There’s a new book, Nano Meets Macro, by Fern Wickson and Kamilla Lein Kjølberg, according to a news item on Nanowerk,
Nano goes Macro is designed especially for use in interdisciplinary teaching and discussions about nanoethics with natural science students, but the richness of issues and perspectives makes it of interest to all researchers, practitioners and non-academics wanting an introduction to the social perspectives on nanosciences and technologies. To stimulate a thorough discussion the book includes pieces of science fiction and visual arts, as well as questions for reflection after each chapter. The book contains chapters by prominent scholars and commentators in the field, such as Alfred Nordmann, Rob Doubleday, Lynn Frewer and Friends of the Earth.
Ooops! Whoever wrote the news release made a small mistake with the book title. Ah well, I’ve made my share of those kinds of mistakes, usually when I’m stressed and pressed for time. As for including science fiction and visual art as part of this book, bravo.
I have two other comments. First, I’m not familiar with any of the commentators other than Friends of the Earth which is a group rather than an individual. Is there no individual authorship or attribution for that group’s contribution? I ask because my feelings towards this group are conflicted. On the one hand, they have omitted (by accident or by design?) citing research that conflicts with their perspective on nanotechnology (I posted about this on Nov.25.09) and on the other hand, there was this thoughtful essay by Georgia Miller on Andrew Maynard’s 2020 Science blog (from the entry),
Technological choices have a key part to play in achieving urgently needed environmental and social change. Making the best choices that we can has never been so important. This requires us to look beyond safety to ask bigger questions about new technologies.
We must ask what is required to achieve our most critical social and environmental objectives, and be willing to accept that new technology is not always the answer. We must also ask what is required to ensure that those most affected by the outcomes of technology decision making have a voice in that decision making process.
For my second comment, Nano Meets Macro brought to mind a new publishing development at Macmillan Publishers. From a Fast Company article (Macmillan’s New Digital Textbooks Let Profs Reorder, Rewrite, And Stick It to Rival Academics) by Dan Nosowitz,
Macmillan’s newly announced DynamicBooks textbooks are a huge change for the stodgy, ultra-conservative world of academic writing. The digital textbooks give professors the power to reorder chapters, insert extra reading, delete irrelevant passages, rewrite individual sentences, and scribble in the margins. Oh, and they’ll cost half the price of physical textbooks.
The inherent question here is whether professors should actually have the right to alter textbooks as they see fit–but the fact of the matter is, they’ll do that anyway. Today’s college classes often require a textbook, of which only half the content is relevant and which costs over a hundred dollars, as well as a coursepack or smattering of disorganized articles to supplement it. These DynamicBooks would allow profs to simply streamline their existing syllabus into a single digital file–essentially, allowing them to do what they already do, and better.
Theoretically, if Nano Meets Macro were being published by Macmillan as part of its DynamicBooks series, chapters could be rearranged or excised or rewritten or new chapters written or material from elsewhere included. From my writer’s perspective, this is a bit disconcerting and yet it is similar to what I do here daily.
On a less introspective but related note, a news item on Nanowerk about Arizona State University’s Center for Nanotechnology in Society(CNS-ASU) and Consortium for Science Policy and Outcomes (CSPO-ASU) notes a couple of special projects,
Under the umbrella of CNS and CSPO, [Jonathan] Posner [assistant professor of mechanical and chemical engineering] is working with ASU colleagues to develop a course entitled Societal and Ethical Implications of Scientific Research, which examines nanotechnology issues. His collaborators, Jameson Wetmore, an assistant professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and Ira Bennett, an associate research professor with CSPO, have also developed Science Outside the Lab, a workshop on science policy and culture to be held in the nation’s capitol. Posner is encouraging his students to participate in the workshop.
If you want more information about the workshop, you can download the PDF from here. On a local note, Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, Vancouver, and Surrey, Canada) has or had a similar program called the Leonardo Institute.
A noncredit program for doctoral students that examines the risks, uncertainties, ethics, and art of science applied.
Leonardo Da Vinci made a living as an applied scientist but was remembered for his vision and his art. The Faculty of Applied Sciences offers a number of programs under the Leonardo name, including a speaker series, a biennial summer institute for graduate students and an annual competition to attend a technology management and policy conference.
Their deadline for applying to the 2009 programme was at the end of March 2009. There is no mention of a 2010 programme. I wonder if this is fallout from the School Communication’s move from the Faculty of Applied Science to the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology (FCAT). (I did ask the new dean, Cheryl Geisler, about any impact from the move and wrote up her response in part of 2 of the interview here.)
On a completely other note, Rob Annan at his Don’t leave Canada behind blog, has written up a posting that discusses a preview of the new federal budget (due Mar.4.10) and its likely impact on science funding. From Research Funding at Risk,
So what does this mean for research? First, despite insistent arguments from policy analysts and economists which suggest strong investment in R&D is a cornerstone of economic recovery and global competitiveness, research funding was not included among the “sacred cows” of health, education, and pensions. This means that, at best, research funding will have its growth “curbed” – no new spending, no new programs, and a real loss in funding in terms of inflation and overall government spending.
Second, by announcing that there would be “no new spending”, the government has suggested it will implement the research spending cuts outlined in the 2009 budget. These include $147.9-million in budget cuts to the tricouncil funding agencies, $167.8-million in cuts to Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, and $27.7-million in cuts to the National Research Council. And these cuts presumably don’t include widely rumoured cuts to the federal civil service, which includes employees at many federal research institutes. It also suggests that Genome Canada, whose funding was cut in 2009, will be left to wither on the vine, administering programs it began in 2007 and 2008, but without money to launch anything new or renew expiring projects.
I strongly suggest reading Rob’s essay for his incisive comments on the situation.
Following on Rob’s comments, I can state that after almost three years of researching, I haven’t come across anything which resembles a policy for nanotechnology research or funding in Canada, which means that in an environment where science gets very little specific attention and when the economy is in trouble, the nanotechnology situation is likely to worsen. This contrasts mightily with the US and many, many other countries. Andrew Maynard on his 2020 Science blog, recently noted this about funding for nanotechnology safety initiatives,
The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) budget for nanotechnology safety research is set to double, going from an estimated $3.6 million in 2010 to a requested $7.3 million in 2011. The agency will target its nanotechnology safety program to measuring the dynamic physico-chemical and toxicological properties of key nanomaterials and the release of these nanomaterials during manufacturing processes and from products throughout full product life cycles.
The full posting (US government kicks nanotechnology safety research up a gear) is here. Meanwhile, the Australians are putting money into the National Enabling Technology Strategy (nanotechnology is often described as an enabling technology). Here is where I get to apologize for being snarky about an Australian Academy of Science report that I couldn’t find. It was as, Cheryl Jones reported, released on Feb.22.10. I will make the correction to my posting on that date, here. I apologize for failing to check the site properly and being unwarrantedly snarky. A PDF of the report can be downloaded from here.