Video: CNS Director Harthorn Provides Congressional Briefing

Earlier today, while in Washington D.C., CNS-UCSB Director Barbara Herr Harthorn participated in a panel focusing on future directions of nanotechnology policy, especially regarding biomedical and infrastructural applications. This event was part of the American Chemical Society Science & the Congress Project, and it was co-hosted by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University and the University of Notre Dame Center for Nano Science and Technology. The purpose of the Congress Project series is to educate lawmakers responsible for crafting science and technology policy. Video of the entire panel can be viewed below.

In her remarks, Harthorn offered three examples of how knowledge generated at CNS can inform policymakers as they consider the environmental health and safety implications of evolving nanostructures: 1) The public is concerned more about contextual features of new applications rather than technical risk characteristics. For instance, Harthorn said, "Does [a new technology] benefit medicine or golf?" 2: The public tends to be optimistic about nanotechnologies, but its trust is fragile. How experts communicate risk information can greatly effect public acceptibility. 3: Policymakers must pay attention to cultural factors, because the public is greatly concerned about issues such as the distribution of risks and benefits of new technologies as well as equity of access.

This knowledge, forged by "unprecedented collaborations and connections" between social scientists and the science and engineering community, has led to the development of tools that can help regulators and expert groups deal with earlier stages of nano-environmental health and safety assessment. One such tool is Structured Decision Making (SDM).

The other panelists were Pedro Alvarez, George R. Brown Professor of Environmental Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University; and Kathleen Eggleson, a molecular biologists with Notre Dame's Center for Nano Science and Technology.