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Great Problems of Grand Challenges: Problematizing Engineering's Understandings of its Role in Society

Publication Abstract

Cech, Erin A. 2012. "Great Problems of Grand Challenges: Problematizing Engineering's Understandings of its Role in Society." International Journal of Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace, 1(2): 85-94.

The U.S. National Academy of Engineering's Grand Challenges for Engineering report has received a great deal of attention from legislators, policymakers, and educators, but what does it entail for social justice considerations in engineering? This article situates the Grand Challenges report as a cultural artifact of the engineering profession-an artifact that works to reinforce engineering's professional culture, recruit new members, and reassert engineering's legitimacy in the 21st century. As such, the Grand Challenges report provides a unique opportunity to understand and critique the role engineering envisions for itself in society. The articles in this special issue of IJESJP identify four central critiques of Grand Challenges: authorial particularism, double standards in engineering's contributions to these challenges, bracketing of the "social" from "technical" realms, and deterministic definitions of progress. These critiques call for increased reflexivity and broadened participation in how engineers define problems and attempt to solve them.

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