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Public must be involved in nanotech policy debate demands groundbreaking
Date:9/25/2009

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The need for action is made more pressing by the fact that nanotechnology has the potential to fundamentally change everyday life and thus raises profound social and ethical questions. Attention has recently focussed on the uncertainties surrounding its long-term effects on human health and the environment, but the 'Reconfiguring Responsibility' study indicates that public concern also focus on the kind of society being created by such technologies. "It's great that there is a move towards public dialogue and more responsible development of new technologies," continues Macnaghten, "but at the moment this move doesn't go far enough. In the case of nanotechnology we find public hunger to be included in shaping the technology's development. However, policy processes don't yet fully take this into account. We'd like to see the terms of the debate being shaken up."

As with the GM debate, the research has found that most non-scientists accept that a degree of risk is inevitable, but are concerned about the motivations driving technology. Indeed, many people question whether the vaunted benefits of nanotechnology in everything from defence to cosmetics to communications technology will in practice be beneficial at all.

The report gives a number of recommendations to policy makers involved in governing nanotechnology and similar technologies, including the need to be innovative in finding ways to involve the public and to move away from policy making that simply reacts to new findings or applications. "We want our analysis to be helpful to those at the cutting edge of decision making in science," says Macnaghten, "while at the same time not shying away from the fact that this presents a challenge to the way that things are being done."


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Contact: Richard Hayhurst
rhayhurst@schwartz-pr.co.uk
44-771-182-1527
Durham University
Source:Eurekalert

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