The main topic addressed by NANOCAP within the area of ethics is deepening the understanding of ethical issues and to develop recommendations, either for research practices, or for approaches that could be followed by public authorities to address the issues concerned.
|Ethical Aspects of Nanoparticles|
The TUD group is responsible for helping to develop these main ethical issues associated with nanotechnologies. The most important task is therefore to structure topics and prepare arguments that put forward the development and monitoring of a responsible nanotechnology. This includes also facilitating a clear articulation of concerns, arguments and positions raised by the other project partners concerning the visions, recent and anticipated risks as well as societal consequences of nanotechnologies. Last but not least the preliminary recommendations for responsible development of nanotechnology also include good research practices and socially integrated innovation and diffusion processes.
Thus, the Darmstadt group ensures comprehensive consideration of the arguments about the issues that have been advanced in various national and academic contexts. It also helps to frame questions that must remain unanswered and require monitoring as well as further discussion.
This survey of ethical issues and their introduction to the NANOCAP discussions is informed by a comprehensive analysis of the nanotechnological research culture, its social and intellectual drivers. A range of issues is considered that spans from the potential hazards of nano-particles, via an evaluation of ecological promises, to questions of public engagement. Rather than take exaggerated promises and vaguely lumped together risk scenarios, the Darmstadt group is engaged in "risk splitting", in disentangling the various nanotechnologies and their specific ethical and societal aspects. The aim of this approach is to make these aspects also amenable to their collaborators in the project. Ethics is therefore committed to ensure that the rapidly advancing progress in science is in harmony with the diverse cultural backgrounds.
By means of coordinated action between the partners further research on ethics, including legal, social, economical and cultural aspects, will be stimulated. NGOs will give insights in realistic and perceived concerns of the public with nanotechnology, such as protecting privacy when nanotechnology is used for invisible sensors, or possible negative health effects for workers manufacturing or consumers using nano-products. Other emerging questions are for example in the area of equity. Who will benefit from advances in nanotechnology? Will it open another gap between wealthy and poor nations? What steps can be taken to ensure international participation? What issues of distributive justice arise also within the leading economies?
Other emerging ethical questions are in the area of empowerment and control, because nanotechnology deals with surprising, scale-dependent properties and harnesses principles of self-organisation. How can society responsibly shoulder risks under conditions of ignorance and uncertainty, for example regarding potential toxicity of nano-particles?
In the context of NanoCap an Ethics Portfolio has been developed.