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Societal and Ethical Implications of Nanotechnology

Now that nanotechnology has demonstrated early success in basic research, the pace of application and use of such technology has accelerated. While the basic science has been enabled by interdisciplinary cooperation, the ethics and policy community has also turned its attention to the illumination of potential social and ethical implications.

To 2003 the NU-NSEC launched a program in societal and ethical implications of nanotechnology under the leadership of Professor Dan Lewis (NU, School of Education and Social Policy). As part of this project, a research team developed an experimental design to assess the public perception for the need for privacy juxtaposed against issues of individual health, general public health/sanitation surveillance, and generalized pubic safety that could be impacted by nanotechnology. These initial surveys provided a useful starting point for understanding public perception of nanotechnology particularly as it relates to center research.

Beginning in Fall 2005,Professor Laurie Zoloth (NU, Director of Bioethics at the Center of Genetic Medicine) assumed leadership of the program. Zoloth and an interdisciplinary team of researchers in philosophy, theology, social science, public policy, and the humanities work in partnership with NSEC researchers to engage and educate the general public through Nanotechnology Town Halls, and address potential societal and ethical issues that could arise from the applications and new technologies being developed at the NU-NSEC.

Nanoscale Science & Engineering Center | Northwestern University
2145 Sheridan Road, K111 | Evanston, IL 60208
Phone: (847) 491-5784 | Fax: (847) 491-3721
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