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Nanotechnology and Nanoscience The Royal Society

Nanotechnology: Civil Society Groups
New processes

Towards the end of the meeting, discussion returned to the need for a range of new systems and deliberative processes in order to make the introduction of new technologies more democratic and accountable. Suggestions from the CS representatives included:

  • A mechanism to bring together a range of citizens including those potentially marginalized by new technologies, scientists and regulators so that new step-changes in science were identified

  • A forum in which industry could talk openly about its work and potential developments

  • More funding for scientists and social scientists to work together as new technology progresses, for example to understand how an ‘open’ system may be translated into the work of scientists.

It was noted that one of the recommendations that the working group might think about is what new institutional architecture would be needed to facilitate such systems. It was noted here that there has been a welcome move away from the ‘deficit model’ assumption of much previous science communication, and that a few years ago engineers and scientists would have been the only ones sitting around the table. There was some encouraging agreement that we are far enough upstream in nanotechnology to put into practice lessons learned from previous technological developments. However, it was also felt by a CS representative that the institutional dynamic between government and the emerging nanotechnology industry is being set right now and will be fully set within 18 months to 2 years, with government putting an emphasis on speeding development rather than regulating it.

Finally, it was noted that proper resourcing for CS representatives would be important if they are to be able to contribute to future stages of the nanotechnology debate. Unlike large institutes and corporations, grassroots-based CS organisations often have extremely limited financial and human resources to take part in consultation exercises.

Representatives from the following organisations were invited but were unable to attend:

UK Public Health Association
Friends of the Earth
National Consumer Council
Consumer Association
Food Commission
Greenpeace UK
Green Alliance
Scientists for Global Responsibility
National Federation of Women’s Institutes
Food Aware
Association of Medical Research Charities
National Consumer Federation


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The Royal Society 2003
The Royal Academy of Engineering