Thursday, April 28, 2016

Shadow Codes - A space for discussing how codes of ethics can be more expansive and inclusive.

The Shadow Codes website is intended as a multipurpose space for students, educators, professionals, and the general public. Originally conceptualized as a place to host shadow codes of engineering ethics - those codes that bear a variety of merits (they produce critical reflection; they reveal something about the power laden processes by which codes are produced; they have moral merit in and of themselves) but, as of yet, have not found their way into official canons governing professional engineers. The site is now expanding its scope beyond engineering, starting with the sciences. 

In general, it is a place to host ideas and conversations that imagine a future with more expansive, inclusive codes of ethics. The goal of the site is not simply to advocate for the inclusion of these alternative canons into those codes espoused by professional societies; rather, it is to encourage individuals from all walks of life to reflect upon what these codes mean for themselves, their communities, and society writ large. It is an invitation to step outside the confines dictated by historical precedent and envision a more ethical future.

At this point, the site acts as: a place to host conversations; a repository for ideas; and another venue to connect individuals from disparate groups who may not otherwise have occasion to cross paths. In that sense, it's part dialogue medium, part warehouse, part networking space, and part catalyst for students, educators, and engineers to envision what future versions of their codes of ethics might entail. Ideally the activity at the site would facilitate discussions and actions toward changing professional engineering codes in a more inclusive way, but we're trying to forestall tunnel vision that comes from focusing on one singular purpose. If pressed to identify one, the ultimate goal is to encourage more reflection from any and all individuals impacted by science and engineering codes of ethics. That reflection could lead to advocacy for development and change, or it could simply encourage a deeper understanding of the codes' roles in the context of professional practice and society writ large. 

If you have questions about the Shadow Codes Project, please contact Andrew Katz, Graduate Research Assistant at Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Education at

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Videos from IPRO 497-226 exploring the user journey for the to-be-published Ethics Codes Collection

After winning their track on IPRO Day, we wanted to share some of what our amazing students got up to this semester.  Charged with producing videos that documented how different types of users will interact with the Ethics Codes Collection, these are the final results of the four teams.

Professional Users Video

Nonusers Video

Nonprofessional Users Video

Owners Video

This class came up with innovative new ideas to reimagine the Ethics Codes Collection into a resource that is not only a great asset for ethics code owners and professionals of all disciplines, but is also a great for students and any new users discovering ethics for the first time. With funding from the MacArthur Foundation, our class began the work to improve it by using a user-centered design approach. User-centered approach means we put the user in the center of our research process and conducted qualitative methods to identify their unmet needs and desires and redesign the collection according to user needs. The students created four videos documenting their findings on how different groups of users are likely to approach the site, and came up with a list of resources that the redesigned site will adopt as part of its new interface and expanded collection. The success of this semester will set us up for next semester, when we will building the prototype of the Ethics Codes Collection!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Developing a Code of Ethics

Frequently CSEP gets requests from professional societies and other organizations interested in getting some help writing (or rewriting) a code of ethics. Here are some tips and resources that can help smooth the process.

Top down or bottom up?
Though it may be tempting to form a committee of organization leaders to expedite the process, think about ways to give all the stakeholders a voice in the development of your organization’s code of ethics.

In 2005, CSEP started a project to develop a code of ethicsfor its home institution, Illinois Tech.  We hosted a series of focus groups of students, faculty, and staff and asked individuals to share some of the ethical questions and issues they regularly faced.  This approach helped us start an outline of what issues the Illinois Tech Code should cover and make the code relevant to all members of our community.

Don’t reinvent the wheel
Look at the codes of ethics of organizations similar to your own. While codes often have many similar provisions, others have come up with novel ways of providing guidance on issues such as communicating with the public or  upholding fair work practices.

Look outside your organization for help
Have questions? Don’t be afraid to reach out to other ethics committees, ethics and compliance officers, or other experts for help.  The Ethics and Compliance Officer Association, other professional associations both nationally and internationally, and the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics are all good ways to try and connect with individuals who can help in the process.  And, don’t forget, the CSEP Library can help put you in touch with experts in your field who have drafted codes of ethics before.

Try and build consensus
When putting together the Illinois Tech Code of Ethics, CSEP brought together a committee made of individuals who participated in the focus who helped to put together the draft version of the code. This committee then brought it to meetings of the student council, faculty council, and staff council for discussion and approval. Changes were made to the code after each meeting. The process can take time, but the final version proved to be stronger and accepted by the majority of the Illinois Tech community.

Codes are living documents
A good code of ethics should change over time to reflect new ethical challenges faced by an organization. For instance, the American Astronomical Society has been working this spring on a new draft of their code to better handle instances of sexual and other types of harassment. Other issues that might also call for an organization’s code to be revised might be issues of social media, privacy, or international collaborations.

Need more information?
Check out these resources for more help on writing or revising your organization’s code.

 The Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Affairs provides a number of examples that organizations can use in their code of ethics, including the descriptions of ethics and morality, the different kinds of codes, and even a process for developing a code of ethics that will include all organizational stakeholders.
 CSEP's newsletter, Perspectivesfeatured a Fall 1999 issue on Writing a Code of Ethics
 Creating A Code Of Ethics for Your Organization, with many suggested books, by Chris MacDonald
 The Ethics & Compliance Initiative  has a toolkit available for use, including tips, common code provisions, and other helpful guidance.
 The Deloitte Center for Corporate Governance offers a variety of resources for those who are active in governance, including a variety of resources and a set of suggested guidelines for writing a code of ethics or a code of conduct.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

New Publications on Codes of Ethics

Here is a quick roundup of some interesting articles we stumbled across recently looking at the ongoing usefulness of codes of ethics....

The code not taken: The path from guild ethics to torture and our continuing choices.
Pope, Kenneth S.
Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne, Vol 57(1), Feb 2016, 51-59.

Psychology’s controversial role in torture in settings like Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and Guantánamo fractured a comforting façade and raised questions about how we can best serve the profession. The controversy confronts us with choices about what our profession is, what it means, what it does—who we are, what we mean, what we do. It asks whether our lives and organisations reflect professional ethics or guild ethics. Professional ethics protect the public against abuse of professional power, expertise, and practice, and hold members accountable to values beyond self-interest. Guild ethics place members’ interests above public interest, edge away from accountability, and tend to masquerade as professional ethics. Psychology’s path to involvement in torture began before 9/11 and the “war on terror” with a move from professional ethics to guild ethics. In sharp contrast to its previous codes, APA’s 1992 ethics code reflected guild ethics, as did the subsequent 2002 code (APA, 2002). Guild ethics are reflected in the questionable nature of APA’s, 2006, 2007a, 2008a, and 2015 policies on interrogation and torture. This article examines tactics used to maintain the façade of professional ethics despite over a decade of publicized reports of documentary evidence of psychology’s organisational involvement in what came to be called “enhanced interrogations.” It asks if we use versions of these tactics in our individual lives. If a credible identity, integrity, and professional ethics are not reflected in our individual lives, it is unlikely they will thrive in our profession and organisations. 

Effectiveness and Content of Corporate Codes of Ethics as a Model for University Honor Codes
Katherine Hyatt (Reinhardt University, Waleska, GA, USA)
International Journal of Technology and Educational Marketing (IJTEM) 6(1)

DOI: 10.4018/IJTEM.2016010104

Reports of unethical behavior in the corporate, governmental, and academic settings are gaining attention. At least 50-70% of students have engaged in academic misconduct. Some colleges and universities have codes of conduct while others do not. However, the implementation of an effective code can deter academic dishonesty. This article discusses how corporate codes of ethics can be used as models for implementing university honor codes. Effective corporate codes of ethics have certain characteristics, are communicated appropriately, are accompanied by training, and become part of the culture of the organization. These elements and strategies can be applied by universities in order to deter cheating and other unethical behaviors.