Tuesday, April 11, 2006

New Research Report from the U.K.: Nanoscience for Nanopublics

A new report by researchers at Lancaster University and Demos argues that we need "‘upstream’ public discussion about research and development of nanotechnologies." In fact, the report predicts that a "failure to engage the public in decisions about the use and regulation of nanotechnologies could generate a controversy similar to that over genetically modified food."

"Through interviews with scientists and policymakers, and by spending time in nanoscience laboratories, the project tried to draw out the implicit assumptions – what are sometimes termed the ‘imaginaries’ – of key players in the nanotechnology field. This was followed by a series of public focus groups, which explored questions of risk, responsibility and control, and identified potential faultlines of public controversy.

At a final workshop, a group of nanoscientists and citizens shared their hopes, fears and concerns. The tone of their conversation was open and realistic, and generated a surprising degree of consensus, as members of the public developed a better sense of life in the laboratory, and the scientists grew to appreciate the legitimacy of public concerns."

(For a PDF copy of the full report, click here.)

As p art of the ESRC-funded project, the researchers also produced a short video, documenting the meeting between 12 scientists and members of the public during the final "Nanoscientists Meet Nanopublics" workshop of the meeting.