Global society is facing formidable current and future problems that threaten the prospects for justice and peace, sustainability, and the well-being of humanity both now and in the future. Many of these problems are related to science and technology and to how they function in the world. If the social responsibility of scientists and engineers implies a duty to safeguard or promote a peaceful, just and sustainable world society, then science and engineering education should empower students to fulfil this responsibility. The contributions to this special issue present European examples of teaching social responsibility to students in science and engineering, and provide examples and discussion of how this teaching can be promoted, and of obstacles that are encountered. Speaking generally, education aimed at preparing future scientists and engineers for social responsibility is presently very limited and seemingly insufficient in view of the enormous ethical and social problems that are associated with current science and technology. Although many social, political and professional organisations have expressed the need for the provision of teaching for social responsibility, important and persistent barriers stand in the way of its sustained development. What is needed are both bottom-up teaching initiatives from individuals or groups of academic teachers, and top-down support to secure appropriate embedding in the university. Often the latter is lacking or inadequate. Educational policies at the national or international level, such as the Bologna agreements in Europe, can be an opportunity for introducing teaching for social responsibility. However, frequently no or only limited positive effect of such policies can be discerned. Existing accreditation and evaluation mechanisms do not guarantee appropriate attention to teaching for social responsibility, because, in their current form, they provide no guarantee that the curricula pay sufficient attention to teaching goals that are desirable for society as a whole.
Journal review article
Science and Engineering Ethics, 2013, Vol 19, Issue 4, p. 1413-1438