An operationalized post-normal science framework for assisting in the development of complex science policy solutions: The case of nanotechnology governance

Michael J. Bernstein, Rider W. Foley, Ira Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Scientists, engineers, and policy analysts commonly suggest governance regimes for technology to maximize societal benefits and minimize negative societal and environmental impacts of innovation processes. Yet innovation is a complex socio-technical process that does not respond predictably to modification. Our human propensity to exclude complexity when attempting to manage systems often results in insufficient, one-dimensional solutions. The tendency to exclude complexity (1) reinforces itself by diminishing experience and capacity in the design of simple solutions to complex problems, and (2) leads to solutions that do not address the identified problem. To address the question of how to avoid a complexity-exclusion trap, this article operationalizes a post-normal science framework to assist in the enhancement or design of science policy proposals. A literature review of technological fixes, policy panaceas, and knowledge-to-action gaps is conducted to survey examples of post-normal science frameworks. Next, an operational framework is used to assess the case of a proposed international nanotechnology advisory board. The framework reveals that the board addresses a slice of the broader, more complex problem of nanotechnology governance. We argue that while the formation of an international advisory board is not problematic in-and-of-itself, it is symptomatic of and plays into a complexity-exclusion trap. We offer researchers, policy analysts, and decision-makers three recommendations that incorporate a more appropriate level of complexity into governance proposals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2492
JournalJournal of Nanoparticle Research
Volume16
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2014

Keywords

  • Complexity-exclusion trap
  • Ethical
  • Legal
  • Science advisory boards
  • Societal
  • Socio-technical problems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics

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