Decision-making on science especially emerging technologies such as nanotechnology must become more democratic, a new report on science policy released today argues. The group of leading European academics behind the 'Reconfiguring Responsibility' report argue forcefully that current governance activities are limiting public debate and may repeat mistakes made in managing GM.
The DEEPEN report comes in the wake of a move within UK and European science policy-making to govern 'upstream' in a technology's development, before its impacts become irreversible, and to involve the public in decision-making. Analysing this move in the context of nanotechnology, the 'Reconfiguring Responsibility' report argues that these developments do not go nearly far enough. According to Professor Phil Macnaghten - who is based at Durham University and who has led the EU-funded project involving researchers from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal - while talk of 'responsible development' is a step in the right direction, it often hides outdated assumptions: "Technologies are being driven forward with insufficient reflection on why they are being developed and on what this is likely to mean for future society. The public is keen to be involved in deliberating the often far-reaching questions that science is addressing, and policymakers need to find new ways to ensure that public views are heard, treated with respect and used to inform science policy."
Professor Richard Jones FRS, a leading nanoscientist who until recently was the senior advisor for nanotechnology for the UK government's science funding agency, agrees. "I believe that involving the public in decision making on science can lead to better outcomes as well as being fascinating and rewarding for the scientists involved. If we are to continue to make nanotechnology a more socially responsible science we need to build on research such as that discussed in the 'Reconfiguring Responsibility' repo
|Contact: Richard Hayhurst|