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Ethics and Justice in Environmental Science and Engineering

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Abstract: Science and engineering are built on trust. C.P. Snow's famous quote, "the only ethical principle which has made science possible is that the truth shall be told all the time" underscores the importance of honesty in science. Environmental scientists must do work that is useful to people. And, society trusts that what scientists and engineers do will perform "without fail." But we know that everything fails as a function of time and physical conditions. Numerous factors can influence the useful lifetime of what environmental scientists conceive and what engineers design. Characterizing environmental failures requires an understanding of the physical science, but also the roles of psychology, sociology, and the other social sciences in environmental outcomes. Environmental engineering case studies will be examined from the perspectives of various ethical decision making frameworks and, in particular, how both the social and physical sciences have influenced decisions leading to engineering successes and failures. The cases include the disaster response to the collapse of the World Trade Center towers and environmental justice. These cases hold other valuable lessons for the design professions, especially how engineers can improve risk assessment and risk communications, and how to present technical information in ways that are respectful of the diversity of how this information may be perceived (or misperceived) by various audiences. Of particular interest to the Shaw University Visiting Scientist Program, the cases will explore the value of academic integrity early in a student's life, and how early moral and ethical decisions may have consequences later in one's career.

This work has been funded wholly by the U.S. EPA under assistance agreement #CT-828851-01 to Shaw University. It has been approved by the Agency for publication.


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Citation:Vallero, D. A. Ethics and Justice in Environmental Science and Engineering. Presented at Shaw University Visiting Scientists Program, Raleigh, NC, November 16, 2002.
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Contact: Liz Hope - (919) 541-2785 or hope.elizabeth@epa.gov
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Division: Human Exposure & Atmospheric Sciences Division
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Branch: Exposure Measurements & Analysis Branch
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Product Type: Abstrct/Oral
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Presented: 11/16/2002
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