Ethical, Legal, and Societal Implications

This portion of a larger Ethical, Legal, and Societal Implications (ELSI) research project aims to (1) identify key decisions and associated societal issues along the research-to-deployment trajectory; and (2) anticipate the implications of alternative choices upstream (e.g., for R&D) and downstream (e.g., for commercialization and deployment). We have begun to interview Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS) scientists to elicit their perspectives on key transitions within the R&D life cycle. This information (1) identifies opportunities for ELSI analyses useful to nanoscience and ELSI research communities; (2) specifies potential topics for new nanoscience R&D; and (3) anticipates issues that may affect how the R&D life cycle evolves.

Interviewees’ personal perspectives

  • R&D life cycle: iterative and non-linear
  • Disconnect: R&D versus demonstration, deployment, decommissioning
    • Funding sources differ; metrics differ
    • Scientists’ proclivities for R&D vs. application may differ But, those who wish to span more of the R&D life cycle face special challenges
  • Primary product: peer-reviewed journal articles
  • Primary goal: scientific impact; additional research funding

Linking R&D to application


  • Individuals’ efforts: scientists, program managers, or others via:
    • Shaping funding/project portfolio
    • Reaching out (alerting others) or in (scanning possibilities)— “skimming off the top”
    • Patenting, licensing, commercialization
  • R&D topics salient for downstream may not be pursued
  • Information flows may be stymied—upstream and downstream

For more information, contact:
Amy Wolfe (, 865-574-5944)
David Bjornstadd (, 865-574-5152)