What Do We Mean When We Write About Ethics, Equity, And Justice In Engineering Design?


Anastasia K. Ostrowski

Anastasia K. Ostrowski

Aug. 7, 2022


Das, M., Roeder, G., Ostrowski, A.K., Yang, M., & Verma, A. (2022). What Do We Mean When We Write About Ethics, Equity, And Justice In Engineering Design? Proceedings of the ASME 2022 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference IDETC/CIE2022


Engineering design often requires engaging with users, clients, and stakeholders of products and systems. It is therefore important for designers to reflect on the societal and environmental implications of their design work so that they can design equitably, ethically, and justly. We conduct a review of three leading scholarly engineering design venues to investigate how, when, and why these terms – “ethics,” “equity,” and “justice,” and variations — appear in the engineering design literature and what scholars mean when they use them. We find that these terms are minimally present within the field’s scholarship and posit that design researchers may be using other terms to refer to their work that is aligned with principles of ethics, equity, and justice. We find that the prevalence of these terms has increased over time and that the terms come up throughout various stages of the design process. There appear to be a variety of motivations for including these terms, notably, sustainability and education of the next generation of designers. Finally, we propose an expanded design justice framework that is specific to engineering design. We encourage designers in our field to adopt this framework to assist them in thinking through how their engineering design work can be used to advance justice.

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