Living for a “higher purpose” is what has driven the human morality for centuries. And, of course, higher purpose typically means living for something bigger than oneself, such as pursuit of knowledge, the environment, and service to others. Although one can argue that “something” could be the betterment of oneself as a noble higher purpose.
In the discussion of Whistleblowing, Michael Davis1 points out how “Whistleblowing is one way engineers have to show that the public safety, health, and welfare means more to them than employer, career, even their own material welfare”. I would also add that this is not only a way to show their commitment to public safety, but also a moral obligation; that is when whistleblowing is justifiably called for. While the issue of justifiability may be a reason that whistleblowing is sometimes discouraged and/or feared. The notion that whistleblowing should be avoided seems plausible, but perhaps not realistic. In some ways, our system of checks and balances is based on the notion of whistleblowing to prevent wrongdoing and abuse of power. The preventive measures discussed by Davis are relevant and applicable to today’s organizations and are good strategic advice to starting, as well as experienced, professionals. To me the most important is giving careful consideration to the organization that one aims to work for. Although in this regard when I think about the DC lead crisis and the press conference role-playing, I recall my reasoning for choosing the DC Department of Health official (Dr. Lynette Stokes) as my No. 1 role. My selection was based on the desire to be in a position directly involved with the public and be able to offer front-line help and support. Obviously, in retrospect, one can see that the mission statement of an organization is not always reflective of the conduct of its management and/or employees.
On the discussion of “The Media Business” 2 one cannot argue that media coverage has political implications and impacts public perception in positive and negative ways; and the issue of “newsworthiness” remains relevant in science and engineering reporting. In today’s digital world, the expansion of media outlets offers the public many channels to gain information from. In this regard, the public’s understating of the science should not be underestimated, and in fact should be considered as “corrective force and source of accountability” 3 as voiced by some scientists. As we heard directly from Andy and Shelli Bressler during our last lecture, a lot of information that helped the DC citizens such as Bressle was gathered through the internet and news media.
- Davis, M. 1998. “Avoiding the Tragedy of Whistleblowing.” In Thinking Like an Engineer: Studies in the Ethics of a Profession, pp. 73-82. New York, NY and Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
- Miller, N. 2009. “The Media Business.” In Environmental Politics: Stakeholders, Interest, and Policymaking, 2nd ed., pp. 149-165. New York and London: Routledge.
3. Sismondo, S. 2010. “The Public Understanding of Science.” In An Introduction to Science and Technology Studies, 2nd ed., pp. 168-179. West Sussex, UK: Wiley- Blackwell.