Teses Defendidas

The Governance of Emergent Technologies in the Semi-peripheral Context: The Cases of Nanotechnology in Brazil and Portugal

Paulo F.C. Fonseca

Data de Defesa
21 de Julho de 2014
Programa de Doutoramento
Governação, Conhecimento e Inovação
Tiago Santos Pereira
Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (N&N) are well acknowledged as field where policy makers are pursuing innovative governance regimes, not only to promote the emergence of technological innovations and its economical benefits, but also to assure a responsible development that could guarantee desirable outcomes. Contemporary N&N policies have given STS researchers a unique opportunity to empirically develop know-how on constructive assessments, public engagement exercises and other mechanisms designed to tail the integration of broader societal issues into sociotechnical decisions, an approach that has been called anticipatory governance. However, besides the global character of the "nano entrepreneurship", there are yet few empirical studies about the adoption of similar mechanisms as a way to pursue a responsible development of nanotechnologies in semi-peripheral contexts such as the Brazilian and the Portuguese environment of research and development. Both countries have followed the global trend to push N&N development with significant funding for research and education, but have not yet presented the same emphasis on the design and implementation of upstream activities of assessment or public engagement. The main purpose of this PhD research is to inquiry about the necessity and feasibility of implementing projects oriented to N&N constructive assessment in these two countries. The research methodology includes literature review, participant observations in a Brazilian and a Portuguese N&N Laboratory and semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders. The theoretical framework builds upon Boaventura de Souza Santos' sociology of absences and emergences; co-productionist concepts, such as sociotechnical imaginaries and civic epistemologies; and distinct governance frameworks oriented to the responsible development of innovations, including the Latin American social technologies approach. Preliminary results, based on empirical research in Brazil, points toward a general unawareness about the constructive technology assessment´s tools and purposes and even about the national policies oriented to the development of social technologies. However, although there are significant constraints, such as the "basic science" culture and the lack of financial resources, there is a consensual receptivity to the integration of social sciences into (part of) the researches. There appears to be a particular opportunity to articulate the N&N researches with social technology projects, which could be also used as a tool to embed more reflexivity among Brazilian N&N community.