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Science has undergone tremendous changes since World War II with the blurring of boundaries between science, government, and industry, as well as the so-called convergence of scientific disciplines. Nanotechnology is an illustrative example of this phenomenon. Boundaries between all these spheres are challenged, renegotiated, and reshaped under the influence of the multiple actors involved. I question here the extent to which nanoscience and nanotechnology (N&N) are emerging as a new scientific discipline under the influence of science and technology policies. With the study of N&N in Ireland from the late 1990s onwards, a focus is placed on both the macro-meso and meso-micro levels of analysis. Through a comparative case study research design of six research teams, I describe that policy makers have, to a certain extent, restructured the physical boundaries of science to make them conform to the nanotechnology logic, whereas the social and mental boundaries are still ruled by an established paradigm logic. This is confirmed at the meso-micro level with the identification of the barriers that scientists with diverse backgrounds face in a multidisciplinary laboratory. Thus, nanotechnology as a general purpose technology has challenged and renewed our theoretical conceptions of technology management by affording possibilities for both radical and incremental innovations. Moreover, even though policy makers are more involved in the scientific activity, they have a limited impact on it by not being able to steer the cognitive structure of science. Boundaries, in these types of organisations, instead of being blurred, are becoming ever more complex.
Battard, N. (2014) Policy Makers’ Influence on the Emergence of a New Scientific Discipline: The Case of Nanotechnology in Ireland. Doctoral thesis, DIT, 2014.