Mittwoch, 18. Mai 2016, 09:30 - 17:00 iCal

Making Nano “Safer by Design”

An interdisciplinary workshop

VAM2 Konferenzraum, Hauptgebäude der Universität Wien, 1. Stock
Universitätsring 1, 1010 Wien

Seminar, Workshop, Kurs

Please register by May 11 with a short message to Claudia Schwarz-Plaschg ( Registration is mandatory due to the limited number of places.


Organisation: Angela Kallhoff and Claudia Schwarz-Plaschg (Research Platform Nano-Norms-Nature, University of Vienna) in collaboration with Iris Eisenberger (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna).


In this workshop, we wish to explore the concept of “safer by design” in an interdisciplinary dialogue. The concept “safer by design” designates an approach towards material development, which includes knowledge of potential adverse effects and practices of evaluation into the process of product design. Chemists and material scientists are trained in toxicology to become aware of inherent characteristics of chemicals and materials increasing their hazard potential in order to choose between safer but functionally equivalent alternatives in product development. Thus, instead of assessing risks and effects of product qualities ex post, “safer by design” proposes an early-stage evaluation. This proposal has received increasing attention in the field of nanotechnology to proactively address potential risks and negative impacts emerging from this new technology.


Even though the concept is now frequently used, many questions are still open for debate.

These include:

• What precisely does “safer by design” mean in the context of research on nanomaterials? What is the meaning of “safety”? What are existing biological, ethical, legal, and societal definitions of safety and in how far are these in accordance or tension with each other?

• Do we already have enough mechanistic knowledge of adverse effects of nanomaterials for a “safer by design” product development approach? What does “enough” mean in this context and who decides about how much is enough?

• Which norms and values are inscribed into the concept and methods of “safer by design” and in how far do these correspond or conflict with other societal values (e.g. consumer sovereignty, freedom of choice) and current approaches in nanotechnology governance (e.g. responsible research and innovation, upstream public engagement)?

• Which actors does the concept align and what are their specific interests in implementing it? What are incentives for different stakeholders to adopt “safer by design” approaches? How realistic is the market application of a “safer by design” nanomaterial in the short term future?

• Which ethical, legal, and social implications need to be debated regarding an early-stage evaluation of product qualities? Does this approach contribute to a different assessment of products? And if so: In which way does it change the process of evaluation?

• Can “safer by design” be compared to “value sensitive design”, “privacy by design” and similar approaches? What can be learned from such a comparison for “safer nano by design”?

• In which ways can an interdisciplinary perspective contribute to a better understanding and evaluation of “safer by design” practices?


The workshop is dedicated to the interdisciplinary and critical discussion of these issues.

Zur Webseite der Veranstaltung


Angela Kallhoff and Claudia Schwarz-Plaschg/Nano-Norms-Nature-Forschungsplattform der Universität Wien

Um Anmeldung wird gebeten


Michaela Bartsch
Institut für Philosophie der Uni Wien
DW 46 410