GUEST EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION

by Ron Vetter

July 2009 
Professional Ethics

Ron Vetter

Computer science practitioners deal with ethical challenges daily. How they deal with these challenges has ramifications that go beyond personal responsibility; often, the health, safety, and welfare of the public are at stake. This month, Computing Now covers professional ethics, which concerns what computing professionals should and shouldn’t do in the workplace. It involves behaviors that govern ethically responsible decisions.

Three of this month’s articles come from Computer magazine’s June 2009 issue on software engineering ethics. In "Software Engineering Ethics in a Digital World," guest editors Awais Rashid, John Weckert, and Richard Lucas conclude that ethical issues can be addressed by better design and testing, legislation, and education of users. This conclusion highlights the range of ethical considerations that software developers must take into account when developing systems. In "Ensuring Trust, Privacy, and Etiquette in Web 2.0 Applications," Amela Karahasanovic and her coauthors identify important user requirements for Web 2.0 applications and advocate a reconsideration of ethical norms in light of these emerging applications. In "The Public is the Priority: Making Decisions Using the Software Engineering Code of Ethics,' Donald Gotterbarn and Keith W. Miller describe how the software engineering code of ethics and professional practice can be used as a decision-making aid when ethical conflicts arise.

The remaining articles discuss the importance of ethical obligations, including professionalism and trustworthiness, in establishing a strong track record in professional ethics. In 'Professional and Ethical Dilemmas in Software Engineering," Brian Berenbach and Manfred Broy categorize nine typical ethical dilemmas and the corresponding behavior that software engineers encounter in everyday practice. They conclude that recognizing such dilemmas will make it easier to determine when they are occurring and to stop or mitigate them. In "Professional Essence," Robert Fabian argues that the key to being accepted as a professional by the public is to consistently demonstrate your trustworthiness in both intent and practice. Last, in "The Ethical Software Engineer," Duncan Hall describes some of the traits, standards, and practices that make for an ethical professional.

We hope you enjoy this Computing Now theme on professional ethics. Be sure to complete the online poll and give your opinion on the different aspects of this topic.

Ron Vetter is the cofounder of Mobile Education, LLC and a professor in the Computer Science Department at UNC Wilmington. He's also a member of Computer magazine's editorial board. Contact him at http://people.uncw.edu/vetterr.

Related links

Professional Ethics

Software Engineering Ethics in a Digital World
Ethics are increasingly important in the digital world. Ethics-aware software engineering takes ethics into account across the software development life cycle.

Ensuring Trust, Privacy, and Etiquette in Web 2.0 Applications
Learn about the most important ethics-related requirements in Web 2.0 applications and how to develop features that support these requirements.

The Public is the Priority: Making Decisions Using the Software Engineering Code of Ethics
The Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice encourages software engineers to undertake positive actions and to resist pressures to act unethically.

Professional and Ethical Dilemmas in Software Engineering
Placing ethical dilemmas in the context of the IEEE code of conduct can increase awareness and decrease the frequency with which such dilemmas occur.

Professional Essence
The key to being accepted as a professional by the public is to consistently demonstrate your trustworthiness.

The Ethical Software Engineer
What is the value of ethical behavior to a practicing software engineer? What are the implications of complying with a professional society’s code of ethics?

Professional Ethics

Software Engineering Ethics in a Digital World
Ethics are increasingly important in the digital world. Ethics-aware software engineering takes ethics into account across the software development life cycle.

Ensuring Trust, Privacy, and Etiquette in Web 2.0 Applications
Learn about the most important ethics-related requirements in Web 2.0 applications and how to develop features that support these requirements.

The Public is the Priority: Making Decisions Using the Software Engineering Code of Ethics
The Software Engineering Code of Ethics and Professional Practice encourages software engineers to undertake positive actions and to resist pressures to act unethically.

Professional and Ethical Dilemmas in Software Engineering
Placing ethical dilemmas in the context of the IEEE code of conduct can increase awareness and decrease the frequency with which such dilemmas occur.

Professional Essence
The key to being accepted as a professional by the public is to consistently demonstrate your trustworthiness.

The Ethical Software Engineer
What is the value of ethical behavior to a practicing software engineer? What are the implications of complying with a professional society’s code of ethics?

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