Ethics in Mission and Safety Critical Software Engineering

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Ethics in Mission and Safety Critical Software Engineering “Engineering has a direct and vital impact on the quality of life for all people.” 1 It is by this premise that engineering codes of ethics have been written to outline professional standards for both managers and engineers. Exhibiting the highest standards of honesty and integrity are imperative for the protection of public health, safety, and welfare.2 When ethical principles are compromised, the risk of endangering others greatly increases, especially with mission and safety critical systems. Extreme consequences include not only complete mission failures and great financial loss, but also fatalities. Though most engineering accidents are associated with aerospace, mechanical, civil, or even electrical engineering (due to the nature of these disciplines such that the end products are actually tangible objects), an increasing number of accidents in software engineering have brought attention to the importance of ethics in information technology. Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice The Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice is the public policy developed by the IEEE Computer Society (CS) and the Association of Computer Machinery (ACM). The IEEE-CS is dedicated to “advancing the theory, practice, and application, of computer and information processing technology.” 3 With more than 100,000 members, it hails itself as the world's leading organization of computer professionals. The ACM serves the same purpose as the IEEE-CS but also encompasses membership for computing students. Both organizations are highly respected among the engineering community and both include membership and offices worldwide. With regards... ... middle of paper ... ...e Patriot Missile System,” University of Notre Dame, http://www.cse.nd.edu/~kwb/nsf-ufe/safety-baalman.html (3 June 2003). 6 “Reports and Papers on Accidents and Accident Models,” Massachusetts Institute of Technology, http://sunnyday.mit.edu/accidents/ (1 June 2003). 7 Hiroshi Sogame & Peter Ladkin, "Nagoya A300 - Aircraft Accident Investigation Report 96-5," Hiroshi Sogame & Peter Ladkin, 1996, http://www.techfak.uni-bielefeld.de/~ladkin/nagoyarep/nagoya-top.html (3 June 2003). 8 “Accident Description,” Aviation Safety Network, 20 April 2003, http://aviation-safety.net/database/1995/951220-1.htm (1 June 2003). 9 "Mars Polar Lander," National Space Science Data Center Master Catalog: Spacecraft, 7 May 2003, http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/tmp/1999-001A.html (4 June 2003).

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