Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Uncertain science, regulations, and personal ideologies of nano scientists

Journal of Nanoparticle Research today posted the online-first version of a forthcoming article by Elizabeth Corley, Qian Hu, and myself on how leading U.S. nano-scientists form policy stances about nanotechnology (DOI: 10.1007/s11051-009-9671-5).

The article sheds some interesting light on the role of scientists in the emerging policy debates about nanotechnology. Not surprisingly, our data showed that scientists, when they’re being asked for policy recommendations about emerging technologies, do rely on their professional judgments about the risks and benefits connected to nanotechnology. But what's really interesting is the fact that -- after controlling for their professional judgments -- scientists' personal ideologies have a significant impact on their support for regulations.

These findings, of course, say less about scientists than they do about the lack of conclusive data about risks related to nanotechnology. Policy makers need to realize that when they ask scientists to give them advice about inconclusive findings, they will get both their professional judgment and their personal views.

The JoNR paper is based on the first nationally representative survey of leading U.S. nano scientists. For the full press releases from UW and ASU, click here and here.

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