Ethical issues in engineering models: An operations researcher's reflections

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This article starts with an overview of the author’s personal involvement—as an Operations Research consultant—in several engineering case-studies that may raise ethical questions; e.g., case-studies on nuclear waste, water management, sustainable ecology, military tactics, and animal welfare. All these case studies employ computer simulation models. In general, models are meant to solve practical problems, which may have ethical implications for the various stakeholders; namely, the modelers, the clients, and the public at large. The article further presents an overview of codes of ethics in a variety of disciples. It discusses the role of mathematical models, focusing on the validation of these models’ assumptions. Documentation of these model assumptions needs special attention. Some ethical norms and values may be quantified through the model’s multiple performance measures, which might be optimized. The uncertainty about the validity of the model leads to risk or uncertainty analysis and to a search for robust models. Ethical questions may be pressing in military models, including war games. However, computer games and the related experimental economics may also provide a special tool to study ethical issues. Finally, the article briefly discusses whistleblowing. Its many references to publications and websites enable further study of ethical issues in modeling.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-552
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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