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Democratic Technologies? Final report of the Nanotechnology Engagement Group (NEG)

In laboratories across the world, new scientific territory is being uncovered every day; territory that offers groundbreaking opportunities for society, as well as new risks and unexpected challenges. The power of technology is clear, but its governance is not. Who or what makes these world-shaping decisions? And in whose interests are they made? These are the questions posed by a growing number of researchers, NGOs, citizens, politicians and scientists who seek to challenge the way that science and technology is governed and invent new ways to democratise the development of new technologies. This 172-page report documents the progress of six projects that have sought to do just that – by engaging the public in discussions about the governance and development of nanotechnologies. Includes an Appendix listing 17 international public engagement projects (including their findings).

In 2005, a group of pioneering projects, from various contexts and with different motivations, set off on separate voyages into this new territory. Their mission: to explore how we might ensure that future developments in nanotechnology are governed in the interests of the many, not the few. In short, to bring democracy to these new, unchartered territories. Democratic Technologies? follows the journeys of these projects, and the scientists, citizens and civil servants who joined them.

This is the report of the Nanotechnologies Engagement Group (NEG), a body convened by UK-based Involve with the support of the Office of Science and Innovation’s Sciencewise scheme, and the Universities of Cambridge and Sheffield.

Appendix 1, “Record of international public engagement projects,” provides details about the following 17 cases:

  1. Bendigo Workshop on Nanotechnologies, Australia
  2. Citizens’ Attitudes Towards Nanotechnology survey, Denmark
  3. Deepening Ethical Engagement and Participation in Emerging Nanotechnology (DEEPEN), European Union (EU)
  4. The Dialogue on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Project, Spain
  5. Forums for Dialog and Deliberation, NISE Network, USA
  6. Global Dialogue on Nanotechnology and the Poor, international
  7. Informed Public Perceptions of Nanotechnologies and Trust in Government, USA
  8. Madison Area Citizens’ Conference on Nanotechnology, USA
  9. Melbourne Citizens’ Panel on Nanotechnologies, Australia
  10. NanoBio-RAISE, EU
  11. Nano Dialogue, EU
  12. Nanologue, EU
  13. Nanomode, France
  14. Nanoviv, France
  15. New Zealand Focus Groups on Nanotechnologies, New Zealand
  16. Public Nano-Cafe series, USA
  17. South Carolina Citizens’ School of Nanotechnology, USA

Nanotechnologies Engagement Group and Involve (2007)

Karin Gavelin and Richard Wilson, with Robert Doubleday

Resource Link: www.involve.org.uk/negreport

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