For example, some consumer protection organizations called for a global moratorium on nanotech research and a recall of products that contain nanoparticles, after a household sealant, Magic Nano, was yanked from the market in Germany last spring. The product had caused breathing problems among users, but it was later determined that it contained no nanoparticles.
"One important aspect of the limbo between progression of nanotechnology and awareness and accessibility is the development of nanotechnology regulation in the face of scientific uncertainty about the technology," Corley said. "When we think about a field like nanotechnology, the science often moves forward very quickly while the discussion of the social, ethical and policy impacts often falls behind. One of the goals of our research is to make sure that as a scientific community we engage in a discussion about the policy implications of nanotechnology at the same time that the science is moving forward."
As part of the first grant, Marchant, Abbott and Sylvester examined the potential for international harmonization of nanotech regulations and concluded that formal treaties in the foreseeable future were unlikely.
"International negotiations are so intense, and they require a lot of resources, so the issue has to be urgent," said Marchant, the grant's principal investigator. "Yet we need to provide assurances to the public that this is being looked at, even though it may take a long time for formal regulation to be implemented."
Thus, the researchers will use the follow-on grant to bring cutting-edge analysis of innovative governance mechanisms to this rapidly-developing technology, Abbott said.
"New mechanisms are increasingly used, both domestically and transnationally, to provide regulatory oversight on environmental, commercial and social issues," he said. "Our research will focus on 'governance' mechanisms, in which industry groups, non-governmenta
|Contact: Janie Magruder|
Arizona State University