Recognizing Those Who Do the Right Thing

New award honors ethical behavior

4 May 2012

Who deserves the first-ever IEEE Award for Distinguished Ethical Practices? Unlike the many IEEE awards that recognize technical achievements, this one honors exemplary behavior in a professional context.

Our professional lives often land us in morally ambiguous situations. For example, is a free lunch a bribe? What about a free diamond ring? Is it fair to deny a promotion to someone because he doesn’t speak English like a native? What about considering the candidate’s ethnicity, gender, or age? Should a member of a manufacturing team speak out if a home entertainment product performs unreliably? What about a critical medical device?

Sometimes the law constrains behavior, but many times social norms or a code of conduct guides us. The IEEE Code of Ethics provides such guidance for IEEE members. Its 10 points summarize how our community of engineers defines ethical and professional conduct. As reading material goes, a code of ethics is pretty dry stuff. It takes a good example to bring it to life.

We often turn to people we respect so we can learn the right thing to do. If you know an IEEE member who has demonstrated exemplary ethical behavior or has persuasively advocated for more ethical behavior, consider making a nomination. Organizations that employ IEEE members and have instituted commendable ethical practices are also eligible for nomination.

Help IEEE recognize those who demonstrate how to do the right thing. The nomination deadline for the award is 1 July.

Clinton J. Andrews, an IEEE senior member, is chair of the IEEE Ethics and Member Conduct Committee.

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