Kristin: Last week I attended a presentation at the CSIRO Niche Manufacturing Flagship by Dr Andrew Maynard of the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in the US. Dr Maynard spoke about Risk, Response & Regulation, some of which I’ve blogged for NanoVic. I particularly liked his quote from Richard Smalley defining nanotechnology – “Nanotech is building stuff that does stuff at the nanoscale”.
He also had some interesting feedback from focus groups discussing their responses to nanotechnology. They’d found that when people hadn’t heard of nanotechnology, about 30% of them thought that the risks would outweigh the benefits and about 30% weren’t sure. However, after having learnt more about nanotechnology, about 50% thought that the risks would outweigh the benefits. Learning more about nanotechnology did not make them feel more comfortable with the technology. Dr Maynard also added that their decisions on whether to accept nanotechnology seemed to be based more on emotional attachments and values rather than the facts. Good confirmation then for those science communicators using a range of activities involving art, experimentation and visual images to engage people in learning rather than facts alone!