62 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2007 Last revised: 14 Feb 2014
Experts expect nanotechnology to transform society, revolutionizing fields as diverse as health care, energy, and the environment. Though a number of nanotechnology products are already on the market, the major developments are yet to come, and the nascent stage of this technology combined with current scientific uncertainty raises questions about new health, safety, and environmental concerns. Most discussion of nanotechnology presents a polarized debate between "proponents" who argue for rapid development unfettered by excessive regulation and "opponents" who advocate an overhauled, stringent regulatory regime to protect against nanotechnology risks. This article recommends a different approach, one that turns the greatest challenge of nanotechnology - scientific uncertainty - on its head to create incentives for all stakeholders to work together in a new governance system.
The nanotechnology governance proposal includes methods to close existing regulatory gaps, improve agency coordination, advance nanotechnology science, incentivize strong industry stewardship, and provide for substantial and diverse stakeholder involvement. Developing nanotechnology governance along these lines will create an adaptive and transparent system that is both more protective of human health and the environment and more efficient for industry and taxpayers.
For the first time in history, there is the opportunity to develop a governance system simultaneously with an emerging technology. The growth and governance of nanotechnology are inevitably and dynamically intertwined. Though the opportunities of nanotechnology may be literally limitless, these opportunities cannot be achieved if nanotechnology is not developed in a secure manner that maintains public confidence. The current state of uncertainty in both nanotechnology development and risk, combined with the need for adaptability, creates unique challenges for nanotechnology governance. Managing uncertainty and promoting adaptability, however, are not issues limited to nanotechnology. The model proposed therefore provides useful insight for developing governance systems in broad variety of contexts.
Keywords: nanotechnology, governance, nanoparticle, nanomaterial, nanotech, environmental, health, safety, regulation
JEL Classification: K23, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation