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11     <HEAD>
12     <TITLE>Professional ethics and Information Technology</TITLE>
13     <META name="Author" content="Andrew Pollock">
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21     <H1>Professional ethics and Information Technology</H1>
23     <H2>Introduction</H2>
24     <P>
25     This essay discusses the principles of ethics, both in their specific
26     application to the Information Technology profession, and to their
27     more general application to professional disciplines. In particular
28     the Codes of Ethics of the <EM>Australian Computer Society</EM> (ACS),
29     <EM>Association for Computing Machinery</EM> (ACM), and the
30     <EM>Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers</EM> (IEEE) are
31 apollock 1.3 examined. The <EM>Australian National University</EM> (ANU) code
32 apollock 1.1 <EM>Academic Honesty in Learning and Teaching</EM> is also examined to
33     highlight similarities between issues raised and those raised by the
34 apollock 1.3 above-mentioned professional societies. Finally, two real-world
35 apollock 1.1 scenarios will be presented and discussed within the context of
36     professional ethics.
37     </P>
39     <H2>Generic principles</H2>
40     <P>
41     There are a number of generic principles common to the various Codes
42 apollock 1.3 of Ethics of the professional societies examined. These principles are
43     not necessarily specific to the field of Information Technology, but
44     may relevant to many professional disciplines.
45 apollock 1.1 </P>
46 apollock 1.2
47     <P>
48     <DL>
49 apollock 1.3 <DT><STRONG>Essential moral behaviour</STRONG></DT>
50 apollock 1.2 <DD>
51 apollock 1.3 <P>
52     The various Codes of Ethics all contain directives regarding
53     what one could consider basic moral behaviour. Values such as
54     honesty, integrity, are all specifically referred to. Actions
55     must also be in the public or community interest, which means
56     that members of the various societies should take the wider
57     social implications of their actions into consideration.
58     </P>
60     <P>
61     This is the core of what makes the Code of Ethics a Code of
62     Ethics. Basic ethical behaviour is defined in ACS Code of
63     Ethics in section 4.1. This section specifically mentions the
64     profession of Information Technology, however there is
65     nothing IT specific in the rest of this item, so it could be
66     interchangeable with the medical profession, for example.
67     </P>
69     <P>
70 apollock 1.6 Similarly, the ACM breaks its Code of Ethics down into three
71 apollock 1.3 broad categories. The first, General Moral Imperatives, could
72     equally apply to most other professions. The sections
73 apollock 1.4 relating to intellectual property are vaguely more
74     IT-centric, however are still relevant to other professions
75     that might involve either personal or contracted creativity.
76 apollock 1.3 </P>
77 apollock 1.2 </DD>
79     <DT><STRONG>Competence</STRONG></DT>
80     <DD>
81 apollock 1.3 <P>
82     All the Codes of Conduct and Ethics highly value competence.
83     This is important, as incompetent workmanship can have a poor
84     reflection on the profession in general, regardless of what
85     that profession is.
86     </P>
88     <P>
89     This is closely related to ongoing professional development,
90     which is discussed next. Competence is an intangible, and as
91 apollock 1.4 such difficult to gauge in an individual. It is really up to
92 apollock 1.3 the individual to have some sense of self-assessment when it
93     comes to particular work.
94     </P>
95 apollock 1.2 </DD>
97     <DT><STRONG>Professional Development</STRONG></DT>
98     <DD>
99 apollock 1.3 <P>
100     For the same reasons as competence, ongoing professional
101     development is of paramount importance. All the societies
102     Codes reviewed specifically mention ongoing personal
103     development, as well as assisting fellow members to further
104     their development.
105     </P>
107     <P>
108     This is a significant point of all the Codes of Ethics. There
109     is little value in being a member of such a professional
110 apollock 1.6 society if it does not encourage its members to further
111 apollock 1.3 themselves, as professional development is something that
112     should never cease. It is also important to note that the
113     Codes state that members should encourage and support each
114     other in their personal development.
115     </P>
116 apollock 1.2 </DD>
118     <DT><STRONG>Fairness, equality and objectivity</STRONG></DT>
119     <DD>
120 apollock 1.3 <P>
121     All of the societies Codes examined specifically refer to
122     conducting oneself in an indiscriminate manner. The ACS
123     <EM>Code of Professional Conduct and Professional
124 apollock 1.6 Practice</EM> states: "Be objective, impartial and free of
125     conflicts of interest in the performance of your professional
126     duties" (ACS: 2003). The ACM specifically states that
127     "equality, tolerance and respect for others are important and
128     that violations of this policy will not be tolerated" (ACM:
129     1992), in their Code of Ethics. The IEEE's Code of Ethics
130     also states that members agree to "treat fairly
131     all persons regardless of such factors as race, religion,
132     gender, disability, age or national origin" (IEEE: 1990).
133 apollock 1.3 </DD>
135     <DT><STRONG>Promotion of the profession</STRONG></DT>
136     <DD>
137     <P>
138     Again, one could substitute the name of the profession for
139     any other, however, the ACS Code of Ethics and Code of
140     Professional Conduct specifically mention promoting and
141     protecting the image, and professionalism of Information
142     Technology and the society in general.
143     </P>
145     <P>
146     Naturally, any professional society is going to be an
147     advocacy body for that profession. One would expect to find
148     such promotion clauses in any professional society's Code of
149     Ethics.
150     </P>
151 apollock 1.2 </DD>
152     </DL>
154     <H2>Principles specific to Information Technology</H2>
155     <P>
156     There are a number of other principles stated in the various Codes of
157     Conduct that are more specific to the field of Information Technology,
158     because of the technical nature of the profession, or because they
159     relate to technological ethical issues.
160     </P>
162     <P>
163     <DL>
164     <DT><STRONG>Intellectual Property</STRONG></DT>
165     <DD>
166 apollock 1.3 <P>
167     Whilst not strictly related to Information Technology, this
168     is certainly an issue that crops up more often within this
169     field. The ACM Code of Ethics states that property rights
170     including copyrights and patents should be honoured, and
171     proper credit should be given for intellectual property. The
172     IEEE Code of Ethics states that members should credit
173     properly the contributions of others.
174     </P>
176     <P>
177     Interestingly, neither the ACS Code of Ethics or Code of
178     Professional Conduct and Professional Practice makes a
179     reference to "Intellectual Property", but the latter does
180     state that information is the property of the client, and
181 apollock 1.6 must not be distributed freely. One could argue that this is
182 apollock 1.3 covered under the section 4.7 of the ACS Code of Ethics
183 apollock 1.6 (Honesty), whereby section 4.7.6 states "I must give credit
184     for work done by others where credit is
185     due" (ACS: 2003) however, it could be argued successfully
186 apollock 1.3 that this is not specific enough to the area of intellectual
187     property and copyright, not prescriptive enough about when
188     "credit is due".
189 apollock 1.2 </DD>
191 apollock 1.3 <DT><STRONG>Authorised access to computing resources</STRONG></DT>
192 apollock 1.2 <DD>
193 apollock 1.3 <P>
194     The ACM Code of Conduct specifically mentions "trespassing
195 apollock 1.6 and unauthorised use of a computer or communication system"
196     (ACM: 1992). It goes on to say that individuals have the
197     right to restrict access insofar as it does not discriminate
198     unethically (as discussed earlier).
199 apollock 1.3 </P>
200 apollock 1.2 </DD>
202 apollock 1.3 <DT><STRONG>Evaluating computer systems</STRONG></DT>
203 apollock 1.2 <DD>
204 apollock 1.3 <P>
205     The ACM Code of Ethics has section 2.5 of their More Specific
206     Professional Responsibilities, which states members must
207 apollock 1.6 "give comprehensive and thorough evaluations of
208 apollock 1.3 computer systems and their impacts, including analysis of
209 apollock 1.6 possible risks" (ACM: 1992) and goes on to state that
210 apollock 1.3 computer professionals must be perceptive, thorough and
211     objective when making evaluations, recommendations and
212     presentations of system descriptions and alternatives. This
213     is relevant to the profession of IT, because IT professionals
214     tend to have their technical opinions viewed highly, as they
215     are considered subject-matter experts.
216 apollock 1.2 </DD>
217     </DL>
219     <H2>Similarities to ANU code</H2>
221     <P>
222     Whilst having nothing specifically to do with Information Technology,
223 apollock 1.6 the ANU code on <EM>Academic Honesty in Learning and Teaching</EM> has
224     a common point with those raised in the Codes of Conduct for the
225 apollock 1.3 various professional societies examined.
226 apollock 1.2 </P>
228     <P>
229     The most significant common point is of course the moral value of
230 apollock 1.3 being honest. This ANU code of practice defines academic honesty, and
231     also goes on to discuss originality and plagiarism. This is identical
232     in spirit to the intellectual property clause of the Codes of Ethics
233     for the ACM, and the statement of "giving credit where credit is
234     due" by the ACS, and properly crediting the contributions of others
235     in the IEEE's Code of Ethics.
236 apollock 1.2 </P>
238     <P>
239     The ANU code also defines the roles and responsibilities of various
240     levels of academics within the University, similar to how the various
241 apollock 1.3 societies Codes state that members should assist other members to
242 apollock 1.2 further themselves to be better members. Similarly, University
243 apollock 1.3 academics should provide guidance to students in matters of academic
244     honesty.
245 apollock 1.2 </P>
247     <H2>Case studies</H2>
249     <P>
250 apollock 1.6 In conclusion, two case studies will be discussed. The first one is a
251 apollock 1.2 hypothetical ANU student who attained an IT degree with a lot of
252     assistance from his/her friends, doing a lot of collaboration on
253     assignment work, and getting good marks for them, but average marks
254     for examinations. This student then attains employment somewhere in
255     Canberra.
256     </P>
258     <P>
259 apollock 1.6 The second example is an employee working on an application project. He
260     gets a brilliant idea, outside of the scope of the existing project,
261 apollock 1.2 that he believes will make an improvement to this application, and
262     other related applications. The contract he has signed states that the
263     work carried out on the project belongs to this organisation he is
264     working for.
265     </P>
267 apollock 1.3 <H3>Case study 1: The average student who had a lot of help from his friends</H3>
268 apollock 1.2
269     <P>
270 apollock 1.6 This situation is difficult to monitor, and can potentially cause a
271     lot of problems. The negative consequence of this scenario is that
272     this student has attained an IT degree that isn't necessarily
273     indicative of his/her own abilities. This is most likely going to
274     become evident when the employee is unable to conduct themselves
275     competently in their field of employment. The possible victims of
276     this negative scenario are both the student/employee and the
277     organisation employing him/her.
278 apollock 1.2 </P>
280     <P>
281     Eventually it is going to come to the point where the employee has to
282     gain sufficient competence to carry out his/her employment, or the
283     employer has to cease employing the student, due to their
284     incompetence. This ultimately boils down to misrepresentation, in that
285     the student didn't accurately represent their competence to the
286     employer in the first place.
287     </P>
289     <P>
290     The negative repercussions could be more significant depending on the
291     nature of the employment of the student. If the student was engaged in
292     a role that may have a direct impact on the public, this incompetence
293     could, in the worst case, directly impact on other peoples lives.
294     </P>
296 apollock 1.6 <P>
297     The other victim is the ANU, as whilst the student is seen to have
298     exited successfully from one of its degree programs, the student's
299     actual competency is probably lower than the employer would expect for
300     a degree-holder. This then lowers the value of a degree in the
301     employer's view, and gives the potential for employers to hold ANU
302     graduates in lower regard than perhaps they should me.
303     </P>
305 apollock 1.3 <H3>Case study 2: The employee with the work-related brilliant idea</H3>
306 apollock 1.2
307     <P>
308     In the case of the employee with the brilliant idea, if it is just an
309     idea, the organisation he works for cannot readily claim ownership of
310     it. If the employee develops anything on company time or resources,
311     based on that idea, then it rightly becomes property of the
312     organisation. If this is the case, and the employee wishes to take the
313     idea outside of the organisation, the only ethical thing to do would
314 apollock 1.3 be to seek permission from the employer to do so. Anything less would
315 apollock 1.2 constitute theft of the organisation's intellectual property.
316     </P>
317 apollock 1.3
318 apollock 1.6 <P>
319     There is nothing stopping the employee from using the idea for
320     improvement within the company he is working for, though. If the idea
321     he has had can be applied to other projects within his organisation,
322     then he is only being dilligent by raising the idea as an enhancement
323     to existing processes.
324     </P>
326 apollock 1.3 <H2>Bibliography</H2>
327 apollock 1.6
328     <P>
329     ACS Code of Ethics, Australian Computing Society, 2003,
330     http://www.acs.org.au/static/national/pospaper/acs131.htm
331     </P>
333     <P>
334     ACS Code of Professional Conduct And Professional Ethics, Australian
335     Computing Society, 2003,
336     http://www.acs.org.au/static/national/pospaper/codeprof.htm
337     </P>
339     <P>
340     ACM Code of Ethics, Association for Computing Machinery, 1992,
341     http://www.acm.org/serving/se/code.htm
342     </P>
344     <P>
345     IEEE Code of Ethics, Institute of Electrical and Electronic
346     Engineers, 1990,
347 apollock 1.7 http://www.ieee.org/portal/index.jsp?pageID=corp_level1&amp;path=about/whatis&amp;file=code.xml&amp;xsl=generic.xsl
348 apollock 1.6 </P>
350     <P>
351     Academic Honesty in Learning and Teaching, The Australian National
352     University, 2003,
353     http://info.anu.edu.au/policies/Codes_Of_Practice/Education/Other/Academic_Honesty.asp
354     </P>
355 apollock 1.1 </BODY>
357     </HTML>

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