Original Paper


, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 185-195

First online:

Moral Imagination, Trading Zones, and the Role of the Ethicist in Nanotechnology

  • Michael E. GormanAffiliated withScience, Technology & Society, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia Email author 
  • , Patricia H. WerhaneAffiliated withInstitute for Business and Professional Ethics, DePaul University
  • , Nathan SwamiAffiliated withSchool of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia

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The societal and ethical impacts of emerging technological and business systems cannot entirely be foreseen; therefore, management of these innovations will require at least some ethicists to work closely with researchers. This is particularly critical in the development of new systems because the maximum degrees of freedom for changing technological direction occurs at or just after the point of breakthrough; that is also the point where the long-term implications are hardest to visualize. Recent work on shared expertise in Science & Technology Studies (STS) can help create productive collaborations among scientists, engineers, ethicists and other stakeholders as these new systems are designed and implemented. But collaboration across these disciplines will be successful only if scientists, engineers, and ethicists can communicate meaningfully with each other. The establishment of a trading zone coupled with moral imagination present one method for such collaborative communication.


Nanotechnology Moral imagination Mental models Interdisciplinary collaboration Trading zones Interactional expertise