Responsible Development of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology: Contextualizing Socio-Technical Integration into the Nanofabrication Laboratories in the USA [Book Review]

NanoEthics 5 (2):143-157 (2011)
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There have been several conscious efforts made by different stakeholders in the area of nanoscience and nanotechnology to increase the awareness of social and ethical issues (SEI) among its practitioners. But so far, little has been done at the laboratory level to integrate a SEI component into the laboratory orientation schedule of practitioners. Since the laboratory serves as the locus of activities of the scientific community, it is important to introduce SEI there to stimulate thinking and discussion of SEI among practitioners, which would eventually contribute toward the responsible development of this technology. In this article, through an example (at the Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility (CNF), practitioners of which represent a section of the nano researchers’ community in the USA), it is shown how a SEI component can be incorporated into the laboratory orientation schedule of the practitioners from diverse disciplinary and institutional backgrounds. Results show that, at CNF, the practitioners enjoyed the discussion since most of them learned about SEI for the first time in their professional career. At the same time, some of them were also knowledgeable about SEI and contributed to the debates. Moreover, the SEI orientation had significant positive impact on the scientific community enabling them to self-reflect upon their own research and its implications for the wider society. This article also describes the efforts that were undertaken to disseminate this form of SEI orientation to other 13 USA universities within the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN, one of the biggest networks funded from National Science Foundation for Nanotechnology research, of which CNF is a part). As a result of this effort, most of the NNIN sites have already started or were in the process of integrating a SEI component into their nanofabrication laboratories to make their users aware of SEI, ensuring eventual robust socio-technical integration in the NNIN laboratories. In the future, this form of SEI orientation can also be disseminated to other nanofabrication laboratories in the USA



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