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 articlepeer-review

    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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