9320166 Davis Engineers sometimes claim that their status as employees denies them the autonomy necessary to be true professionals. The purpose of this research is to provide a framework for answering the question whether and when engineers have enough autonomy in the workplace to act as professionals. To provide this framework, the research will bring recent philosophical analysis of moral autonomy to bear on the question of professional autonomy, will draw relevant material from earlier work on the autonomy of engineers in the workplace to examine the conditions for professional autonomy there, and will sketch programs of empirical research that might build on these results to answer questions about the actual professional autonomy of engineers. The research aims to develop a position on professions and autonomy that can pass three tests: It must be consistent with working in a large organization; it must be empirically testable: and it must be useful in evaluating whether different kinds of work organization will impede or enhance professional autonomy. This research contributes to three fields, the sociology of engineering, the philosophy of professions, and engineering ethics. A better developed conception of professional autonomy may help with other practical questions in the ethics of engineering and science. Current conceptions of moral autonomy applied to the workplace do not help us to understand either the moral implications of professional constraints or the general consistency of corporate organization and professional responsibility. Because the proposed project would help us to understand engineers in context, it should contribute as well to overall understanding of what engineers do. Results will be disseminated through presentations and articles. ***

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Rachelle D. Hollander
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Illinois Institute of Technology
United States
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