‘You caught me off guard’: Probing the futures of complex engineered nanomaterials

Jathan Sadowski, David Guston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This paper applies principles and methods from the framework of anticipatory governance to the case of what the National Research Council calls “complex engineered nanomaterials” (CENM). This framework does not aim to generate crystal ball visions or definitive answers, but rather provides guidance for uncovering, understanding, and addressing social, ethical, environmental, and policy issues that stem from emerging technologies. Thus, in anticipation of increased CENM research, CENM products, and their different governance challenges, we aim to lay the groundwork for the anticipatory governance of CENMs by mapping out what—according to the engineers and scientists, we interviewed who are working at the research level of these CENMs—will be the main issues and themes that we need to pay attention to in the near future. The structured interviews focused on three groups of questions: (1) potential and/or actual applications and/or products from the participant’s research; (2) environmental health and safety issues pertaining to both the participant’s research and CENMs generally; and (3) the future of CENMs. Without a foundational understanding to build on, social scientists, policymakers, and regulatory agencies will be at a loss about how to govern CENMs before they are widely implemented in society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number208
JournalJournal of Nanoparticle Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Anticipatory governance
  • Complex engineered nanomaterials
  • Environmental health and safety
  • Future
  • Science policy
  • Technology assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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