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Nanotechnology and Nanoscience The Royal Society

Nanotechnology: views of Scientists and Engineers

Introduction

In June 2003 the UK Government commissioned the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering to carry out an independent study of likely developments in nanotechnology and to examine whether nanotechnology raises or is likely to raise new health and safety, environmental, social or ethical issues which are not covered by current regulation. The terms of reference for the study are as follows:

  • define what is meant by nanoscience and nanotechnology;
  • summarise the current scientific knowledge on nanotechnology;
  • identify applications of nanotechnology, both currently and potentially, with indications of when they might be developed;
  • consider environmental, health and safety, ethical and social implications of the technology, both now and in the future; and
  • suggest areas where additional regulation should be considered.

As part of the study the working group held a workshop for 42 scientists and engineers at the Royal Society on 30 September 2003. Approximately 80% of attendees were from the academic community, 15% from industry and the remaining 5% were from government and non-government organisations. Of the total, 20% of attendees were engaged in biological, medical or pharmaceutical research, 65% in physics, chemistry or engineering, and the remainder comprised of health and safety, policy, and business information professionals. This is the report of that workshop. Sections 3-6 are summaries of the breakout groups that looked at developments in four specific areas of nanotechnology. Section 7 contains a summary of three, multi-disciplinary, breakout groups that considered the health, safety, environmental and social issues that nanotechnology might present. The programme for the workshop, including the questions that attendees were asked to address can be found in Appendix A. The list of attendees can be found in Appendix B.

Please note that the views summarised within this document do not represent a consensus of the views of the attendees and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Nanotechnology working group.

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The Royal Society 2003
The Royal Academy of Engineering