July 2009 Theme:
Professional Ethics
Guest Editor's Introduction by 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,” (login required for full text) 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,” (login required for full text) 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,” (login required for full text) 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,” (login required for full text) 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,” (login required for full text) 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,” (login required for full text) 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.

Related Resources

Guest Editor

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.