a whole, to reputable employers of engineers, and to the general public. What follows is an account of what happened, along with my reasons for feeling that the ExCom's actions in the ethics area are misguided.

IEEE Has Shown Disregard Towards Proactive Ethical Activities - Walter Elden


I am a retired, IEEE Life Senior Member, and a long-time member of IEEE-SSIT and its Ethics Committee. I am writing to commend Steve Unger’s persistence in working to get the previously published article, “The Assault on IEEE Ethics Support,” restored in the IEEE online publication archive, and to provide first-hand eyewitness support and evidence to the fact of IEEE pressure to terminate the Ethics Hotline and of its efforts to discourage and block the support for the ethical practice of engineering by IEEE members in the 1996-1999 period.

During the period, discussed in Steve Unger’s article, 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. 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. What concerned me then and subsequently, which is what Steve Unger wrote about, 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.

A 2015 Position Statement White Paper on Denial of Ethics Advice and Ethical Support


A 2015 Position Statement-Cover.png

This Position Statement was the first writing I did which shed light on Dr. Charles Turner, a Past Chair of the EMCC, a the source of denying IEEE members with ethics advice and ethical support.

During the summer of 2015 I happened to come across a set of briefing slides, prepared by Dr Charles Turner, a Past Chair of the IEEE Ethics and Member Conduct Committee], which, at the bottom of his Slide 11, quoted the statement I had heard Former IEEE President Wally Read, then President of the Canadian President Electricity Association, express during a Member Conduct Committee, MCC, meeting I attended as a member. He had expressed the view that “IEEE should not get involve in employee-employer disputes”.

Within a few years, that became the written and in practice policy of IEEE, which acted to deny “ethics advice and ethical support” to members, and continues today into 2020. This Position Statement, I wrote in 2015, was the first to bring this history out into the open, for I was there first hand when Read expressed it and Turner experienced it go into operation as an EMCC Member.

Editor's Audio #5: Recognizing the SSIT Carl Barus Award and Its Recipients for "Outstanding Service in the Public Interest

The First IEEE MCC Ethical Supported Cases (1975-98)

(Source: Controlling Technology-Ethics and the Responsible Engineer, 3rd Edition, Stephen H. Unger, PhD) The following links present the 3 key cases of support handled by the Pre and then Current Member Conduct Committee, when they were empowered to and did provide both Ethics Advice and Ethical Support, in addition to Member Discipline. But then in 1997-98 Advice and Support were "gutted" and the PRO Ethics members of the EC and MCC were too.

The IEEE BART Case Brief - 1975

The Virginia Edgerton IEEE Ethical Support by the MCC and CSIT - 1979

IEEE's MCC Support of Salvador Castro - 2001

SSIT's Barus Award Recipients

IEEE SSIT's BARUS Awards Recipients.jpg

The Barus Award recognizes individuals (and occasionally groups of individuals) who take action to benefit the public interest, often at the risk of their own careers and/or reputations.

More information about the award and recipients [2]

  • 1978 Max Blankenzee, Robert Bruder, Holger Hjortzvang: Reported BART rail system problems
  • 1979 Virginia Edgerton: Raised awareness of New York City emergency response system problems
  • 1986 Rick Parks: Challenged unsafe conditions on nuclear power industry
  • 1988 Benjamin Linder: Advanced appropriate technology in Nicaragua
  • 1991 Demetrios L. Basdekas: Worked for improvements in nuclear power regulation
  • 1997 Rebecca Leaf: Worked for improvements in Nicaraguan power system and access
  • 2001 Salvador Castro: Reported hazardous product to U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • 2003 David Monts: Reported safety issues in Univ. of New Orleans physical plant
  • 2006 Nancy Kymn Harvin: Reported hazards at Salem and Hope Creek nuclear power plants
  • 2008 Michael DeKort: Discovered and exposed problems in a US Coast Guard boat design that endangered lives and national security
  • 2013 Marc Edwards: Exposing extreme levels of lead contamination in Washington, DC, drinking water
  • 2018 Philip Koopman: Uncovered automotive software defects

Editorial question

Given that the SSIT saw fit to look into these cases and then make these awards of support and recognition, why didn’t the MCC, EC or EMCC, step in and do that instead? After all, since 1978 when the MCC was first activated, IEEE has had on the books, to this day in BYLAWS and POLICIES, statements authorizing this could/should have been done.

In reading through the following history of IEEE’s ethics advice and ethical support over the years, shows that IEEE took actions to prevent that from happening.

How then does that support IEEE’s tag line":

“Advancing technology for humanity?”

Need to Provide Discussion of the Implications for the Above

Ethics Advice and Ethical Support

MCC-EC-EMCC eras and issues

PRO support era

ANTI support era

Upon What, The EMCC Has Used To Deny Ethics Advice And Ethical Support For the past 22 years to members

legalities of restricting

Efforts Made To Restore Adv-Supp Since 2015

2015, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20

IEEE Policy and EMCC Changes Which Might Be Made in the Future

CEV Recommendations

EMCC watchdog by the SSIT

Suggested Additional Reading Materials

IEEE Ethics Operational Unit Resources


All Identified IEEE Ethics Entities
  1. Constitution
  2. Bylaws
  3. Policies/Procedures
  4. Ops Manual
  1. Article 1, Section 2 Professional-Ethical Conduct
  2. I-110. Member Discipline and SupportI-111. Removal or Suspension of Delegates, Directors, and OfficersI-305 5. Ethics and Member Conduct Committee
  3. 7.8 IEEE Code of Ethics7.9 IEEE Amicus Policy 7.10 Procedures for Member Conduct Complaints 7.11 Ethical Support
  4. I-305 5. Ethics and Member Conduct Committee1.3 Scope1.4 Limits to Activities
IEEE CODE OF ETHICS (Applies to Members)
IEEE CODE OF CONDUCT (Applies to Staff and Members

Staff Support: Roster:

IEEE Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in AIs John Havens, Executive Director, Global Initiative for Ethical A/IS Systems

  • Dr Andrea Goldsmith, Chair
  • Kristen Russel, Staff Support
  • Walter L. Elden, P.E.(Ret), EDITOR
Others TBD

A Summary Overview - Collection of Editor's Audio Comments; Listen to These Audios First

Audio # Dates Editor's Audio Commentaries
1 1972 -20 Welcoming Comments of Walter L. Elden, IEHR Editor
2 1978-98 Editor's Commentary on His 1st Hand Account of this History
3 1975,'11 An Important Historical Source for Denying Ethics Advice and Ethical Support
4 1978-'18 Recognizing the SSIT Carl Barus Award and Its Recipients for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest
5 1996-'98 The Need to be Provided Official Board/ExCom Records Documenting Terminating Ethics Advice and Ethical Support to Members
6 2015 My First Step Taken Towards Restoring Ethics Advice and Ethical Support 2015-2020
7 2015 My 2015 Year End Efforts to Raise Awareness About Denial of Ethics Advice and Ethical Support
8 2016 TAB Appointed Task Force to Identify Ethics Gaps and Steps to Fill Them
9 2017- Board Appointed Ad Hoc Committee on Ethics Programs to Continue Unfinished 2016 Work
10 2018 President Jeffries Appoints Greg Adamson "IEEE's Ethics Champion"and the CEV Publishes 4 Ethics INSTITUTE BLOGS
11 2018 IEEE President-Elect Moura's Telecom Meeting on Restoring Advice and Support
12 2019 Board Appoints "Committee on Diversity, Inclusion and Ethics", CDIE
13 2019 IEEE President Moura Requests for Elden to Prepare Marked Up Ethics Policies to Restore Ethics Advice and Ethical Support
14 2019-20 CDIE 2019-2020 Accomplishments
15 2020 Agreement Reached on Services Provided by the EMCC to the IEEE Members
16 '78 , '81 IEEE Established Ethics Advice and Ethical Support Policy and Flow Diagram
17 2020++ A Future Vision of Reconfigured Ethics and Member Conduct Committees
18 77-20 Roadmap for Completing the Updating of the IEHR

Historical Walk Through of IEEE's Support and Non-Support of Ethics, 1884-2015

An Historical Walk Through of IEEE's Support and Non-Support of Ethics, 1884-2015

This presents a walk through of IEEE’s involvement in ethics , from its very start, in 1884 with the forming of the AIEE, through 1912 when the IRE was formed, through today, the end of 2015.

Through the years, IEEE at times supported both ethics advice and support, but beginning around 2000, it formally restricted the EMCC from involvement in employee - employer professional/ethical disputes , which is being challenged. This documents that history

IEEE Policies Document

The IEEE Policies Document is found here:

The following is from the Policies document.

“Part B - Form and Contents of the Request for Support.

2. The issue, incident(s), or the matter of ethical principle which the person believes is involved together with the specific provisions of the IEEE Code of Ethics deemed relevant or considered to have precipitated the condition(s) of jeopardy;”

Here in the above statement, it is made clear that the request for support deals with “ethical” and not trade union issues. As this is contained in a document higher than the EMCC Operations Manual where the subject restriction is found; thus it can not override the authority given to the EMCC in the above Policy statement.

“4. A full description of the circumstances, events and facts which relate to the ethical matter for which IEEE support is sought.”

This statement makes it abundantly clear that the EMCC is empowered to deal only with ethical issues, not Trade Union matters, so the restriction statement in the EMCC Operations Manual is not applicable here.

“Part D - Responsibilities of the Ethics and Member Conduct Committee b) send to the employer(s) concerned a letter disclaiming any and all purpose or intent to engage in collective bargaining on behalf of the individual with respect to such matters as salaries, wages, benefits, and working conditions, customarily dealt with by labor unions.”

This is an important waiver statement to be sent to the employer, signed by the requesting Member for support. It makes it very clear that the EMCC does not engage in collective bargaining or trade union matters but says nothing restricting it from handling ethical support requests involving professional/ethical issues between an employee-employer. As this same statement is contained in the EMCC Operations Manual, there is no question that the EMCC has any authority to deal in Trade Union matters, only Professional/Ethical. Therefore, the subject restriction statement in the EMCC Operations Manual is not relevant.

AI and Robotic Reference Materials

Future issues IEEE's ethics will need to deal with-advice, support and robotics/AI. This section provides snapshots of activities currently underway which may affect IEEE ethics in the future. This will be an evolving section, subject to changes and updates, as developments occur.

Can They be Taught Ethics, Moral Reasoning, and Should We Trust Them?

IEEE Robotics and Automation Society-RAS

Artificial Intelligence

Driverless Cars and Other Vehicles

Social, Safety, Ethics, Legislation and Other Issues


Cars Under Development

Manufacturing Applications

Racing Cars

Robotic Drones

Autonomous Medical Devices and Applications

Robotic Applications in Manufacturing

Police Use of Robots to Kill

Military Applications of Autonomous Robotic Systems

Robotic Code of Ethics and Artificial Intelligence

Global Ethical and Moral Implications

Rights of Robots and Autonomous Machines


On IEEE Advising and Supporting Ethics for Future Robotic Designers - What Should Its Role Be?

As the IEEE delves into the new area of Robots and Autonomous Systems, a pertinent question needing to be considered is the title of this section. If since the early 2000 period, IEEE has restricted its Ethics and Member Conduct Committee from providing "ethics advice" and "ethical support" to its Members, will this continue to remain its policy when Robots and Autonomous Systems are being designed and the designers come to IEEE seeking guidance on Robotic Ethics? Will there be new Codes of Ethics, but in the future addressing these issues? What guidance, guidelines, panel of experts, etc will be provided to these new designers? Here, I will attempt to envision some ethical situations these future designers are likely to face, with the goal to stimulate thinking now about them and to invite commentary for adding to this Ethics History Repository.

Some Envisioned Robotic Designers' Ethics Issues, Situations and Dilemmas

Will the IEEE need a new code of ethics covering robotics engineering?

It doesn't appear a new robotics code of ethics for engineers can be as simple as our current 10 article one is. If that is correct, it seems that there then needs to be a set of guidelines comprehensively guiding the designer on how to apply these new rules of ethical engagement for autonomous systems and robotic machines. Additionally, it seems that in this new area of intense complexity of ethics, that there ought to be a panel of robotic ethics experts or panels, available and assembled in IEEE which the designers could access. From them they could seek getting guidance, interpretation and directions for how to apply these new rules of ethical conduct.

If in today's much simpler world of ethics, prior to robotic ethics, if as has been shown that the IEEE will not allow its flagship Ethics and Member Conduct Committee, the EMCC, to offer ethics advice or ethical support to its rank and file Members, what might it do during the more complex and far-reaching robotics ethics era that it surely will face in the future?

It seems that the decision-making for how much intelligence to provide and instill in these systems is really going to be in the hands of the designers and it's going be very complex and therefore it seems that they are going to be at more risk for conflicts with their employer over matters of who is responsible for placing what logic or accomplish decision-making in these new machines, in cases of a malfunction an accident or even death. Additionally there will be the legal facet of who is responsible for product liability, when things done by the robot goes wrong and does harm. Will the IEEE be ready to assist one of its Members in such situations?

The IEEE leadership may face an even greater challenge of supporting it's designers, on the one hand, which make up the vast majority of its membership,) versus supporting business owners, directors, industry leaders, corporate entrepreneurs . It therefore may have a dilemma of deciding which sphere of membership it is going to really support; employee Members or Business/Owners Members. While it is not clearly known under what employment laws and rules engineers outside of the United States are engaged by, for certain within the United States they are engaged under an "at-will employment" doctrine which basically states that legally engineer employees can be fired or terminated for any reason whatsoever, morally right or morally wrong. Given this dilemma of engineers employed this way in the United States, it just seems that they will even more so need access to advice, guidelines and where to find how to apply these new robotic ethics standards.

As discussed in an earlier section above on the future directions and issues facing IEEE in the robotics and AI ethics area, the Society on Social Implications of Technology, SSIT, under Greg Adams, it's President, has the lead in this new endeavor under the Technical Activities Board, TAB. They are addressing this area of autonomous systems ethics and will have a very challenging role of how to set out the applications of that for IEEE in the ethics and ethics support area.