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J Nano Educ. 2009 Mar 1;1(1):86-95.

Teaching Small and Thinking Large: Effects of Including Social and Ethical Implications in an Interdisciplinary Nanotechnology Course.

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Department of Anthropology, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA.


One way to ensure that social and ethical implications (SEI) of nanotechnology research are taken into consideration early in research projects is to incorporate ethical concepts into university science education. In this paper, we describe an interdisciplinary nanotechnology university science course and the ways in which the opinions of students regarding the ethical implications of nanotechnology research were influenced by the course. From an SEI perspective, there is value in scientists being aware of the need to make explicit the uncertainties that always exist in scientific and technological research and development. By the end of the class, a majority of the students felt that risks and ethical issues are not well understood by scientists working in nanomaterials, and ethical training was recommended for these scientists. Findings from this study speak to the importance of this type of interdisciplinary class in preparing students for collaborative research and making them aware of issues important to the general public who someday will become consumers of products derived from nanotechnology research.


Multidisciplinary Course; Nanotechnology Curriculum; Social and Ethical Implications

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