35 nanotechnologists discuss nano ethics

In the Journal of Nanoparticle Research is a review by David Guston of the (expensive) book Nanotalk: Conversations with Scientists and Engineers about Ethics, Meaning, and Belief in the Development of Nanotechnology, by Rosalyn Berne. Some excerpts from the review (172 KB pdf):

“It provides a modest stage for the researchers Berne interviewed to rehearse their moral visions and voices around NSE [nanoscience & engineering] – a platform she believes she must construct because the researchers’ voices have been stilled by their need for resources. Scientists who are trying to catch ‘the wave’ of nanotechnology have little motive or opportunity, let alone incentive, for reflection. She fears that such scientists have been cast as amoral, and by styling her book with extended transcripts of her conversations with these scientists, Berne does her best to amplify her subjects’ moral voice…

“Berne encourages both her scientists and her readers to emerge from their dream state in which the technological is pre-destined and pre-ordained and awake to the possibility of a conscientious, humanitarian nanotechnology…

“Berne therefore concludes that the ‘[r]esponsibility for nano-scale science and engineering development belongs to us all’ ”

Here’s a nanoethical question: this book was written on an NSF grant. Why not post it free on the Internet, instead of (or in addition to) publishing it privately on paper for a list price of $99.95? How many individuals or libraries will be able to purchase this book, even at $74.99 used on Amazon?

Maybe I can ask reviewer Prof. Guston this question tomorrow (April 28, 2006), when I’ll be serving on a panel he’s moderating at a nano policy conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Maybe he’ll tell me that books posted free on the Internet don’t help academics get tenure—but shouldn’t this change? It’s silly to tie up federally-funded information in expensive paper formats. —Christine

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