Avoiding Empty Rhetoric: Engaging Publics in Debates about Nanotechnologies
Science and Engineering Ethics
Vol. 15, Num. 1
The authors here look at the level of public knowledge about nanotechnology in Australia and determine that, as in many other places in the world, the fields improvements and breakthroughs are far outpacing the publics understanding of what these might mean, both in a positive and negative light. They cite public engagement, in the form of focus groups or task forces, as the main modus operandi for industrialized liberal democracies& [where] development of public policy to support, regulate or develop novel technologies is made more complex because policymakers are held accountable for seeking a level of public acceptance and ownership of decisions relating to ethically contentious technologies. The two detail a number of reasons why public engagement is both necessary and beneficial for these governments that depend on their people to fund new scientific initiatives (like nanotechnology), and seem to support upstream engagement, where the public is kept informed of research well before it ever bears results, though they also identify this approachs weaknesses. They suggest synchronous development of ethics and nanotechnologies within a framework of public awareness and information to address these problems, as well as determining appropriate levels of consultation and involvement for the public.