September 09, 2003



Riding that Nano Gravy Train

Howard Lovy reports on two sizable grants the NSF has recently awarded to study the social implications of nanotechnology. He wonders whether nanotechnology might become a new funding cash cow for university humanities departments. Here he chats with Chris MacDonald, "a philosopher and ethicist at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia:"

Chris: Seems odd that they’ve chosen to give out just 2 grants, grants that are HUGE by the standards of research in the humanities & social scientists. NSF may be under the misapprehension that ethics/social implications is like the genome project. Unfortunately, I doubt that 2 big, individual research projects will make as much progress as 20 smaller ones would have. Projects on ethics work by generating discussion, which you can’t do with just 2 grantees. Oh, well…I guess it’s better than not funding ANYTHING.

Me: Yes, we were discussing something similar at the office here. There's a perception that the business community - especially in chemicals – sees that there is government money to be had if only they redefine what they do as "nano." The more cynical among us are wondering whether philosophy and social sciences departments in colleges and universities across the country are now putting together their own panels to study the societal and ethical issues associated with nanotechnology in the hopes of government funding. Is that where the money is in your field?

First we had businesses redefining themselves as being in the "nanotechnology" space to secure funding, now universities? Who's next? Superheroes?

Posted by Phil at September 9, 2003 09:57 AM | TrackBack
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