Nanotech Database

Article Title:
Of risks and regulations: how leading U.S. nanoscientists form policy stances about nanotechnology

Corley, Elizabeth A

Journal Information:
Journal of Nanoparticle Research
Vol. 11, Num. 7


The authors here try to pinpoint the different attitudes toward regulation held by scientists in nanotechnological occupations. They determine that the field is growing so fast the regulation simply cannot wait for risk assessment to catch up, and so it is the scientists who do this work and have a vested interest in its continuation that largely determine the state of government regulation in their work. They found that scientists often rely on heuristics or normative values in the same way that lay people do to make policy decisions, and that scientists are, like lay people, divided on gender and race lines in regards to their attitude toward regulation. Also like lay people, these scientists tend to favor more regulation only when greater risk factors are present; when there is no specter of disaster, both scientists and the public see only the benefits of nanotechnology. Conversely, no overabundance of benefits creates more positive feelings in the way an accumulation of risks creates negative feelings. Still, they did find that the leading U.S. nanoscientists believe that we most urgently need new regulations in the areas of surveillance/privacy, human enhancement, medicine, and the environment, which suggests that certain areas seem more prone to risk than others and, hence, deserve more regulation.