IEEE Ethics History Repository (IEHR), part 2

Revision as of 12:14, 24 March 2020 by Welden (talk | contribs) (Editor’s Audio- TBD)

IEEE's Ethics History from the Mid 1990's til the Present

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

Editor's AUDIO: Welcoming Comments of Walter L. Elden, IEHR Editor

Editor's Statement of Intent

"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

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

Introduction to When IEEE Began Supporting Ethics Advice and Ethical Support

Editor's AUDIO: Editor's Commentary on His 1st Hand Account of this History

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.

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.

ImageCSIT Adopts Historic Ethics Support Resolution in 1974.png

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.

A 2015 Position Statement White Paper Which First Documented IEEE’s New Policy to Not Provide Ethics Advice and Ethical Support

Editor's AUDIO: An Important Historical Source for Denying Ethics Advice and Ethical Support

A 2015 Position Statement White Paper on Denial of 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”.

That had to have been intended to apply the professional and ethical issues as IEEE’s Constitution already restricted not getting involved in Union and/or Collective Bargaining matters.

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.

This Part 2 to the IEHR therefore reports on that latter IEEE ETHICS history since around 1998 when it’s PRO ETHICS activities WENT DARK.

Editor's AUDIO: Recognizing the SSIT Carl Barus Award and Its Recipients for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest

I have elected to begin Page 2 of the IEHR with citing those who were awarded the SSIT Carl Barus Ethics Award over the years, acting in the best public interest, beginning just after IEEE's members voted in 1972 by over 82% to add Professional Activities into its Constitution".

The Editor

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

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

The IEEE BART Case Brief

The Virginia Edgerton IEEE Ethical Support by the MCC and CSIT

IEEE's MCC Support of Salvador Castro

SSIT's Barus Award Recipients

Examples of IEEE’s SSIT Issuing Several BARUS Awards

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 [1]

  • 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 it took actions to prevent that from happening.

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

“Advancing technology for humanity?”


Editor's AUDIO: Reporting on Official and 1st/2nd Hand Accounts of IEEE Policies and Actions


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.


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.


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?


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.

1999 - 2000

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

Sction 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 Media:Engineers_Rights_and_Responsibilities-1.docx


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

IEEE Ethics and Member Conduct Committee-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 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.


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



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


TAB TASK- IEEE’s Involvement in Ethics and the Gaps Needing Fixed - 2016

Dr Greg Adamson, Task Chair





(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


3 Recommendation Points Addressing Removing Ethics Advice and Ethical Support Restrictions Media:Recomendations_to_President_Karen_Bartleson_Oct_3_2017.docx


IEEE 2017 Board Ad Hoc Ethics Committee on Programs

Dr. Greg Adamson, Committee Chair

IEEE Board of Directors sets ethics as a priority in 2017


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.




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. Media:IEEE_Concerned_Ethics_Volunteers_Members_and_Bios.docx


Dr Greg Adamson -The Board Appointed 2018 IEEE ETHICS CHAMPION






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






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




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






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




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.

A Letter to the Editor

The SSIT/TAB Need to Advocate Revising IEEE Governance Documents to Restore IEEE Ethics Advice and Ethical Support

I am writing to urge for the SSIT/TAB jointly to take the initiative and propose revising IEEE’s Governance Documents to restore back to the Ethics and Member Conduct Committee the ability to provide “ethics advice and ethical support” to IEEE’s Members. Having stated that, “why change”” and “which documents should be changed” both need addressing.

Why Change?

During the mid 1970’s when IEEE was wrestling with how to enforce its modern day 1974 revised Code of Ethics, there were two arguments debated. Some members of the Board of Directors only wanted a mechanism for disciplining violations of the Code while members of the United States Activities Committee, USAC, and the Committee on Social Implications of Technology, CSIT, believed that ethical support needed to also be provided to those whose employment was placed in jeopardy for trying to uphold ethical practice. After all, even to this day Article 10 of IEEE’s Code of Ethics states Members (including IEEE’s Board of Directors) must agree “to support” other Members in upholding ethical conduct, as one condition of renewing IEEE membership, annually. These two viewpoints were subsequently combined and codified in IEEE Governance Documents when the Member Conduct Committee was created in February 1978. I, along with Dr Stephen H. Unger and others, supported both viewpoints and developed the USAC proposal leading to creating the MCC.

For the next 20 years, both discipline and ethics advice/support were successfully provided by the MCC and a companion Ethics Committee til 1998. I served on both at the time. Then the IEEE Executive Committee/Board began and systematically killed all of the ethics advice and ethical support services, in effect achieving what Board members of the mid 1970’s really preferred to be the MCC’s role, only disciplining members. Then by 2005, IEEE’s Governance Documents had been revised to codify these restrictions on the Ethics and Member Conduct Committee, the EMCC. Today, the EMCC can only recommend discipline.

Go to this place on the IEEE Ethics History Repository to read the historical account of this:

Ethics Under IEEE-1972 to the Present

Which Documents Should be Changed

Here there is a choice. On the one hand, if Members trust that their Board of Directors will do the right thing in their best interest, including upholding Article 10 “to support” other Members, then revising Governance Documents below IEEE’s Constitution would be sufficient. But on the other hand, as was demonstrated already that prior and til this time, Board Members since 2005 have not done that, then IEEE’s Members need to exercise their right to amend IEEE’s Constitution, to formally codify the needed changes. A similar action was done in 1972 when the Members voted by over 83% YES to amend and added Professional Activities to IEEE for the first time in its then nearly 90 year history. Once codified in the Constitution, no future IEEE Board will have the authority to change it on their own without approval of IEEE’s membership voting their approval to.


I urge the SSIT and TAB to exercise responsible leadership on behalf of Society and the Membership to restore IEEE providing both “ethics advice and ethical support” back again.

Walter L. Elden, P.E. (Ret)
IEEE and SSIT Life Senior Member
IEEE Member Conduct Committee 1996-1998

Replies to this Letter to the Editor

Dear Walter,

Thank you for keeping me informed about the on-going discussions about ethical support for IEEE members, with which I am in full agreement.

As you probably are aware, there is a Constitutional Amendment that will be on the ballot for all members to consider shortly. I and many of the members in Region 8, are strongly opposed to the proposed changes in the governance structure of IEEE, because we believe that they will produce a diminution of the accountability of the leadership to the membership as a whole, including the neutralisation of the role of the Regional Directors.

In respect of the possibility of strong ethical support for members I believe that there would be less chance of real reform under the proposed structure.

We need to make sure that members understand the full impact of these proposed changes when they vote in a couple of months.

Best regards,

Professor Charles W Turner, FREng, FIET.
Emeritus Professor of Electrical Engineering, King's College London
Life Fellow IEEE

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,

Ethics, Society and Technology Initiative Spoken of by Dr. Greg Adamson, Above

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 (

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.

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.

Full Brochure

Download Complete Document

Brochure Overview

Download Overview

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.


Thanks for your continued focus on this. 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. Search on IEEE at:

Regards, Greg

Dr Greg Adamson

Principal, Digital Risk Innovation

Chair, IEEE Design for Ethics Ad Hoc

+61 423 783 527

Future Robots

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.