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Nanotechnology is expected by many to create "the next industrial revolution." Whether or not its social consequences are that profound, they will be far-reaching. The 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, signed into law in 2003, mandates "integrating research on societal, ethical and environmental concerns with nanotechnology research and development” to ensure that nanoscale science and engineering advances "bring about improvements in quality of life for all Americans."
The Center for Nanotechnology at Arizona State University (CNS-ASU) responds to this directive by building a new capability, in the U.S. and globally, for understanding and governing the transforming power of nanotechnology - what is known as "anticipatory governance."
Conduct fundamental and problem-oriented research on the societal implications of nanotechnologies;
Expand – through undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral training – the community of scholars with the skills to create new insight into these societal dimensions of nanotechnology
Engage publics, policy makers, business leaders and researchers in dialogues about the goals and implications of nanotechnology, and use this process to build a network committed to making socially beneficial and addressing nanoscience-related societal conflicts
Build partnerships with nanotech laboratories to introduce greater reflexiveness in the research and development process, so that problems are addressed as ideas are generated, evaluated and developed, rather than after products enter society and the marketplace.