NanoEthics about the crossings between "science" and "decisions"

Researchers from ITAS are editors of the current issue of NanoEthics with the title "Science and Decisions Facing Emerging Technologies".

The latest edition of NanoEthics is focussing on the relation between science and decision-making in the context of nanotechnology as an example for emerging technologies. The publication is based on a session organized by Christian Büscher and Jutta Jahnel at the sixth meeting of the Society for the Study of Nanoscience and Emerging Technologies (S.Net), which took place in Karlsruhe in September 2014. This session was addressing the role and interaction of the two fields of science and decisions in handling possible risks through the application of nanomaterials.

Different perspectives from several disciplines are regarded for this commonly agreed-upon reference problem. The special section fits the single contributions together like pieces of puzzle to get an overarching picture. The aim is neither to provide the latest results for the risk assessment of nanomaterials nor to give a comprehensive analysis of the actors involved. The goal is rather to prepare a common ground for a broad and open discussion about the challenges of regulating nanomaterials.

Communication problems between risk assessment and risk management

The contribution from the chemist Jutta Jahnel points out the institutional separation between scientific risk assessment and political risk management in the EU. This leads to problems in translating and communicating the scientific results for political purposes. In addition, other actors, like the general public, will doubt the legitimacy of political decisions. Alternative governance models with an enhanced interaction of scientists and politicians could provide important improvements. The technology sociologist Christian Büscher takes up this proposal by attributing the important role of absorbing uncertainty to the interaction between scientists and decision-makers. According to Büscher, decision-making could be described as a kind of self-commitment in an iterative and dynamic social process.

Further contributions to the special section come from Steffen Foss Hansen and Anders Baun (Technical University of Denmark) as well as Christopher Groves (School of Social Sciences of Cardiff University). Foss Hansen and Baun present an empiric study of a dialogue between different key actors dealing with the possible options for the regulation of nanosilver. Groves pleas for a new kind of ethics, the ethic of care, for handling new and emerging technologies. (17.11.2015)

Further information: