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Public Challenges of Nanotechnology Regulation

By csep - Posted on 05 November 2012

TitlePublic Challenges of Nanotechnology Regulation
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsCorley, Elizabeth A., Kim Youngjae, and Scheufele Dietram
JournalJurimetrics: The Journal of Law, Science and Technology
Date PublishedSpring 2012
ISSN Number08971277
KeywordsNanotechnology Policy and Development - United States

Regulatory decisions are often approached with the assumption that decision making would be easier with full public knowledge of the topic and complete scientific certainty about risks and benefits. Unfortunately, for emerging technologies with potentially far-reaching and long-term societal implications, the assumption that regulatory decisions can be made with all relevant facts on the table is unrealistic. More importantly, however, many of the ethical, legal and social questions surrounding these technologies in public debate are inherently political questions, and -- as a result -- the technical or scientific facts behind these new technologies are only a small part of how societies come to agreement about the various regulatory options surrounding these emerging technologies. Given the growing presence of nanomaterials in consumer end markets worldwide and the uncertainties about the risks and benefits of nanomaterials, the development of nanotechnology regulations must move forward in the absence of full public knowledge and scientific certainty. In this article, five core public challenges are identified that face regulators and policymakers as they move forward with nanoregulation in the United States. Within the context of introducing these challenges, data are presented that illuminate why these issues could be challenges for the development of nanotechnology regulations. The paper concludes with priority areas for nanoregulation based on the perceptions of leading U.S. nanoscientists. The data presented in this article were collected through the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University (CNS-ASU), which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).