Nanotechnology Project

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Environment, Health and Safety Research

NSEC: Center for Nanotechnology in Society at University of California, Santa Barbara

Project Information

Principal InvestigatorBruce Bimber
InstitutionUniversity of California-Santa Barbara
Project URLView
Relevance to ImplicationsMarginal
Class of NanomaterialEngineered Nanomaterials
Impact SectorCross-cutting
Broad Research Categories Risk Management
NNI identifiere6-1

Funding Information

Anticipated Total Funding$2,095,000.00
Annual Funding$523,750.00
Funding SourceNSF
Funding MechanismExtramural
Funding SectorGovernment
Start Year2006
Anticipated End Year2010


The Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UCSB (CNS-UCSB) will serve as a national research and education center, a network hub among researchers and educators concerned with nanotechnologies’ societal impacts, and a resource base for studying these impacts in the US and abroad. The Center will focus attention on education for a new generation of social science, humanities, and nanoscience professionals, on the historical context of nanotechnology, on innovation processes and global diffusion of nanotech, and on risk perception and social response to nanotechnology, as well as methods for public participation in setting the agenda for nanotechnology’s future. With expertise in science, culture, social science, technology, and engineering, the Center will create cross-disciplinary working groups to address a linked set of issues in nanoscale social impacts; combine research, teaching, and dissemination functions that systematically involve diverse communities in the analysis of nanotechnology in society; and engage in outreach and education programs that include students and teachers and extend to industry, community and environmental organizations, policymakers, and the public. The Center will integrate the work of engineers and physical scientists with the social scientific and humanistic study of nanotechnology in society. Its research is organized into three working groups. The first group will study nanotechnology’s historical and current contexts. The second will address questions related to institutional and socio-cultural factors influencing the innovation, global diffusion, and commercialization of nanotechnology. The third will examine social risk perception concerning emerging nanotechnologies, assess methods for incorporating public concerns, and analyze social protest movements related to nanotechnology. A primary rationale for this Center is to develop the opportunities for synergy and collaboration that arise from proximity and the advantages of regular contact among people of diverse intellectual orientations. The Center will pursue such integrative activities in several ways, including Center-wide scenario-planning exercises that will synthesize systems level data from all working groups, full involvement of nanoscientists and their students in the working groups, mobility by faculty and student participants across groups, on-going collaborative meetings, data and research findings synthesis, joint publications, and a program for co-mentoring of graduate students. All activities are designed as focal points for interaction and exchange across disciplines, especially between engineers & physical scientists, on the one hand, and social scientists & humanists, on the other. The Center will sponsor graduate professional development, design undergraduate curricula, involve instructors and students in targeted programs, and create public information programming focused on nanotechnology and society. It will host events that engage industrial collaborators, community and environmental groups, and the public. These events will also provide opportunities to disseminate and collect public response to questions relevant to the research of the three working groups. The Center’s Clearinghouse will serve national and global communities as an on-line portal to the Center’s research and educational materials and resources and to information on all Center programming. CNS-UCSB reflects the special character of the University as a host institution. This includes international leadership in nanoscale research, the California NanoSystems Institute, social science research centers focused on relations among technology, culture, and society, and an environment conducive to successful collaboration across disciplines. The Center will integrate graduate and undergraduate students in the social sciences, humanities, and physical sciences and engineering into this collaboration. The Center’s work includes direct international collaborations with leading researchers in the US, Canada, and the UK. In addition, the Center will form a large node in a developing national network of institutions and collaborators engaged in establishing a better understanding of nanotechnology and society and common research and education initiatives. The Center will develop new knowledge about the organization, funding and management of nanotechnology; about the economic, social and scientific effects of the current innovation system; about the global distribution of nanotechnology; and about perceptions of nanotechnology’s risks and potential collective social responses. The Center’s researchers will synthesize different disciplinary approaches and distinct research programs and propose policy solutions to the problems they analyze. The Center will also create new cross-disciplinary education opportunities for students from a range of fields and backgrounds, particularly those currently underrepresented in technological studies. The Center will disseminate its findings to the wider public, facilitate public participation in the nano-enterprise, and support dialogue between academic researchers from diverse disciplines and educators, industrial scientists, community and environmental groups, and policy makers.