About the Book

Citizen Engineer is a fusion of ideas, information, advice, and opinions from the authors, their colleagues, and dozens of other sources, brought together to provide you with the tools and insights you’ll need to maximize your success in a new era of socially responsible engineering.

The information in these pages will be most relevant to engineers who design and build “things”—engineers in fields such as electronic/computer engineering, software engineering, mechanical engineering, materials engineering, automotive engineering, and so forth—although we believe engineers in all disciplines, managers of engineers, and even consumers will find useful information in this book. We’ve divided the book into four parts.

  • Part I: Advent of the Citizen Engineer defines “Citizen Engineer,” describes the trends that have led us to this new era of socially responsible engineering, and discusses what it all means—to engineers, to businesses, and to our society.
  • Part II: Environmental Responsibility provides practical “how-to” information and resources to help you minimize the environmental impact of the products and services you’re designing. It gives you an overview of what you need to know, things you need to consider, and what you need to do as you create ecologically and economically sound products, including (to name just a few topics):
    • Understanding and calculating the complete impact of a product or service
    • Defining strategies for key impacts such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and water usage
    • Trends in environmental regulations
    • Whether “carbon neutrality” is sufficient as a business goal
  • Part III: Intellectual Responsibility includes basic information about patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, nondisclosure agreements, standards, and licenses—and offers practical advice about how to maximize the economic opportunities intellectual property (IP) law presents while avoiding the potential pitfalls. For example, we discuss:
    • The role of patents and when and how to file them
    • How to encourage other engineers to adopt and amplify your ideas
    • Pros and cons of various software licenses
    • Whether our system of IP controls maximizes innovation fairly
    • How to build communities to innovate and amplify your ideas
  • Part IV: Bringing It to Life takes a look at some of the ways engineers—and engineering schools—are responding to the new realities and requirements of the new era, including
    • The growing momentum behind broader curricula in engineering schools
    • Advice for recent graduates and newly hired engineers
    • Examples of interesting projects with which Citizen Engineers
      are involved worldwide

You’ll notice that the greatest emphasis falls on two broad topics that may not seem to be natural bedfellows: eco responsibility and intellectual property law. The reason is simple: These subjects have the greatest urgency to engineers today. They are redefining the way engineers do their jobs, yet most engineers are just beginning to understand the full impact each brings to bear on their work.

The book combines facts and viewpoints, and we’ve tried to be very clear about which is which. The subjects we discuss in each section can get enormously deep, so we’ve tried to give you enough basic understanding, along with pointers to further information, that you’ll be able to continue exploring each topic. We hope you’ll find the book useful in structuring your thinking and answering key questions.