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2016 MRS Spring Meeting


EE15.2.02 - Societal Perception of Nanomaterials, Sustainable Development and Responsible Research: A French Interdisciplinary Approach


Mar 29, 2016 3:45pm ‐ Mar 29, 2016 4:15pm

Description

Sustainable development in material sciences includes societal aspects that encompass chemistry, physical sciences, toxicology, medicine, etc., in both academia and the industrial world. Nanomaterials and associated technologies are making their forays into many areas such as energy, transportation, communication, health (drug delivery, imaging and regenerative medicine), environment, and so on. All these applications should be developed keeping their life cycle in mind from production to recycling. A general panel discussion was organized by the French government and scientific institutions on nanotechnologies between 2009 and 2010 (National Commission Public Debate). Even if the idea of having exchanges between academics, politicians, experts and the general population was interesting, it was harder to execute. This is why certain studies in the field of Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) have helped to understand which factors are involved in communication and how mental representations are built into these kinds of panel discussions with a large spectral band of communicants [1-2]. The dialogue among these disparate elements proved that a lot of headway needs to be made in this area. In that context, these representations depend not only on objective knowledge, but also on subjective perceptions of the benefits/risks ratio relating to the use of nanomaterials and nanotechnologies.
To this end, a specific project based on an interdisciplinary approach was developed in the Lorraine Region including researchers in SSH (psychology, history, and philosophy), materials, chemistry, physics, biology and medicine. Started in 2013, this exploratory project was called PERSONA (PERception of SOcial risks and NAnotechnology).
We will present herein how nanotechnologies, as a still young field, can evoke different perceptions and levels of acceptance. So far our research has been limited to specific school populations (high school and university) with the immediate aim of developing the survey protocol. Naturally, this is the first step to a much broader study to be carried out in conjunction with academic, and industrial players. We will also discuss the risks, threats, levels of acceptance, trustworthiness, perceived benefits, and understanding, all which are influenced by psychological, sociological and cultural factors. The classic risk/benefit model is not sufficient enough to understand and explain the complexity and uncertainty of the impact that nanomaterials have on health, the environment, etc. A new concept of assessing risks (objective as well as perceived), and safety, taking into account the entire life-cycle of nanomaterials. This study aims to contribute towards a more sustainable development and research methods concerning nanomaterials and nanotechnology.

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