Navigation Links
Public attitudes to new technology: Lessons for regulators
Date:9/21/2009

(Santa Barbara, California) New technologies may change our lives for the better, but sometimes they have risks. Communicating those benefits and risks to the public, and developing regulations to deal with them, can be difficult particularly if there's already public opposition to the technology.

A new study that provides an overview of research on public perceptions of nanotechnology technology on a very, very small scale challenges some current ideas of how people view the risks and benefits of new technology. The work has implications for how policymakers talk about and regulate new technologies.

Public views on nanotechnology, which could revolutionize medicine, electronics and energy technology, but has possible health and environmental risks, are overwhelmingly favorable, the study found. However many people hadn't heard of nanotechnology, and nearly half those surveyed in North America, Europe and Japan weren't sure what they thought of it. It's reassuring that those people haven't made hasty judgments, the authors say, but that means that bungled attempts to educate the public about nanotechnology, or to regulate it, could turn public opinion against this promising technology.

"If you only talk about benefits it doesn't mean the public will buy the product and everyone lives happily ever after. We know that is not a good scenario," says Barbara Herr Harthorn, Director and Principal Investigator of the National Science Foundation-funding Center for Nanotechnology in Society at the University of California, Santa Barbara (CNS-UCSB).

Harthorn is one of the authors of a study "Anticipating the perceived risk of nanotechnologies" appearing online Sept. 20 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. It is based on data from 22 surveys conducted over the last decade.

Previous studies have found that new and unknown technologies such as biotechnology tend to be regarded as risky, but that's not the case for nanotechnology, according to this research. People who thought nanotechnology had more benefits than risks outnumbered those who perceived greater risks by 3 to 1 in this study. The 44 percent of people who didn't have an opinion either way surprised the researchers.

"You don't normally get that reluctance," says Terre Satterfield of the University of British Columbia in Canada, lead author of the study and a collaborator with CNS-UCSB.

It's important to study how people perceive risk, and not just expert assessments of actual risk, Herr Harthorn says, because it's "a much better way to understand how people are going to behave and respond."

"It's not true that if a technology has benefits it will automatically get accepted by the public," adds Milind Kandlikar of the University of British Columbia. He is also a collaborator with CNS-UCSB and a co-author of the study, along with Joseph Conti, a former graduate fellow with CNS-UCSB, and Christian Beaudrie of the University of British Columbia.

Public perceptions of risk depend on various demographic and cultural factors; for example, wealthy, well-educated white men tend to think of new technologies as less risky. Public opinion also is easily swayed by catastrophic events like the Chernobyl accident, which galvanized opposition to nuclear power, and by news like reports of deaths from Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Europe, or from severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or swine flu (the H1N1 virus).

"It's much easier to destroy trust than gain it," Satterfield says, so after an event like a nuclear meltdown or oil spill, leaders need to "take responsibility for any consequences quickly and clearly."

Because nanotechnology hasn't made big news, it offers researchers a chance to study how people judge new technology before controversy arises. "The future is yet to be written. Judgments could go either way," Satterfield says.


'/>"/>

Contact: Barbara Herr Harthorn
harthorn@cns.ucsb.edu
805-893-3350
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology technology :

1. Omeros Commences Initial Public Offering of Common Stock
2. Rigel Announces Pricing of Public Offering of 13,000,000 Shares of Common Stock
3. OrbusNeichs Genous(TM) Bio-engineered R stent(TM) is Feasible in Patients Requiring Undeferrable Non-Cardiac Surgery, International Journal of Cardiology Publication Reports
4. Greenway Medical Technologies Plays Leading Role in Interoperability Demonstrations at Seventh Annual Public Health Information Network (PHIN) Conference
5. Vasogen and IntelliPharmaCeutics to Combine to Create Publicly-traded Specialty Pharmaceutical Company
6. Accera Announces Peer-Reviewed Publication of the Results of its 90-Day Clinical Study of AC-1202 (Axona(TM) ) in Mild to Moderate Alzheimers Disease
7. Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Announces Pricing of Its Initial Public Offering of Common Stock
8. Micromet Closes $80.5 Million Public Offering of Common Stock
9. Human Genome Sciences Announces Closing of Public Offering
10. Micromet Announces Pricing of Public Offering of Common Stock
11. Micromet Announces Public Offering of Common Stock
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/19/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... April 18, 2017 , ... ... Halo Labs . The move comes after the company changed focus to ... market, our new brand and our new technology,” says CEO Robert Hart. Founders ...
(Date:4/19/2017)... ... April 19, 2017 , ... ThermaGenix, the PCR Improvement Company, ... to several other early achievements at ThermaGenix, including the business formation and licensing ... ThermaGenix will use proceeds from the Series A-1 round to:, ...
(Date:4/19/2017)... ... April 19, 2017 , ... As part of ... accessible to novices as well as experienced users, attendees will gain a better ... screening tests. , Hemostasis testing quality is determined by preanalytical variables which ...
(Date:4/19/2017)... , April 19, 2017  As a ... Abuse and Heroin Summit ,  Proove® Biosciences, Inc. ... analyzing genetics, environmental, and lifestyle factors to accurately ... the University of Southern California (USC), the Interventional ... and Proove publish results showing that Proove Opioid ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
(Date:4/11/2017)... , April 11, 2017 No two ... researchers at the New York University Tandon School ... Engineering have found that partial similarities between prints ... used in mobile phones and other electronic devices ... The vulnerability lies in the fact that ...
(Date:4/6/2017)... 6, 2017 Forecasts by Product ... Readers, by End-Use (Transportation & Logistics, Government & Public ... & Fossil Generation Facility, Nuclear Power), Industrial, Retail, Business ... Are you looking for a definitive report on ... ...
(Date:4/5/2017)... 5, 2017 Today HYPR Corp. , ... server component of the HYPR platform is officially ... end-to-end security architecture that empowers biometric authentication across Fortune ... already secured over 15 million users across the financial ... connected home product suites and physical access represent a ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):