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On the Importance of Teaching Professional Ethics to Computer Science Students
In recent years there has been an increase in the general public awareness of the ethical aspects of technology. The attention given by the media to computer-related disasters in technical systems such as the explosion of the Ariane 5 rocket in 1996 and the Therac-25 computerized radiation machine overdoses has stimulated interest in Computer Ethics. Most engineering is performed within profit-making organizations operating within a complex structure of societal and regulatory constraints. Engineering has a direct and vital impact on the quality of life of people and the services provided by engineers are required to take into consideration the safety, health and welfare of the public. Engineering Ethics is therefore of relevance to the majority of people within Computing. Research Ethics or Educational Ethics apply to those professionals in Computing who are active within research and education. Other branches of Ethics such as Healthcare Ethics and similar may apply to other Computing professionals. The field of Computing has its own particular ethical problems that are important to address and therefore Computer Ethics has developed as a specific field of study. It is vital to recognize that prudent ethical judgment is a crucial, integral part of professional computing skills. A code of professional ethics appears when an occupation organizes itself into a profession. It is central to advising individual professionals how to conduct themselves, in judging their conduct, and to an understanding of a profession. The aim of this paper is to shed light upon the significance of teaching ethical issues in the field of Computing. It argues that education in ethics should be incorporated into computing curricula. Experience from the course Professional Ethics in Science and Engineering given at Mälardalen University in Sweden is presented.