[grand rounds presentation] the washington dc lead crisis (2001-2004): prelude to flint 2015

“The Washington DC Lead Crisis (2001-2004): Prelude to Flint 2015” is the pediatric grand rounds presentation that Principal Investigator (PI) Marc Edwards was invited to give at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, MI in December 2015.

In this talk, Marc highlights key events in the history of the DC lead-in-water contamination and the large-scale public health harm that ensued. It illustrates that the main cause of both the crisis and its destructive aftermath was systematic and escalating misconduct by engineers and scientists in government agencies whose very mission it was to protect the public’s health. The central question Marc raises is:

What messages do engineers’ and scientists’ workplaces communicate that foster institutional cultures of willful blindness to wrongdoing and of cowardice in preventing or stopping harm? And what price are engineers and scientists willing to pay to rise above these cultures and defend the public’s welfare when such welfare is in jeopardy?

Here’s the link to Marc’s talk.

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[podcast] lead in drinking water: is flint a washington dc 2.0 and other tales

This is a conversation with co-Principal Investigator (co-PI) Yanna Lambrinidou.

Against the backdrop of the Washington, DC 2001-2004 and Flint, MI 2015-2016 lead-in-water crises, the Podcast explores questions about the nature and prevalence of lead in US drinking water, the federal Lead and Copper Rule (LCR), and troubling complexities in the Rule’s revisions-making process. It also discusses the often-overlooked work of affected publics, which in the case of lead in water have played a catalytic role in exposing (and sometimes redressing) negligence or wrongdoing by engineers, scientists, policy-makers, and lawmakers alike.

Featured are personal reflections on the experience of public health activism in the face of professional misconduct, as well as questions about increasingly popular initiatives for the inclusion of diverse publics into the production of engineering/scientific knowledge (e.g., “public participation,” “citizen science,” “service learning”). The Podcast concludes with comments about the inspiration behind Yanna’s and Marc’s graduate class “Engineering Ethics and the Public.” 

This conversation was produced by Virginia Tech graduate student and Flint Water Study communications director Siddhartha Roy.

[class lecture] ethics and the new engineering

“Ethics and the New Engineering” is a talk to the Fall 2014 class of “Engineering Ethics and the Public” by Taft Broome, Jr., ScD, Professor of Civil Engineering at Howard University and Project Advisor to “Bridging the Gap Between Engineers and Society: Learning to Listen.”

In this presentation, Dr. Broome combines modern and ancient history, philosophy, science, engineering, and engineering ethics to pose questions about how engineers are conditioned to view the world and their role in it, whether morally-sound engineering practice necessitates a paradigm shift in the engineering worldview, and what it would take to bring about such a shift.

[tedx talk] heroic by nature, cowardly by convenience

This is the 2013 TEDx Virginia Tech talk by Principal Investigator (PI) Marc Edwards.

Drawing on the history of the DC Lead Crisis, this talk looks at the paradoxical treatment to which our society often subjects workplace whistleblowers, which leaves such individuals routinely ostracized rather than celebrated. Marc suggests that one of the reasons for this paradox is the human tendency to inflate our virtues and downplay our weaknesses, which can foster in us moral blindness and inertia.

In the world of engineering and science, the talk suggests that this tendency is reinforced through training that conditions practitioners to be “cowards of convenience.” It concludes with a call to engineers and scientists for learning to see, when they would have been willfully blind, and to act, when they would have allowed fear to paralyze them. 

[workshop video] messages to engineers and scientists

This short video compilation features messages to engineers/scientists from six environmental health advocates that include a scientist whistleblower and members of affected publics. It highlights reflections on who “the public” is, what engineers/scientists should keep in mind when interacting with “the public,” and how to think about:

  • The public’s welfare
  • Public participation in engineering/science
  • One’s professional responsibility when one witnesses workplace wrongdoing that could result in public harm.

This video was part of the National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored graduate ethics education workshop “Bridging the Gap Between Engineers and Society: Learning to Listen” that the project’s Principal Investigator (PI) and co-Principal Investigator (co-PI) gave at the 2013 Association of Environmental Engineering & Science Professors (AEESP) 50th Anniversary Conference in Golden, CO.