National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network

National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network

Serving Nanoscale Science, Engineering & Technology

Society & Ethics


Responsible Research in Action Laboratory Posters

Colorful laboratory posters covering topics in Responsible Research, particularly as related to nanotechnology, are now available from NNIN. Read more

Science is not done in a vacuum. It exists, influences, and is influenced by the society surrounding it. Nanotechnology, like all new technologies that have come before it, will have a profound effect on society. Some of these effects will be good, some may not be good. And society will push back on the technology, and, through regulation, funding, and public acceptance, influence the progress of technology. The progress of nanotechnology will be further influenced by its demand for human resources and society’s ability to provide those human resources. Even all of these do not cover the entire range of the Social and Ethical Issues in Nanotechnology. For short, we will call these topics “SEI”.

NNIN has an enormous reach throughout the nanotechnology community, serving over 6000 users each year. As such, NNIN is in a unique position to assure through its training protocols that the importance of Social and Ethical Issues reaches a large part of this community.

Note, in our context, Social and Ethical Issues “training” is rarely about telling people what is right or wrong. In some cases, such as plagiarism and falsification of data, right and wrong are pretty clear. But in most areas of SEI it is more than awareness that there are social and ethical issues related to research and that scientists have an obligation to consider their research in a broader context and to communicate that context to the public. It is within this light that NNIN embraces SEI.