Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Enhancing Governance Risk Profiles through Leveraging National Political Institutions for Transnational Nanotechnology Governance

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 11:15 AM
Grenada (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

David Cristian Morar1, Alexander M. Smith2 and Jonah Bea-Taylor2, (1)George Mason University, (2)Georgia Institute of Technology
This proposal seeks evidence for guiding the design of transnational nanotechnology governance efforts. Researchers in emerging technology governance have long called for efforts to govern the products of nanotechnology through organizations that transcend national boundaries. Much of this demand rests on the transcendence of private actors in emerging technology beyond national borders, in the form of high-tech multinational corporations. Rather than suggesting that a new “world government” be created, however, advocates of global nanotechnology governance argue for the transcendence of other nanotechnology stakeholders, such as consumer advocates and public health professionals, beyond national borders. 

While a nation might benefit from a transnational governance effort, the nation’s political institutions may impedthe nation’s participation therein. This concerns more than simple bureaucratic efficiency or ability of a nation to form consensus. The manner in which political institutions shift a nation’s attention and priorities could augment or undermine a nation’s appropriation of benefits from transnational governance efforts. This effect of political institutions could present particular troubles in cases of nations with advanced technology capacity. If key players in the global nanotech industry are unable to participate effectively in transnational governance efforts, the nanotech marketplace will experience elevated risks.

This proposal further explores the concept of transnational governance for nanotechnology by examining interactions between national political institutions, nation-level technology governance efforts, and attempts at transnational governance for emerging technology. We build upon prior work in this area that developed high-governance-risk profiles for nations. The governance-risk profiles are based on identification of nations’ technology capacity and the inclusiveness of nations’ political institutions. We further specify the inclusiveness aspect of governance risk by drawing upon annual data from the World Bank’s Database of Political Institutions (DPI). We also further specify the technology capacity component of governance risk through a bibliometric examination of the global distribution of publication and patent data on nanotechnology. We make use of both prior literature and original data analysis, particularly for understanding the distribution of publications and patents related to nanotechnology health and safety. From these enhancements of the data, we develop a typology of governance risk profiles. We then use qualitative analysis of nation-specific documents to explore the outcomes within an nation-example of each category in our typology.

Finally, we use further qualitative analysis to explore the history of interactions between nation-examples and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials (OECD WPMN). The OECD WPMN represents a multi-year attempt at transnational governance for nanotechnology. We analyze the outcomes of the WPMN and the actions of each participating member. We combine the results of this analysis with our data on governance inclusiveness and advanced technology capacity to explain how political institutions influenced nations’ ability to benefit from the WPMN. We conclude by using these explanations to draw lessons for the design of future transnational nanotechnology governance efforts.