Wednesday, August 27, 2008

NCSU Workshop on Communicating Health and Safety Risks on Emerging Technologies

NC State press release:

NCSU Workshop:

Communicating Health and Safety Risks on Emerging Technologies in the 21st Century

McKimmon Center, North Carolina State University
, NC
August 28-29, 2008

This workshop is designed to review some findings and develop the ground plan to complete the award (NIRT: Intuitive Toxicology and Public Engagement) in an efficient and productive manner. After the workshop, the presentations will be re-examined to help define variables needed in the first round of quantitative research funded under the grant (a set of modified Delphi rounds involving expert and inexpert samples).

“The primary objectives of this workshop are to isolate the key variables and to produce appropriate instruments with which we can assess public perceptions of the risks of applied nanosciences. The workshop should also provide us with a clearer picture of the predictions of experts, based on the most recent research, of how the public perceives risks and how different modes of communication affect those perceptions.”

We have designed the workshop with presentations in Raleigh at NCSU McKimmon Center and others from remote locations via the web. We are webcasting the entire workshop and we are streaming selected portions from our website as deliverables. Below is the schedule of speakers. Some titles remain in flux but this seems to be the team with whom we will work. Our web site is:

Workshop Schedule

“Communicating Health and Safety Risks on
Emerging Technologies in the 21st Century”

McKimmon Center, North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC August 28-29, 2008

Transportation will be provided to and from the Clarion Hotel (2 miles away).

Day One, Thursday, August 28, 2008.

I. Introduction and welcome – David Berube, NCSU (13:00-13:10).

II. Risks and Publics.

a. Keynote Speaker — Lennart Sj√∂berg, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden (13:15-14:00).

b. Panels (14:05 -16:00) –

i. (WebConf) Susanna Priest, UNLV, TBA.

ii. Rob Goble, Clark U., “Uncertainty and risk communication concerning merging technologies: Describing uncertainties is not the only challenge.”

iii. Grant Gardner, doctoral student, NCSU, TBA.

III. Researching How Toxicology is Communicated to Publics.

a. Speaker – Dietram A. Scheufele, U Wisconsin (16:15-17:00).

b. Panel A (17:05 -19:00) –

i. John Stone, Michigan State U., Public perceptions of agrifood nanotechnologies: Using Extension to assess and link stakeholder knowledge with public policies.”

ii. Martin Clauberg, U. Tennessee, “A review of risk perception methodologies and empirical studies focused on risks from chemicals released from consumer products/articles.”

iii. Jennifer Kuzma, U Minn, “At taxonomy of risks and communication challenges.”

Day Two, Friday, August 29, 2008.

IV. Morning food and coffee (09:00).

V. Nano-toxicology and Risk.

a. Speaker – Vicki Colvin, Rice University (09:30-10:15).

b. Panels (10:20-12:20) –

i. Tara Sabo-Attwood, Dept of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, U. South Carolina, TBA

ii. James Bonner, Dept of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, NCSU, TBA.

iii. Mark Weisner, Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke U., TBA

VI. Lunch break – provided by workshop.

VII. Risk Engagement and the Public.

a. Speaker – Pat Gehrke, U. South Carolina (13:20-14:15).

b. Panels (14:20-16:35) –

i. (WebConf) Kenneth Foster, Dept of Bioengineering, U. Penn., “Risk assessment and risk communication for electromagnetic fields: A WHO perspective”.

ii. Roy Schwartzman, Dept of Communication, UNC – Greensboro, Nanotoxicartography: Rhetorically mapping public engagement with nanotechnology’s promises and perils.”

iii. (WebConf) Sharon Friedman & Brenda Egolf, Lehigh U., “Coverage of Nanotechnology’s Potential Health and Environmental Risks in the US and UK Media.”

iv. Kevin Elliott and Travis Reider, Dept. of Philosophy, USC, “Philosophical Debates about Policy Making and Public Perceptions of Risk: Roles for Empirical Research."

VIII. Challenges in Emerging Technologies.

a. Speaker – William Kinsella, Dept of Communication, Science and Technology Studies, North Carolina State U. (16:40-17:15).

If you have any questions, please contact us: Katie Hayes (Workshop Admin. Asst.), Christopher Cummings (Grant Admin. Asst.), or David Berube (Grant PI).

Monday, August 25, 2008 on the top-5 facts you didn't know about nanotechnology

What do Howard Stern, the Cold War, escorts, and nanotechnology have in common? They all made's "5 things you don't know about ..." column. And I am obviously particularly flattered that some CNS-ASU research we presented at AAAS this spring was listed as the #1 fact you don't know about nano:

"A recent study conducted out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that out of 1,015 adult Americans polled, only 29.5% agreed that nanotechnology was morally acceptable. In stark contrast 54.1% of Brits, 62.7% of Germans and 72.1% of French survey participants found the technology acceptable."

(Click here for the full column.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Public outreach done right? New NRC report

The National Research Council's Panel on Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making just released their summary report on how to conduct successful public outreach on science and technology.
[The report] assesses whether, and under what conditions, public participation achieves the outcomes desired. Claims from all sides are considered and evaluated as a central point of the study, in order to provide an overall assessment of the merits and failings of participation. The book also offers guidance to practitioners and identifies directions for further research."

(Click here for the full report.)
See also a short article from the NY Times on the new report:
"The council, the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, produced the report (“Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making,” at at the request of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and the departments of energy and agriculture. [Committee chair] Dr. Dietz said it aims to draw together an abundance of new research on what he calls “the melding together of science and democracy” and to offer guidance for agencies beginning public outreach."
What is most interesting, maybe, is the fact that the committee roster did not include a single communication scholar. Communication as an academic discipline, of course, has provided decades of research on how strategic communication and public outreach can work hand in hand to encourage and inform public participation. And the effectiveness of many previous engagement efforts was in fact compromised precisely because organizers did not understand the mass and opinion dynamics that often contaminate or crowd out well-meaning outreach efforts.

2009 U.S. News Rankings: Wisconsin #35

U.S. News & World Report just released their rankings for 2009, which have UW-Madison tied for 35th among all public and private universities (up from 38th last year) and seventh among public institutions.

(Click here for the full report.)