citing this definition we are not advocating that every engineer should be an expert in science and technology and also be a sociologist, economist, and political scientist, although it would probably be advantageous if there were more such hybrids. It is rather that the engineering profession and the general public should have the image of the profession contained in the definition. Even if an individual engineer is best employed in designing a microsemiconductor chip, an automobile, an airplane, or a petrochemical plant, that engineer should think of his or her profession as being broader than his or her duties.
Not only the academies but virtually all other professional engineering societies, as well as the engineering departments of our universities, have tended in the past to be preoccupied with the science and technology basic to the engineering profession. The academies should encourage universities to introduce students—not just engineering students but all of them—to the idea that engineering not only encompasses the science and technology basic to engineering accomplishments but also links technology to its societal applications.
If the image of engineering is properly broadened, disseminated, and accepted, then the leadership of the engineering profession surely will come to play a much larger part in the society’s decision making as it arranges the way technological advances will alter the global economy and civilization in general. Much more often than they do today, engineering leaders will find themselves interested in adding the political dimension to their careers, and more will become leaders in government.
We should not realistically expect engineers to compete numerically with lawyers as members of the legislative bodies of the world. The medical profession probably furnishes a better example. Its leadership expects to be involved and listened to seriously when the government sets rules and regulations pertaining to the allocation of resources to protect the public’s health and to advance the field of medicine. Engineering leadership exerts much less influence in matching technology to societal needs. Engineers do mainly the technical work called for by the policy and priority decision-making process. The future must be different, and we can predict that it will be.