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Public Deliberation Required in New Nanotechnology Bill

In a January 18, 2004 email, Colleen Cordes of the Loka Institute wrote “Congratulations and sincere thanks to all of you who signed the letter to Congress and the White House last summer urging a strong provision for public participation — especially through citizen panels or consensus conferences — in the big nanotech R&D bill that Congress was then considering: THE BILL HAS PASSED AND HAS BEEN SIGNED INTO LAW WITH A PROVISION THAT DOES MUCH OF WHAT WE JOINTLY REQUESTED.” NCDD supported this provision and is excited about this development.

Colleen’s email continued:

“Your personal willingness to go on the record in support of this innovative public policy helped make it the law of the land. We believe the outcome is unprecedented. To our knowledge, this is the first time the government will be required, by law, to convene public discussions such as citizen panels as a “regular and ongoing” part of the policymaking process for a major technology. It is especially heartening that this democratic innovation is to be applied so early on in the development of a major new technology. Below we include 1) The pertinent language in the new law, and 2)The full list of our broad, diverse coalition of signers.

“The Loka Institute encourages you to let your elected representatives and federal officials know of your interest in seeing that this provision is implemented in a timely and thorough way. We also thank our able partner in this effort, the International Center for Technology Assessment.

Again, our sincere thanks and congratulations to all,

Colleen Cordes for the Loka Institute Board of Trustees.
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The pertinent sections of the new law, P.L. 108-153, are shown below. Note (D) especially.

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SEC. 2. NATIONAL NANOTECHNOLOGY PROGRAM. . . .

. . . (b) PROGRAM ACTIVITIES.—The activities of the Program shall include—

. . . (10) ensuring that ethical, legal, environmental, and other appropriate societal concerns, including the potential use of nanotechnology in enhancing human intelligence and in developing artificial intelligence which exceeds human capacity, are considered during the development of nanotechnology by—

(A) establishing a research program to identify ethical, legal, environmental, and other appropriate societal concerns related to nanotechnology, and ensuring that the results of such research re widely disseminated;

(B) requiring that interdisciplinary nanotechnology research centers established under paragraph (4) include activities that address societal, ethical, and environmental concerns;

(C) insofar as possible, integrating research on societal, ethical, and environmental concerns with nanotechnology research and development, and ensuring that advances in nanotechnology bring about improvements in quality of life for all Americans; and

(D) providing, through the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office established in section 3, for public input and outreach to be integrated into the Program by the convening of regular and ongoing public discussions, through mechanisms such as citizens’ panels, consensus conferences, and educational events, as appropriate; and . . . .

*******
If you’re interested in seeing the law in its entirety, go to: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:SN00189:|TOM:/bss/d108query.html (which is on the website of Congress). Click on “text” or “PDF” at the upper left. The extracted text above starts on p. 1, but is mostly near the bottom of p. 2.

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THE FULL LIST OF SIGNERS:

Katherine Albrecht, Ed.M., Founder and Director, CASPIAN Consumer Advocacy, New Hampshire

Tom Atlee, President, Co-Intelligence Institute, Eugene, Oregon

Miguel F. Aznar, Executive Director, KnowledgeContext, Santa Cruz, California

Davis Baird, Ph.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy, University of South Carolina; and Principal Investigator, NSF NIRT, “From Laboratory to Society: Developing an Informed Approach to Nanoscale Science and Technology”

Robert G. Best, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Obstetrics/Gynecology and Director, Division of Genetics, University of South Carolina School of Medicine

David E. Blockstein, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, National Council for Science and the Environment*

Twila Brase, R.N., P.H.N., President, Citizens’ Council on Health Care, St. Paul, Minnesota

Louis L. Bucciarelli, Professor of Engineering and Technology Studies, Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology*

Beth Burrows, Director, The Edmonds Institute, Edmonds, Washington

Carol Chetkovich, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University*

L. Wallace Clausen, M.B.A., Principal, Clausen Associates, Weston, Massachusetts

Colleen Cordes, Coordinator, Technology Task Force of the Alliance for Childhood,* Maryland

Andrea M. Contreras, Student, University of California at Los Angeles*

Susan Cozzens, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Technology Policy and Assessment Center, Georgia Institute of Technology

Michael M. Crow, President, Arizona State University

Lynne Fessenden, Ph.D., Eugene, Oregon, Administrative Director and Staff Scientist, The Science and Environmental Health Network

Miguel A. Guajardo, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership, The University of Texas-Pan American;* and Co- Chair of the Loka Institute Board of Trustees

David H. Guston, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Public Policy, Rutgers University

Peter Haas, Ph.D., Technical Information Manager, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Chicago, Illinois

Patrick W. Hamlett, Associate Professor and former Director of the Program on Science, Technology, and Society, North Carolina State University*

Joya Heart, M.D., Physician and President, Joya Heart, MD, Inc., Stockton, California

Sandy Heierbacher, Director, The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation, Brattleboro, Vermont

Douglas B. Hunt, M.S., M.Th., Ph.D., Director, New Technologies Forum for the International Center for Technology Assessment in Washington, D.C.

Wes Jackson, Ph.D., Founder and President, The Land Institute, Salina, Kansas

Peter and Trudy Johnson-Lenz of Awakening Technology, Lake Oswego, Oregon

Shirley J. Jones, D.S.W., Distinguished Service Professor, School of Social Welfare, University at Albany, State University of New York*

Barry Joseph, Human Rights and Internet Specialist, Global Kids,* New York, New York

Andrew Kimbrell, Esq., Virginia, Executive Director, International Center for Technology Assessment

Ann M. Kleinschmidt, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology, Allegheny College, Pennsylvania

Neal Lane, Ph.D., University Professor, Rice University, Texas

Michael A. McCormick, M.S.W., Program Director, Study Circles Resource Center,* Pomfret, Connecticut

Michael McDonald, Vice President and Executive Director, NanoComputer Dream Team, Inc.,* Houston, Texas

Art McGee, Technology Consultant, Oakland, California, and Advisory Board Member, the Loka Institute

Mary Elizabeth Merritt, Ph.D., Four winds, Inc., Institute for Living Learning, Great Barrington, Massachusetts

Erika Mittag, M.S., Cedar Park, Texas, Information Specialist, 3M Company*

Alden Meyer, M.S., Director of Government Relations, Union of Concerned Scientists*

Mary H. O’Brien, Ph.D., Oregon, Author, Making Better Environmental Decisions: An Alternative to Risk Assessment (MIT Press 2000)

Todd Paddock, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Nebraska Wesleyan University,* Lincoln, Nebraska

David Pelletier, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Cornell University,* New York

Anne C. Petersen, Ph.D., Kalamazoo, Michigan, Scientist and Philanthropist

Carolyn Raffensperger, M.A., J.D., Iowa, Founding Executive Director, The Science and Environmental Health Network

Colin Rognlie, CISSP, Information Security Officer, Alacrity Networks, Santa Cruz, California

Adin Rogovin, Oregon, Project Director of The Low Income People’s Wisdom Council* of Lane County, Oregon

Richard Sclove, Ph.D., M.S., Amherst, Massachusetts, Founder, the Loka Institute, Massachusetts

Peggy M. Shepard, Executive Director, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, New York, New York

Elaine Slaton, Program Director, Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health,* Alexandria, Virginia

Roderick Sprattling, Sarasota Springs, New York, Cofounder, Solentas, LLC*

Kali Tal, Ph.D., Professor of Humanities, The University of Arizona*

David Tebaldi, Ph.D., Executive Director, Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities*

Tomas Ursula, Executive Director, Pomona Valley Center for Community Development, Pomona, California

Frank N. von Hippel, Ph.D., Professor of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University; and Chairman of the Board, Federation of American Scientists*

Langdon Winner, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science, Department of Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute;* and President, the Loka Institute

Candie C. Wilderman, Founder and Director of ALLARM (Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring)* and Professor of Environmental Science, Dickinson College,* Pennsylvania

Michelle Wilson, Executive Assistant, Pomona Inland Valley Council of Churches,* Upland, California

Edward Woodhouse, Associate Professor, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, New York

Richard Worthington, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Politics at Pomona College, Chair of the Program on Science, Technology, and Society of the Claremont Colleges,* California; and Co-Chair of the Loka Institute Board of Trustees

*Organization Listed For Identification Purposes Only

Feel free to pass this news on to others who might be interested and visit Loka at www.loka.org.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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