Selection & Indexing
Selection of Materials
The NEB uses the broadest notion of what “ethics” includes. For example, while you will not find the results of toxicology experiments included in the NEB, you will find popular news articles describing the results, reactions of various stakeholders to these toxicology tests, resulting regulations adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency, and examples of best practices and voluntary standard developed by industry.
Materials are added to the NanoEthicsBank almost every day, and are selected in terms of the credibility of the source, as being representative of a position or side of the conversation, and the item’s relevancy to the four main subject areas covered by the NEB:
- National and international initiatives to build a regulatory framework for nanotechnology
- Public perception and acceptance of nanotechnology
- Development of best practices for industry using nanoparticles
- Ethical development of nanotechnology: military use, privacy and surveillance, bioethics, spreading the benefits of nanotechnology to the developing world, etc.
The NEB’s purpose is not to promote one side or other regarding the possible benefits or risks of nanotechnology research and development, but rather to represent all sides of the conversation. For this reason, the NEB includes a number of articles written by environmental groups such as GreenPeace and the ETC Group, trade associations such as the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, and newspaper editorials, along with more descriptive materials such as government reports, and conference proceedings. In order to avoid bias and ensure the relevancy of the NEB, a representative review panel is currently being formed that will include members from academe, the business community, environmental activism groups, and the general public. This panel will periodically review material included in the database, and make recommendations on how to improve its scope and representation. Please contact us if you have questions about why something has been included in the NEB, or have a suggestion of material to add.
One of the hardest aspects of the designing the NanoEthicsBank was to develop a meaningful way of categorizing materials so users could search the database by subject. In a traditional library, catalogers select subject terms from a controlled taxonomy such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings or the Sears List of Subject Headings to help describe the item they are cataloging. These systems are perfect for collections of material that are very wide in scope, but are of limited use for collections on a narrow subject. For the NEB, we used the Library of Congress Subject Headings for nanotechnology as a starting point and built our own classification system. See Subject Terms for definitions of each term used in the database.
In conjunction with the fixed subject terms used in the NanoEthicsBank, we are also developing an experimental "folksonomy" tagging system for the database. A folksonomy is a user-generated taxonomy that uses open-ended labels or “tags” to retrieve material. Unlike a taxonomy with a controlled vocabulary that is developed in a top down approach (like the subject terms used in the NEB), a folksonomy is developed bottom up by the users of a resource. Some well-known examples of resources that use folksonomies are del.icio.us and Flickr. Some of the advantages of this system is that it bridges the semantic gap that exists between scholars the media, business professionals, and the general public. It also can adapt much more quickly to new developments, an important aspect when dealing with a subject as dynamic as nanotechnology. Some of the disadvantages include a lack of precision in terms and individuals adding irrelevant tags to material. We believe that using the NEB user tag folksonomy in conjunction with the subject terms helps with the former problem, and requiring a password from users who wish to add user tags will help solve the latter. To begin adding tags to the NEB, simply visit our login page and request and set up a user account.