Responsibilisation phenomena: the EC code of conduct for responsible nanosciences and nanotechnologies research

Daniele Ruggiu


The European Commission Code of Conduct for Responsible Nanosciences and Nanotechnologies Research (EC CoC) is a case of soft regulation of an emerging technological field. It can be deemed an instrument of meta-regulation aimed at fostering self-regulatory behaviours, and as an example of the distribution of responsibilities among stakeholders within the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) framework. Between 2007 and 2011 three major consultations concerning the Code were launched, and could be regarded as tools to implement compliance with the EC CoC and thus to foster the allocation of obligations. They also permit us to analyze the genesis of the EC CoC from its initial drafting to its adoption and thus to follow for the first time the development of RRI's ‘normative anchor points’ within a Community instrument, their influence on the principles and guidelines of the Code, and their perception among stakeholders.  In sum, consultation processes make it possible to study one possible path for ‘anchor points’ to enter regulation and to affect stakeholders’ behaviour. The consultation processes address some concerns with regard to the language and structure of the EC CoC which have affected negatively the perception of stakeholders and which has limited compliance with the Code's principles and guidelines. This case study reveals the importance of the communication of principles within a self-regulatory instrument designed as meta-regulation, as well as the importance of those goals, such as ‘normative anchor points’, that drive its formulation.

Keywords: Responsibilisation, Meta-regulation, Responsible Research and Innovation, Normative Anchor Points, Nanotechnology

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