Volume 17.3 – Engineering the truth??


Phil Jump reflects on the morality of engineers in the wake of Volkswagen scandal, and suggests that “much is required of those to whom much is given”

As someone whose background is in engineering, it has been somewhat comforting to avoid the barrage of moral outrage that has beset other professions in recent years. Retailers and coffee chains might avoid tax; the financial sector limp from scandal to scandal; even charities of late have been accused of rather dubious fundraising practices. But surely not engineers – we’re the good guys who make things, fix them when they’re broken and invent stuff that makes everyone else’s lives better. But in the ongoing saga of corporate misdemeanour – engineers are now in the spotlight.

I am of course referring to the scandal that has embroiled the German car manufacturer Volkswagen. In short it seems that their very clever engineers have worked out a way of enabling a car to sense that it is being tested, reduce its emissions accordingly, then return the engine to a state of better driving performance once the test is complete. So now engineers too are counted amongst those who cannot be trusted.

The Volkswagon story, with its steady stream of public apologies has fought for media air space with another of those seemingly perpetual scandal stories of FIFA’s mismanagement and corruption. Sepp Blatter, it seems really, really has been forced to stand down…