Nanotechnology Project

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Environment, Health and Safety Research

NSEC: Nanotechnology in Society Project Imaging, Scientific Change and Public Understanding of Emerging Nanotechnologies

Project Information

Principal InvestigatorDavis Baird
InstitutionUniversity of South Carolina
Project URLView
Relevance to ImplicationsMarginal
Class of NanomaterialEngineered Nanomaterials
Impact SectorCross-cutting
Broad Research Categories Risk Management
NNI identifier

Funding Information

Anticipated Total Funding$549,999.00
Annual Funding$274,999.50
Funding SourceNSF
Funding MechanismExtramural
Funding SectorGovernment
Start Year2005
Anticipated End Year2007


This project undertakes four primary activities; two are research efforts, and two are primarily educational in focus. All build on and extend work started through prior NSF award 0304448 “NIRT: From Laboratory to Society.” The first research effort, “Imaging, Imagining and Understanding the Nanoscale,” focuses on the role of images in communicating about nanoscale science, engineering, and technology. The research will engage stakeholders and scholars in the analysis of issues associated with these images and messages and develop empirical data on public understanding and response. This will create a novel and unique opportunity for extended cross-disciplinary investigation based on philosophical and aesthetic principles, on perspectives from the social and behavioral sciences, on the experience and evolving practice of nanoscientists and instrument makers, and on the experience of other stakeholders and the public. This research will provide a solid foundation for the study of images and their impact on understanding, as well as contributing to the literature on public understanding of science. The second research effort, “Research Culture and Nanostructured Materials,” focuses on how nanotechnology research is changing the scientific and engineering practices of nanoresearchers. The National Nanotechnology Initiative anticipates changes in such areas as public/private partnerships, blurring disciplinary lines, and reconfigured relationships between theory, experiment and applications. To open a dialogue that engages practitioners with science studies scholars about this new technology in the making, this research begins by examining the Chemical Industry Vision2020 Technology Partnership roadmap and Sematech’s International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors. The project will provide venues for this dialogue, organized topically along lines laid out in the Vision 2020 document: (1) Fundamental understanding and synthesis; (2) Simulations (done in coordination with the Network for Computational Nanotechnology); (3) Instruments and tools (done in coordination with the Center for Advanced Materials and Smart Structures and the Center for Probing the Nanoscale); and (4) Manufacturing and processing. The first educational effort, “the Nanoliterate Campus,” focuses on developing multidisciplinary courses and research opportunities that bring scientists and engineers into fruitful dialog with humanists and social scientists (students and faculty alike). It will engage ten undergraduate “NanoScholars” each year to work on interdisciplinary research tied to this program, support “News from the Bottom,” a student-edited journal on societal and ethical interactions with nanotechnology (, and employ three graduate students to pursue research tied to each of the two research projects and to help develop the South Carolina Citizens’ School of Nanotechnology.