Nanotech Database

Article Title:
Rules of Engagement

Toumey, Chris

Journal Information:
Nature Nanotechnology
Vol. 2, Num. 7


This article enters into debates concerning the extent to which, and the ways in which, members of the general public ought (or ought not) to be involved in the evolution of nanotechnology. Toumey summarizes some nanoscientists' and researchers' concerns that if the public is too extensively involved in the evolution of nanotechnology, there is the potential that they might shape these technologies' development in a negative way. Yet Toumey highlights promising engagement programs, in which nanoscientists and members of the public come together to discuss nanotechnology and the broader issues which it raises, in the United States and Europe. Toumey discusses his own work within the South Carolina Citizens' School of Nanotechnology, an organization which seeks to foster dialogue between experts and non-experts regarding nanotechnology, in small, intimate, and mutually respectful groups. From his own experience, Toumey indicates he has learned that any public engagement with nanotechnology must not be conceived as a forum in which members of the scientific community hand down information from "on high," but rather must be more collaborative and interactive. One of the problems which Toumey had encountered in the South Carolina Citizens' School centered around the fact that nanotechnology does not necessarily have any immediate, specific applications, but rather that the majority of nanotechnologies are aimed at addressing a broad range of problems, in the future. This makes nanotechnology often seem remote, Toumey maintains, to lay audiences.