The National Academies Press is a great place to look for discussions and summaries about research on the cutting edge of the sciences. Their reports are often free to read online (sometimes free to download in their entirety as PDFs). Importantly, even when the topic is rather technical, the authors strive to keep the reports succinct and approachable by people outside the field (as best they can).
Given the current situation in Haiti, many engineers or people making use of engineers may find the following very brief report worth a glance, a skim, or even a read: Engineering, Social Justice, and Sustainable Community Development: Summary of a Workshop. Some presenters for the workshop were engineers discussing their work in locations following crises. (Note that the online version is a prepublication copy.)
At a glance, a major theme seemed to be that young engineers working in crises will find that they may be quickly taken out of their area of expertise and working with low-quality information in a fast-past environment. On the topic of planning projects that are sustainable and ethical, presenters emphasized the need to work with local knowledge and address local populations’ concerns; the skills for doing this, it was noted, are not something that many engineering education programs may not emphasize.
From the description:
Engineering, Social Justice, and Sustainable Community Development is the first in a series of biennial workshops on the theme of engineering ethics and engineering leadership. This workshop addresses conflicting positive goals for engineering projects in impoverished areas and areas in crisis. These conflicts arise domestically as well as in international arenas. The goals of project sponsors and participants, which are often implicit, include protecting human welfare, ensuring social justice, and striving for environmental sustainability alongside the more often explicit goal of economic development or progress.
The workshop, summarized in this volume, discussed how to achieve the following:
- Improve research in engineering ethics.
- Improve engineering practice in situations of crisis and conflict.
- Improve engineering education in ethics and social issues.
- Involve professional societies in these efforts.