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Nanotechnology and Nanoscience The Royal Society

Progress report - 2 September 2003

The Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering launched their study on nanotechnology on 11 June 2003 with an initial call for views. We have been commissioned by the UK Government to investigate the potential benefits and possible problems associated with nanotechnology and nanoscience. The study will include an assessment of how this emerging area of science, engineering and technology should be regulated as it develops. A website, dedicated to this study, is now live http://www.nanotec.org.uk.

Eighty-six individuals/organisations, including academics (individuals and institutions), research councils, NGOs and industry and government bodies, had responded to the call for views by the 30 July meeting. Out of these, 79 provided comments on some or all of the following: what is nanotechnology; current and future applications of nanotechnology; potential health, safety and environmental impacts; ethical and social issues; regulation; the terms of reference for the study; and the conduct of the study. The remaining seven only wished to register their interest in the study.

The responses generally supported the terms of reference for the study. The confusion of science fiction with science fact was seen as a major issue. Several respondents, from industry, academia and NGOs, highlighted the need for the study to separate the hype from the hypothetical. Nearly every respondent that addressed health and safety issues highlighted nanoparticles as a potential area for concern. We intend to make the evidence received in response to the call for views public and hope to do this in the near future.

On Wednesday 30 July 2003, we announced the membership of the working group on nanotechnology. The working group includes experts in ethics, health, the environment and consumer concerns, as well as scientists and engineers whose expertise is in nanotechnology. Prof Ann Dowling will chair the working group, other members are Prof Roland Clift, Dr Nicole Grobert, Mrs Deirdre Hutton, Baroness Onora O’Neill, Prof Ray Oliver, Prof John Pethica, Prof Nick Pidgeon, Jonathon Porritt, Prof John Ryan, Prof Anthony Seaton, Prof Saul Tendler, Prof Mark Welland and Prof Roger Whatmore. More details about the working group

Nine out of the fourteen members of the working group met for the first time on Wednesday 30 July. At this meeting the working group discussed the responses to the initial call for views, the terms of reference for the study and the conduct of the study. The members present at the meeting agreed that they wished to consult further with a range of interested parties including scientists and engineers, industry, NGOs and policy-makers, as well as the public and they discussed the various ways in which they may do this. The whole working group is now discussing the ideas and draft actions from this meeting and, in particular, how it will conduct the study. Further information will be made available shortly.

Third progress report - 20 January 2004
Second progress report - 30 September 2003

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The Royal Society 2003
The Royal Academy of Engineering