Ethical evaluations of nanotechnology

Jan 27, 2009

Recent action in Congress to reauthorize the U.S. federal nanotechnology research program offers the chance to address the social and ethical issues concerning the emerging scientific field, experts say.

"It is crucial to address social and ethical issues now as we consider both the substantial potential risks of nanotechnology and its possible significant contributions to our well-being and environmental sustainability," says Ronald Sandler, Northeastern University philosophy professor and author of a new report funded by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) and the National Science Foundation.

The report, Nanotechnology: The Social and Ethical Issues, emphasizes ways in which such topics intersect with governmental functions and responsibilities, including science and technology policy, as well as research funding, regulation and work on public engagement. To obtain a copy of the report, visit www.nanotechproject.org/news/a… ions_nanotechnology/ .

"Too often, discussions about the social and ethical issues surrounding new technologies are treated as afterthoughts, or worse still, as potential roadblocks to innovation. The ethical discussions are relegated to the end of scientific conferences, outsourced to social scientists, or generally marginalized in the policymaking process," says David Rejeski, the director of PEN.

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology is considering legislation that will strengthen federal efforts to learn more about the potential environmental, health and safety risks posed by engineered nanomaterials, as well as the ethical and societal aspects of the technology. Nanotechnology is an emerging technology that promises to usher in the next Industrial Revolution and is the focus of an annual $1.5 billion federal research investment.

The new bill (H.R. 554) is almost identical to legislation that passed the House last year with overwhelming bi-partisan support by a vote of 407 to 6. The Senate was expected to mark up similar legislation, but lawmakers ran out of time during the session.

"Every emerging technology offers us a new opportunity to engage stakeholders in a social and ethical debate. The nanotech revolution is still beginning and we still have time for an open and public discussion of its consequences, both intended and unintended. Hopefully, this paper will provide a framework for thinking through some of those impacts, particularly as the legislative debate on reauthorizing the federal nanotech program moves forward," Rejeski says.

Source: Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Explore further: Research reveals how our bodies keep unwelcome visitors out of cell nuclei

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rosetta's comet: In the shadow of the coma

2 hours ago

This NAVCAM mosaic comprises four individual images taken on 20 November from a distance of 30.8 km from the centre of Comet 67P/C-G. The image resolution is 2.6 m/pixel, so each original 1024 x 1024 pixel ...

Nanomaterials to preserve ancient works of art

3 hours ago

Little would we know about history if it weren't for books and works of art. But as time goes by, conserving this evidence of the past is becoming more and more of a struggle. Could this all change thanks ...

Shedding light on solar power

3 hours ago

Everyone wants to save energy, but not everyone knows where to start. Grid Resources, a startup based out of the Centre for Urban Energy's iCUE incubator, is developing a new website that seeks to help homeowners ...

Recommended for you

Nanomaterials to preserve ancient works of art

3 hours ago

Little would we know about history if it weren't for books and works of art. But as time goes by, conserving this evidence of the past is becoming more and more of a struggle. Could this all change thanks ...

Learning anti-microbial physics from cicada

3 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Inspired by the wing structure of a small fly, an NPL-led research team developed nano-patterned surfaces that resist bacterial adhesion while supporting the growth of human cells.

Protons fuel graphene prospects

Nov 26, 2014

Graphene, impermeable to all gases and liquids, can easily allow protons to pass through it, University of Manchester researchers have found.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.