Posted: September 20, 2007

EU project develops nanotechnology ethics education through summer schools

(Nanowerk News) A new EU-funded project is organising summer schools on the ethics of nanotechnologies and converging technologies for the summer of 2008. The results will be used to develop new tools for e-learning.
'We would like to build on the work the European Commission is currently undertaking on developing a Code of Conduct for nanotechnology research in Europe,' Dr. Ineke Malsch, the coordinator of the project, told CORDIS News.
Taking the EU's forthcoming code of conduct for nanotechnology research as its basis, the ETHICSCHOOL project intends to disseminate the code through two summer schools, and to publish draft codes of conduct developed during these workshops.
'As documents tend to be forgotten if they are not used, we really want to stimulate people to read the EU Code of Conduct on nanotechnology and then start thinking about it and discussing about how to implement it in their real life work,' she added.
The project will organise two summer schools next year in the Netherlands. The first will focus on the ethics of nanotechnology, whilst the second will be on the ethics of converging technologies (nanotechnology; biotechnology; information and communication technologies; and cognitive sciences).
'We will try to bring together natural scientists, social scientists as well as philosophers and theologists to discuss the new issues in the field as they arise,' said Dr. Malsch, a former physics graduate who specialises in technology and society issues who has been following nanotechnology issues since 1995.
'You could say that we are trying to get the maximum value out of the Code of Conduct of the European Commission in real life practical conditions and then using the results of our discussions to provide the Commission with feedback so that it may consider improving, adapting it or gaining support for some of its ideas,' she added.
At the same time, the project intends to use the summer schools and the results of their discussions to develop e-learning tools.
'We want to develop a CD or maybe internet based tools so other people can use the results of our work in their education on the ethics of nanotechnologies or in ethics of research courses at university level for example,' said Ms Malsch.
The idea for the project came about two years ago. According to Ms Malsch, the issue of ethics in nanotechnology is currently being discussed by experts and policy makers at the international level. The European Commission and the National Science Foundation in the US are among those who are interested in developing nanotechnology in a responsible way.
'We felt that it was also important for the discussion to take place amongst scientists themselves and to prompt students to start talking about the ethics of their research or in their education,' explained Dr. Malsch.
The ETHICSCHOOL is a specific support action funded under the Science and Society section of the EU's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).
Source: Cordis