, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 217–225 | Cite as

Nanoethics and Policy Education: a Case Study of Social Science Coursework and Student Engagement with Emerging Technologies

  • Jessica Smith RolstonEmail author
  • Skylar Huzyk Zilliox
  • Corinne Packard
  • Carl Mitcham
  • Brian Zaharatos
Original Paper


The article analyzes the integration of a module on nanotechnology, ethics, and policy into a required second-year social science course at a technological university. It investigates not simply the effectiveness of student learning about the technical aspects of nanotechnology but about how issues explored in an interdisciplinary social science course might influence student opinions about the potential of nanotechnology to benefit the developing world. The authors find a correlation between student opinions about the risks and benefits of nanotechnology for the developing world with their judgment of whether nanotechnology fits comparative, historical models for development.


Ethics Nanotechnology Policy Social science Risk Ethical issues related to nanotechnology (EIRNT) Development Developing countries Undergraduate education 



This work was funded by the National Science Foundation grant 1138257 and two Colorado School of Mines Research Council Undergraduate Research Fellowships. The authors also gratefully acknowledge the support of the CSM Renewable Energy Materials Research Science and Engineering Center Research Experience for Undergraduates and the faculty teaching Human Systems and Nature and Human Values.


  1. 1.
    Besley J, Kramer V, Priest S (2008) Expert opinion on nanotechnology: risks, benefits, and regulation. J Nanoparticle Res. 10(4):549–558Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Cobb MD, Macoubrie J (2004) Public perceptions about nanotechnology: risks, benefits and trust. J Nanoparticle Res 6(4):395–405CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Hassan M (2005) Small things and big changes in the developing world. Science 309:65–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Invernizzi N, Foladori G (2009) Nanotechnology and the developing world: will nanotechnology overcome poverty or widen disparities?”. In: Johnson DG, Wetmore JM (eds) Technology and society: building our sociotechnical future. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 485–498Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Kingdon JW (2003) Agendas, alternatives, and public policies, 2nd edn. Longmann, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Kuzma J (2010) “Nanotechnology: piecing together the puzzle of risk.”. In: Daniel Lee Kleinman D, Jason C-H, Karen A, Handelsman J (eds) Controversies in science and technology, vol. 3: from evolution to energy. Liebert, New Rochelle, pp 243–262Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Mitcham C, Heller L, Nan W, Packard C, Holles C, Hudson D, Rolston J (2013) Nanotechnology, ethics and policy education: learning and sharing across boundaries. J Nano Educ 5(2):180–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    National Academy of Engineering (2004) The engineer of 2020: visions of engineering in the new century. National Academies Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    National Academy of Engineering (2005) Educating the engineer of 2020: adapting engineering education to the new century. National Academies Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Salamanca-Buentello F, Persad DL, Court EB, Martin DK, Daar AS, Singer PA (2009) Nanotechnology and the developing world. In: Johnson DG, Wetmore JM (eds) Technology and society: building our sociotechnical future. MIT Press, Cambridge, pp 475–484Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Sandler R (2012) Value-sensitive design and nanotechnology. In: Scott D, Francis B (eds) Debating science: deliberation, values, and the common good. Prometheus Books, Amherst, pp 205–226Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Satterfield T, Kandlikar M, Beaudrie CEH, Conti J, Herr Harthorn B (2009) Anticipating the perceived risk of nanotechnologies. Nat Nanotechnol 4(11):752–758CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Scheufele DA, Corley EA, Dunwoody S, Shih T, Hillback E, Guston DH (2007) Scientists worry about some risks more than the public. Nat Nanotechnol 2(12):732–734CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Scheufele DA, Lewenstein BV (2005) The public and nanotechnology: how citizens make sense of emerging technologies. J Nanoparticle Res 7(6):659–667CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Schummer J (2007) Impact of nanotechnologies on developing countries. In: Allhoff F, Lin P, Moor J, Weckert J (eds) Nanoethics: the ethical and social implications of nanotechnology. Wiley, New York, pp 291–307Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica Smith Rolston
    • 1
    Email author
  • Skylar Huzyk Zilliox
    • 1
  • Corinne Packard
    • 1
  • Carl Mitcham
    • 1
  • Brian Zaharatos
    • 1
  1. 1.Liberal Arts and International StudiesColorado School of MinesGoldenUSA

Personalised recommendations