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From the Trenches: First-Hand Reports of How Companies Are Managing Nanotechnologies
Volume 9, Issue 3

Vivian Weil

The goal of the empirical research in over 20 nanotechnology companies in the U.S. mid-west was to examine how responsibility is translated in firms’ everyday practices. The methodology was conversations with the companies’ lead technologists and managers. They were asked about their familiarity with external documents offering non-mandatory guidance and about their attention to the full life-cycle of their products, including disposal. A table captures information about their companies provided by the respondents. An explanation of the role of standards of ethics or responsibility and of legally mandated rules, as components of governance, provides a background for discussion of responses from the company officials. The findings are summarized and analyzed according to categories into which the companies are sorted. The analysis offers normative conclusions in regard to governance, for instance, in the light it sheds on how governance frameworks should be designed. Models for managing responsibly are provided in the examples of cooperation between companies and government agencies, e.g. NIOSH, in sharing knowledge across the gap (in both directions) and in conducting research on risks and harms.

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