Nanotechnology Project

Get the findNano iPhone application


Environment, Health and Safety Research

NSEC: Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University

Project Information

Principal InvestigatorDavid Guston
InstitutionArizona State University
Project URLView
Relevance to ImplicationsMarginal
Class of NanomaterialEngineered Nanomaterials
Impact SectorCross-cutting
Broad Research Categories Risk Management
NNI identifier

Funding Information

Anticipated Total Funding$2,605,000.00
Annual Funding$521,000.00
Funding SourceNSF
Funding MechanismExtramural
Funding SectorGovernment
Start Year2005
Anticipated End Year2010


The Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University (CNS-ASU) helps ensure “that advances in nanotechnology bring about improvements in the quality of life for all Americans” (PL 108-153). The Center’s vision is that research into the societal aspects of nanoscale science and engineering (NSE), carried out in close collaboration with NSE scientists and combined with public engagement, will improve deliberation and decision making about NSE. CNS-ASU builds the capacity to address the societal implications of NSE by creating a broad institutional network, instituting a coherent research program, promoting innovative educational opportunities, and engaging in meaningful participation and outreach activities, especially with under-represented communities. Its goal is nothing less than charting a path toward new ways of organizing the production of knowledge and developing and testing new processes of anticipatory governance to meet the emerging promises and challenges of NSE. CNS-ASU joins Arizona State University with the University of Wisconsin - Madison, the Georgia Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and other universities, individuals, and groups in the academic and private sector, as well as the International Nanotechnology and Society Network ( that ASU is developing. At ASU, the project’s two guiding organizations are the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes (, which provides an institutional home for science and technology policy scholarship and engagement, and the Biodesign Institute (, which provides a substrate of NSE research and a test bed for interdisciplinary collaboration. CNS-ASU will implement a program of research and engagement called “real-time technology assessment” (RTTA), which consists of four methods of inquiry: mapping the research dynamics of the NSE enterprise and its anticipated societal outcomes; monitoring the changing values of the public and of researchers regarding NSE; engaging researchers and various publics in deliberative and participatory forums; and reflexively assessing the impact of the information and experiences generated by its activities on the values held and choices made by the NSE researchers in its network. Through RTTA, CNS-ASU will probe the hypothesis that trajectories of NSE innovation can be steered toward socially desirable goals, and away from undesirable ones, by introducing a greater capacity for reflexiveness - that is, social learning that can expand the range of conscious choice - into knowledge-producing institutions. It organizes the research around two broad NSE-in-society themes: freedom, privacy, and security; and human identity, enhancement, and biology. The Center’s educational and training plan includes innovations at the undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral level that encourage interdisciplinary opportunities among NSE students and social science and humanities students. Partnerships with proven programs, including the Hispanic Research Center ( and the Center for Ubiquitous Computing (, ensure recruitment and retention of students from under-represented groups. A collaboration with the Center for Research on Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology (, CNS-ASU generates training modules for high school teachers in NSE-in-society. Designed as a “boundary organization” at the interface of science and society, CNS-ASU provides an operational model for a new way to organize research through improved contextual awareness, which can signal emerging problems, enable anticipatory governance, and guide trajectories of NSE knowledge and innovation toward socially desirable outcomes, and away from undesirable ones. In pursuit of this broadest impact, CNS-ASU trains a cadre of interdisciplinary researchers to engage the complex societal implications of NSE; catalyzes more diverse, comprehensive, and adventurous interactions among a wide variety of publics potentially interested in and affected by NSE; and creates new levels of awareness about NSE-in-society among decision makers ranging from consumers to scientists to high level policy makers.