outdoor shot of CNS-ASU office

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU (CNS-ASU) is the largest center for research, education and outreach on the societal aspects of nanotechnology in the world.

CNS-ASU develops programs that integrate academic and societal concerns in order to better understand how to govern new technologies, from their birth in the laboratory to their entrance into the mainstream.


CNS-ASU's mission is to:

  • Research the societal implications of nanotechnology and emerging technologies.
  • Train an interdisciplinary community of scholars with new insights into the societal dimensions of emerging technologies.
  • Engage the public, policy-makers, business leaders and researchers in dialogues about the goals and implications of emerging technologies.
  • Partner with cutting-edge laboratories to cultivate greater reflexiveness in research, development, education and policy. 


The guiding conceptual goals of CNS-ASU are two-fold: to increase reflexivity[1] within nanotechnology research and to increase society’s capacity to engage in anticipatory governance[2] of nanotechnology and other emerging technologies.

Through this improved contextual awareness, we can help guide the path of nanotechnology knowledge and innovation toward more socially desirable outcomes and away from undesirable ones. Towards this end, CNS-ASU believes:

Foresight and anticipation are crucial, even while prediction is impossible.
All governing requires some orientation toward the future. We cannot predict the outcomes nanoscience, but we can deliberate about futures using tools ranging from scenarios and models to games and science fiction.

Public engagement in research and innovation strengthens its societal value. 
From large-scale workshops to informal settings, CNS-ASU designs and tests new forms of public engagement to generate opportunities for true dialogues about emerging science and technology.

Integrating societal perspectives into laboratory work increases the opportunity for informed scientific practice.
CNS-ASU helps scientists develop a greater capacity to understand where scientific and social values come from, and how they may be related to research about emerging science and technology.

Societal outcomes require "intellectual fusion" across disciplines.
Knowledge from across the academic spectrum is necessary to comprehend the complexity of the real world, as is knowledge from the general public.

1. Decades before the most important outcomes of nanotechnology and other emerging technologies fully unfold, complex social relations are already beginning to take shape. Reflexivity refers to social learning that expands the range of available choices in decision-making about nanotechnology. Greater reflexivity can signal emerging problems, which then enables anticipatory governance.

2. The ability of society and institutions to seek and understand a variety of inputs in order to manage emerging technologies while such management is still possible.