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Catalyst B II & III

Case Study Discussion

This is the second portion of the Catalyst B case you read earlier. Case studies can sometimes be used in stages, as shown here, and the choices made at an early stage in the game can lead to harder choices that have to be made later on. Please read part II of the case through once, and then read through the NSPE Code of Ethics (you may want to print out a copy of this code so you can easily refer to it, and perhaps engage a group of colleagues to discuss parts 1 and 2 of the case with you).

Now, you and your colleagues are no longer just employees of Larom, but also representatives of a profession with special obligations beyond what other employees have. (1) If using a code of ethics to lead a class discussion, some questions that could be asked include: What sections of the code relate to the ethical issues in question? Does your analysis of the first part of this case change, in light of the code and your professional obligations?


Michael Pritchard, Western Michigan University

You have now had more time to do research on catalyst B. After several weeks your research quite decisively indicates that, contrary to the expectations of Alex and the other more experienced engineers in your unit, Catalyst B really would have been, far and away, the better choice. Meanwhile, Larom has already invested a great deal of money in Catalyst A. What do you do now?

  1. Nothing. Keep the data to yourself and try to avoid making trouble.
  2. Tell Alex, and let him decide what, if anything, to do about it.
  3. Go over Alex's head, and tell his superiors that you should have refused to submit the report as requested.
  4. 4. Other.

Each of these choices can receive follow‑up discussion and a list of recommended readings. There can then be a third scenario with choices and follow‑up discussion. And so on. Here is a possible Phase II follow‑up scenario:

Part III

You have convinced Alex to submit a straightforward report that, nevertheless, recommends Catalyst A. However, Alex's superiors are very upset by this. They are unwilling to go ahead with the project without further testing, but further delays will be costly. Alex is severely criticized for not having a more convincing set of data. He, in turn, blames his staff, especially you. You, he tells his superiors, failed to complete the necessary experiments in a timely fashion. Alex tells his superiors that he should have supervised your work more closely, but that he will not let matters get out of control again. Although you are not fired, you are not promoted and your salary is frozen for another year. What should you do?

  1. Nothing. No good will come from complaining.
  2. Confront Alex, telling him that you think of what he has done, but carry it no further.
  3. Report Alex's conduct to the corporate ombudsman.
  4. Other.


(1) Davis, Michael. Ethics and the University. New York: Routledge, 1999.