Social and ethical dimensions of nanoscale science and engineering research

Science and Engineering Ethics 12 (3):435-464 (2006)
Abstract
Continuing advances in human ability to manipulate matter at the atomic and molecular levels (i.e. nanoscale science and engineering) offer many previously unimagined possibilities for scientific discovery and technological development. Paralleling these advances in the various science and engineering subdisciplines is the increasing realization that a number of associated social, ethical, environmental, economic and legal dimensions also need to be explored. An important component of such exploration entails the identification and analysis of the ways in which current and prospective researchers in these fields conceptualize these dimensions of their work. Within the context of a National Science Foundation funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in nanomaterials processing and characterization at the University of Central Florida (2002–2004), here I present for discussion (i) details of a “nanotechnology ethics” seminar series developed specifically for students participating in the program, and (ii) an analysis of students’ and participating research faculty’s perspectives concerning social and ethical issues associated with nanotechnology research. I conclude with a brief discussion of implications presented by these issues for general scientific literacy and public science education policy.
Keywords nanotechnology  nanoscale science  engineering  biotechnology  ethics  researcher beliefs  science education
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