UNESCO and nanotechnology/nanoscience

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) has awarded another of its medals for nanoscience and nanotechnologies (I first wrote about this medal in my November 11, 2010 posting when it was awarded to “Russian Academician Zhores Ivanovich Alferov, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics; and Chunli Bai, Professor of Chemistry at the Laboratory of Molecular Nanostructure and Nanotechnology in Beijing and Executive Vice-President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.”

This time the award has gone to Victor Bykov. From the April 12, 2011 news item on Azonano,

Director General of NT-MDT Co. Victor Bykov has been awarded by the UNESCO medal and a diploma for “Contribution to development of nanoscience and nanotechnologies”.

The UNESCO medal “Contribution to development of nanoscience and nanotechnologies” was established on the 1st of March 2010 in the framework of the theme “Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies” in the Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS) published by UNESCO and EOLSS Publishers.

The medal is awarded by UNESCO Director General to representatives of nanoscience and nanotechnologies and scientific and public agencies, as well as politicians that contributed to the development of the above mentioned institutions in the spirit UNESCO’s priorities.

There sure seems to a strong Russian connection (from my Nov.11, 2010 posting),

The Medal was established at the initiative of the International Commission responsible for developing the Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies theme for the Encyclopedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS)* published by UNESCO and EOLSS Publishers. This initiative was supported by the Russian Federation’s Permanent Delegation to UNESCO. The EOLSS constitutes one of the world’s biggest web-based archives as a trans-disciplinary science base for sustainable development.

It’s early days, not even six months since the launch for this award, so it’s a little difficult to do much more than to note an interesting coincidence.

While UNESCO gives out medals, it’s also holding meetings like this one, Meeting of the COMEST (World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology) Working Group on the Ethics of Nanotechnologies, which was held on April 27 and 28, 2011. Excerpted from the April 28, 2011 news article by Narab Khan for the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA),

The Working Group on the Ethics of Nanotechnologies which is part of UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology (COMEST) is meeting in Brussels Wednesday and Thursday to examine the ethical dimension of Nanotechnolgies.

Alain Pompidou, President of COMEST, told a press conference here Wednesday that the body is composed of 18 members from all over the world representing different disciplines.

However, [the first concern is that] the rapid pace of development in Nanotechnolgoies is creating difficulties in the identification of and response to potential impacts, especially long term impacts.

Secondly, the science and technology are being driven by the wrong kind of interests, not in interest of humanity but in particular military interests, noted Crowley.

The military is the main supporters of nano research in many parts of the world especially in the US.

“There is a concern that the scientific research might be distorted by the search for specific military applications that might serve as a distraction from the focus of achieving the Millennium Development goals and putting science to work for the benefit of humankind as a whole,” warned the UNESCO official.

The third concern is that developing countries might be left behind by rapid new developments in science which might be regarded from the ethical point of view as unacceptable.

The fourth concern is risk-management of using nano-materials. They are in the shops and one might buy them without knowing it.

(It seems the Kuwait News Agency is the only one to report on this meeting.) This item served to pique my interest in UNESCO’s World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology and so I’m providing this link so you can read more about them here. I’ve also found the agenda for the April 27 – 28, 2011 meeting of the Working Group on the Ethics of Nanotechnologies.

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