NIRT: Building Capacity for Social and Ethical Research and Education in Agrifood Nanotechnology View Homepage


Ontology type: schema:MonetaryGrant     


Grant Info

YEARS

2004-2009

FUNDING AMOUNT

1720000 USD

ABSTRACT

Nanotechnology - the development of devices constructed and operating at a molecular level - promises to revolutionize methods of manufacture and distribution throughout all phases of the economy. Agriculture - among the oldest and most established sectors of the economy - will be no exception. However, the recent attempt to introduce the revolutionary technical methods of recombinant DNA (i.e. agricultural biotechnology) has been associated with a number of critical ethical and social issues, including a prolonged and divisive social conflict. What will nanotechnology mean for agriculture? And what can agriculture teach nanotechnology? This project intertwines three broad objectives: 1) Deriving lessons from the social conflict over agrifood biotechnology that may be useful to the entire range of researchers engaged in the new nanotechnology initiative; 2) Building a new multi-disciplinary competence among a team of senior researchers with extensive experience in social and ethical issues associated with agrifood technology, who have collaborated to develop communication strategies in engineering applications, and relatively junior researchers starting research programs in social and economic dimensions of agrifood science; and 3) Identifying the most likely applications of nanotechnology within the agrifood sector (including food distribution and consumption), and developing a proactive strategy for understanding and addressing social and ethical issues associated with them. This third objective encompasses activities aimed at developing a conceptual and research framework, developing visions for governance, and engaging stakeholders as well as the general public. As part of this objective, the project will develop materials for education on the social and ethical dimensions of agrifood nanotechnology directed to nanotechnology scientists and engineers, agrifood stakeholders, and the general public. This research will contribute to understanding the societal dimensions of engineering, science and technology in the disciplines of sociology, anthropology, economics and philosophy. Methods of research involve interviews, content analysis, web fora, analytic deliberation and philosophical analysis, each deployed by team members who have used these methods in prior projects. Team meetings, conduct of symposia, and active integration and management on the part of team leadership will be used to strengthen these methods and integrate the findings from each. Key to this process will be three workshops in which all team members and invited guests will participate, to address the themes of a) lessons from agrifood biotechnology, b) the emerging shape of agrifood nanotechnology and c) emerging standards for food safety and product quality associated with agrifood nanotechnology. The team will also collaborate with a European research team presently starting a project on public participation in the management and development of nanotechnology. The research activities will be augmented with the development of an online course addressing social and ethical issues in agrifood nanotech, outreach/extension activities directed to nanotechnology scientists and engineers, agricultural producers, and the broader public, and papers or symposia presented at professional meetings. The research is applicable to non-agricultural domains of nanotechnology, as well as to other forms of technology, and papers and presentations will be structured to reach this wider audience. The emphasis on involving stakeholders and members of the public in the conduct of this research promises to help create a more participatory and democratic venue for decision-making regarding applications of agricultural nanotechnology. This proposal addresses the "Societal and Educational Implications of Scientific and Technological Advances on the Nanoscale" theme of NSF's Nanoscale Science and Engineering program solicitation (NSF 03-043). More... »

URL

http://www.nsf.gov/awardsearch/showAward?AWD_ID=0403847&HistoricalAwards=false

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