PE Ethics Workshop IV Truths, Half-truths, Deception, Omissions, and Outright Lies

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Course Overview

Enroll to view a recording of this past live event and complete your 2-hour ethics requirement.

For course fee and schedule information, please select "View Details" under upcoming dates on this page.

Past EPD ethics workshops explored the role of codes of ethics in the profession, the value of moral theories in analyzing dilemmas, gut thinking versus rational decision-making, and the organizational, psychological, and financial pressures that can affect ethical decisions. This workshop will delve deeper into the cognitive biases that can derail otherwise good people. We are particularly interested in the presence and impact of lies, deception, "cleaning up" of data, and deliberate omissions in professional engineering.

Some might argue that these acts are the very definition of "unprofessional" behavior, and thus have no place in a workshop on professional engineering ethics. Indeed, the National Society of Professional Engineeers' (NSPE) Code of Ethics exhorts engineers to "avoid deceptive acts," and further, to "avoid the use of statements containing a material misrepresentation of the facts or omitting a material fact." But, what counts as "material" or "immaterial" may differ from stakeholder to stakeholder. Some engineers may respond that they simply stick with the facts, and in doing so, they run no risk of being considered deceptive. Behavioral scientists and philosophers note that determining the relevancy of facts is not trivial, and can be quite subject to personal biases. As Clancy Martin has written, "Much of what we suppose we know to be true may be self-serving lies we are telling ourselves...and this fact of course considerably complicates our ability to tell the truth to others."

Course Outline

During this ethics workshop, you will:

  • Analyze discipline-specific cases that involve factual distortions and omissions of information
  • Identify common rationalizations for being less than transparent with clients, colleagues, and the general public
  • Practice strategies for speaking up for our values in spite of the cynicism of others


Laura Grossenbacher

Laura Grossenbacher, PhD, is the Director of the Technical Communication Program in the College of Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has been teaching courses in engineering communication for over twenty years. Dr. Grossenbacher has been an active member of the Association for Practical and Profession Ethics, serving as a judge at the National Ethics Bowl Intercollegiate Competition for several years. She has served a three-year rotation as an NSF proposal reviewer for the Ethics in Engineering and Science Education panel, and actively develops cases for her undergraduate capstone course, Contemporary Issues in International Engineering.

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Program Director

Joy Altwies

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