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Managing Nanotechnology Risks in Vulnerable Populations: A Case for Gender Diversity

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Abstract

Funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN), this study asks qualitatively analyzes interviews with 48 nanoscientist users at four NNIN facilities. The main research questions were: (1) Do nanotechnologies pose unique social and ethical concerns?; (2) how are the risks associated with nanotechnology distributed among different human populations?; (3) what are specific policy steps that can be used to manage such risks? This study purposefully oversampled female scientists to correct for the historical underrepresentation of women in the nanotechnology workforce. By amplifying the voice of this science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce minority, the policy discussion contained herein better reflects the concerns of the general population. The results, analyzed with the aid of qualitative data analysis software, yield interesting differences in risk characterization among the scientists and innovative policy suggestions for the nanoscience community and regulators alike.

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