Nanotech Database

Article Title:
Nanotechnology: public concerns, reasoning and trust in government

Macoubrie, Jane

Journal Information:
Public Understanding of Science
Vol. 15, Num. 2


Macoubrie argues that because nanotechnology may constitute an industrial revolution, "public concerns are important to understand." What are the premises underlying the public attitude toward nano-risk? In light of Cobb and Macoubrie's earlier "uninformed" participanat study, Macoubrie sought out informed public reasoning and concern. The three primary objectives were "(1)to discover basic attitudes about nanotechnology held by informed adults who are broadly representative of the US public, (2) to learn about their concerns about nanotechnology in relation to four development scenarios representing application areas of interest to nanoscientists in government and industry and (3) to explore the reasoning underlying any concerns." She used a 3 by 4 quasi-experimental design. Participants were recruited from various cities across the country and briefed using scenarios. Participants' comments were recorded and 12 global issues were identified. In the study 62% of the participants expressed low trust in the government to manage nanotechnology. A second expectation was that responsible parties in the United States will not effectively manage any risks. Further, "technology itself is often less the source of concern than is its indirect consequences." (235) Finally, benefits are still expected to exceed risks. Macoubrie also discusses at end the methodology itself and what its strengths and limitations might be.