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Chinese Public and Nanoresearchers’ Perceptions of Benefits and Risks of Nanotechnology

  • Jing Zhang
  • Guoyu WangEmail author
Original Research Paper


Public and experts’ perceptions of benefits and risks of nanotechnology constitute an important element of nanoethics studies. On the one hand, compared with traditional ethics, nanoethics is a future-oriented ethics. The construction of ethical norms requires public participation. On the other hand, nanotechnology is characterized by uncertainty. Our previous research showed the Chinese public’s support for nanotechnology was associated more with beliefs, including views of technology and the weighing of benefits and risks of nanotechnology, and less with knowledge about nanotechnology; the support was high but might change over time. Meanwhile, Chinese researchers have been actively conducting studies on nanotechnology while being highly aware of nanosafety issues. In this context, we further examined in the present study Chinese nanoresearchers’ perceptions of specific benefits and risks of nanotechnology, compared them with those of the Chinese public, and examined the Chinese nanoresearchers’ perceptions of risks of specific nanoapplications. Initial cross-regional comparisons were made with results from equivalent US and European surveys. Results showed Chinese nanoresearchers perceived a higher level of overall nanobenefits than the public and an almost equal level of overall nanorisks with the public. Four nanorisks were perceived by a higher proportion of experts than public; the experts likely relied on technical expertise while the public, possessing little knowledge about nanotechnology, might have exercised caution based on experiences and observations of other technologies. Of 23 nanoapplications, Chinese nanoresearchers regarded food using nanomaterials as the most risky and displays using nanomaterials as the least risky. Similarities and differences were observed in comparisons of Chinese with US and European survey results. In our age of technology and economic globalization, this research is of significance both for China’s formulation of nanotechnology development strategies and for the further study on nanoethics and good governance of emerging technologies such as nanotechnology worldwide.


Nanotechnology Benefits Risks Public Expert 



This paper is based on research supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant No. 2017YFC0910100), the Major Research Plan of the National Social Science Fund of China (Grant No. 12&ZD117), Liaoning Province Higher Education Innovation Team Fund (Grant No. WT2015002), and Liaoning Province Department of Education Humanities and Social Research Fund (Grant No. ZJ2014014). We thank Dr. Deming Lin for advice on data analysis.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyDalian University of TechnologyDalianPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of PhilosophyFudan UniversityShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China

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