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Traveling Technologies: Societal Implications of Nanotechnology Through the Global Value Chain

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We present a model and resources for undergraduate research on societal implications of nanotechnology, based on an innovative undergraduate internship program developed at the University of California, Santa Barbara Center for Nanotechnology in Society (CNS). The research approach developed for the internship project is based on the Global Value Chain (GVC) framework and value chain analysis. A value chain analysis considers all the inputs and stages involved to produce a product or service – from R&D, design, and raw materials, to production, marketing, and distribution. The GVC framework facilitates analysis of societal implications because it highlights their interconnectedness; the importance of innovation and technology transfer, globalization, risk, media, and perception vary in different parts of the value chain, yet each impacts what happens elsewhere in the chain. The open-ended nature of research, so different from the typical classroom experience of undergraduates, can be difficult and intimidating to those learning to do research. The value chain approach is helpful for students new to the research process because it provides a starting point students can relate to – commercial products and technologies. Furthermore, the approach provides an organizing framework that students can follow as they progress in their research that allows them to be self-directed within a theoretical foundation. The hallmark of this project is that it facilitates interdisciplinary learning by integrating nanoscale science and engineering (NSE) with societal implications and can be used by students with a background in in social sciences, humanities, or NSE fields. This 'Traveling Technologies' model can be adopted and adapted by other faculty, postdoc or graduate mentors as an undergraduate internship or a project of a length that could vary from eight weeks to a semester to a year.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2011

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  • The Journal of Nano Education (JNE) is a peer-reviewed international journal that aims to provide the most complete and reliable source of information on current developments in nanoscale science, technology, engineering, and medical education.
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