To the top

Page Manager: Webmaster
Last update: 9/11/2012 3:13 PM

Tell a friend about this page
Print version

Scientists’ Understanding… - University of Gothenburg, Sweden Till startsida
To content Read more about how we use cookies on

Scientists’ Understandings of Risk of Nanomaterials: Disciplinary Culture Through the Ethnographic Lens

Journal article
Authors Mikael Johansson
Åsa Boholm
Published in NanoEthics
Volume 11
Issue 3
Pages 229-241
ISSN 1871-4757
Publication year 2017
Published at Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI)
School of Global Studies
Pages 229-241
Language en
Keywords Ethnography, Nanotechnology, Risk, Scientific experts
Subject categories Sociology


© 2017 The Author(s) There is a growing literature on how scientific experts understand risk of technology related to their disciplinary field. Previous research shows that experts have different understandings and perspectives depending on disciplinary culture, organizational affiliation, and how they more broadly look upon their role in society. From a practice-based perspective on risk management as a bottom-up activity embedded in work place routines and everyday interactions, we look, through an ethnographic lens, at the laboratory life of nanoscientists. In the USA and Sweden, two categories of nanoscientists have been studied: upstream scientists who are mainly electrical and physical engineers and downstream scientists who are toxicologists, often with a more multidisciplinary background, including physics, chemistry, biology, and engineering. The results show that although the two groups of scientists share the same norms of appropriate laboratory conduct to promote safety and good science practice, they have very different perspectives on risk with nanomaterials. Upstream scientists downplay risk; they emphasize the innovative potential of the new materials to which they express an affectionate and personalized stance. The downstream scientists, instead, focus on the uncertainties and unpredictability of nanomaterials and they see some materials as potentially highly dangerous. The results highlight the ambiguous and complex role of scientific experts in policy processes about the risk and regulation of nanotechnology.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

The University of Gothenburg uses cookies to provide you with the best possible user experience. By continuing on this website, you approve of our use of cookies.  What are cookies?