American Society of Civil Engineers

Institutional Oversight to Enhance Integrity in Research

by Richard H. McCuen, M.ASCE, (Prof., Dept. of Civ. Engrg., Univ. of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742)

Journal of Professional Issues in Engineering, Vol. 116, No. 1, January 1990, pp. 27-37, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: Because of the apparent increase in unprofessional conduct, oversight of research is being considered as an alternative for enhancing professional integrity in research. Since those who have been involved in unprofessional conduct often cite pressure as the driving force underlying their conduct, two types of pressure, overt and perceived, are defined. The use of rationalization in defending unethical behavior is also discussed. A recent Institute of Medicine report has proposed a number oversight mechanisms for medical research. Because similar oversight mechanisms may be given consideration in engineering research, the pros and cons of institutional oversight are addressed. Discussions on the responsibility for oversight and the initiation of oversight are provided. Four forms of oversight are discussed: Organizational codes of ethics; appointment of an ombudsman for oversight; value education; and supervision and mentoring. The voluntary adoption of internal oversight programs can reduce the likelihood of mandatory external oversight programs.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Standards and codes
Professional practice