On Being Responsible: Multiplicity in Responsible Development

Sarah R. Davies, Cecilie Glerup, Maja Horst

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‘Responsible development’ has risen to become a key normative framework for nanotechnology. The technology’s governance landscape is fundamentally structured through a discourse of responsibility, in which political tools such as public engagement, voluntary reporting and soft law are mobilized so as to enable innovation. To call for responsibility has, indeed, become somewhat trite. In this essay we take not the normative demand for responsibility, but its operationalisation, as our analytical focus, arguing that it is important not to underestimate the term’s practical flexibility and discursive multiplicity. To illustrate this point we consider firstly the range of ways in which ‘responsibility’ is articulated within the literature on higher education and sociology of science; and, secondly, how notions of responsible development are understood, and acted upon, in two different US sites: an academic research centre, and the nanotechnology private sector. Through mapping something of the diversity of ‘responsibility’ and the dynamics which shape its various articulations we start to fill out the complexities of operationalising – rather than merely calling for – nanotechnology’s responsible development.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResponsibility in Nanotechnology Development
EditorsSimone Arnaldi, Arianna Ferrari, Paolo Magaudda, Francesca Marin
Place of PublicationDordrecht
PublisherSpringer Science+Business Media
Publication date2014
ISBN (Print)9789401791021
ISBN (Electronic)9789401791038
Publication statusPublished - 2014
SeriesThe International Library of Ethics, Law and Technology

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