Integrating social and ethical reflection in nanobiotechnological practice

Nanobiotechnology is an upcoming field of technology, which gives raises to various social and ethical issues. However, many nanobiotechnologists lack the framework and tools to take responsibility and communicate their ethical considerations. The goal of this PhD project is to establish a framework and tools to broaden nanobiotechnological development by taking into account social and ethical considerations during research and design processes.

It is increasingly recognized that nanobiotechnology raises a range of ethical issues and that there is a need for responsible nanotechnological development. This is not only a responsibility of governments and policy makers and other societal groups, but also of the nanobiotechnologists themselves. Many nanobiotechnologists indeed say that they have considered, or are willing to consider, the ethical and social impacts of their work. Currently, though, many still do tend to dismiss the concerns which people have about the nanotechnology in terms of being “just another new technology” and find the solution in the so-called “deficit model” of science communication. One of the reasons for this is probably that nanobiotechnologists lack a framework and the tools for discussing the relevant ethical issues and assuming responsibility.

The goal of the research therefore is to develop tools that assist engineers and scientists in nanobiotechnology to assume responsibility for nanotechnological development and to discuss relevant ethical issues. In particular, we are thinking of tools that help nanobiotechnologists:

  • to recognize the relevant ethical issues
  • to reflect on these issues and on their own responsibility with respect to these issues
  • to integrate such reflections and relevant considerations into their research/design
  • to account for the choices they make to society
  • to communicate their activities in the light of ethical considerations