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Incorporating Societal and Ethical Issues of Nanotechnology into an Integrated User Network: Results from the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Engineering Ethics Issues Part II

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.851.1 - 22.851.10



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Paper Authors


Katherine McComas Cornell University

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Associate Professor, Department of Communication, Cornell University, and Societal and Ethical Issues Coordinator, National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network

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Nancy Healy Georgia Institute of Technology

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Nancy Healy is the Education and Outreach Coordinator for the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN). NNIN is an NSF-funded user support network of 14 universities which also provides nano-education outreach activities and programs. NNIN provides informal and formal activities to a K-gray age span. Her office is located at Georgia Institute of Technology, Nanotechnology Research Center. Prior to joining the NNIN in 2004, she was a program manager at the S.C. Commission on Higher Education. At SCCHE she was active in science and math K-12 issues, teacher education, and teacher professional development. She managed federal and state grant programs focused on teacher professional development. For ten years she served on the Board of Examiners for the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. She was also at the University of South Carolina for 17 years where she taught undergraduates, had an active research program in paleo-oceanography, and numerous graduate students. She has a B.S. in Zoology from the University of Rhode Island and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from the University of South Carolina.

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Incorporating Societal and Ethical Issues of Nanotechnology into anIntegrated User Network – Results from the National NanotechnologyInfrastructure NetworkNanotechnology is viewed by many to be the next “technical revolution” which will transformscience and industry in the 21st century. It is important that society and the researchers bringingforth this technology understand the societal and ethical implications of this new technology.The National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN) is an integrated collective of 14universities with open facilities that support nanoscale science and engineering research. TheNNIN facilities train and support approximately 4,800 users per year. The network offers aunique opportunity for research in societal and ethical issues (SEI) as well as providing SEIinformation to users. The goals of the NNIN’s SEI efforts are to 1) develop societal and ethicalconsciousness within the user community and the broader nanotechnology community and 2)broaden the exploration of the ethical and societal implications of nanotechnology at NNIN andin the broader nanotechnology community. To achieve these goals we have developed threeintegrated activities: 1) providing SEI training and educational opportunities for NNIN users; 2)stimulating SEI research on NNIN users and technologies; and 3) disseminating the outcomes ofSEI research at NNIN and in the broader nanotechnology and scientific community. Regardingthe first activity, this presentation will discuss the type of training we do at each site to informusers about SEI issues related to nanotechnology. Regarding the second, the NNIN hasestablished a set of guidelines for investigators who want to initiate SEI research at one or moreof our sites. In 2010, NNIN had seven projects examining issues ranging from diversity toconflicts of interest among our users. Cross-cutting all three activities, we also sponsorapproximately 80 participants per year in the Research Experience for Undergraduates program,which includes SEI in two ways. First, all sites are required to have their interns readNanotechnology & Society: Ideas for Education and Public Engagement (Miller et al, 2007) anddiscuss the material. This activity is also in preparation for the NNIN REU Convocation, a three-day meeting where REUs present their research. At this meeting, we have a panel session on SEIissues, and interns present results on SEI-related research. This talk will provide an overview ofthe results from this aspect of our program. Finally, based on an REU project, we havedeveloped a series of posters - Responsible Research in Action – that are available to all who areinterested. Information on the development and distribution of these posters will be presented.

McComas, K., & Healy, N. (2011, June), Incorporating Societal and Ethical Issues of Nanotechnology into an Integrated User Network: Results from the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18132

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