Saturday, February 28, 2009

Framing nano?

The Swiss think tank Die Innovationsgesellschaft just released their "Framing Nano" report, that tries to summarize and -- more importantly -- provide some direction for the global policy debates about nano. Efforts like these are particularly relevant as we're beginning to get a better data-driven understanding of the global and cultural dynamics that shape public support for nanotechnology.

From the report:
"The second goal is to shape the debate. The analysis of the information collected permits understanding of how communication and cooperation on these themes takes place, which are the main or the most evident gaps, needs, points of agreement and disagreement, critical factors in the current knowledge and regulation framework of nanotechnology, and what is the position of the interested stakeholders.

The third goal is to foster the debate on regulation and governance of nanotechnology, as the report is intended to be a working document giving a comprehensive picture of the overall situation. Documents on this subject are published on a continuous basis, giving ever new inputs to the debate. With the aim of acting as a funnel for this information, the project plan foresees collecting and integrating it into the report throughout the project lifetime, and to use it in the development of the final Governance Plan."

(Click here for the full report.)

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Editorials by Rodgers and Currall in Nature Nanotechology

The latest issue of Nature Nanotechnology contains a symposium on public perceptions of nanotech, including print versions of some studies first released late last year and highlighted here and here. The thematic focus is also bracketed by two excellent editorials--one by Nature Nanotechnology Chief Editor Peter Rodgers, and one by Steven Currall, Vice Dean of Enterprise at University College London, and professor at the London Business School.

From Rodgers' editorial:
"It is well documented that most members of the public have not heard of nanotechnology ... . This state of affairs could be construed as good news, because it means that nanotechnology continues to avoid the GMO-style backlash that many once considered inevitable. However, low levels of popular recognition in public opinion surveys could also be viewed as bad news because public funding is still very important for basic research in nanoscience and technology, even if companies now invest more in this field than governments3, and because the eventual success of the whole nanoenterprise will depend on people accepting and buying nano-enabled products. "

(Read complete editorial here.)
And from Steven Currall's overview piece:
"Importantly, social scientists also have a further obligation to translate their technical research findings into language that is directly useful to others. Based on a deepening understanding of predictors of public perceptions, scientists, policymakers and businesses will therefore be better positioned to anticipate trends that will dictate how the public reacts to new scientific developments and commercial products based on nanotechnology."

(Read the complete editorial here.)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

New PEW report: Approximately 40%-50% of the public accepts a biblical creationist account of the origins of life

What else is there to say?
On Darwin’s 200th Birthday, Americans Still Divided About Evolution

by Scott Keeter, Director of Survey Research, Pew Research Center, and Juliana Horowitz, Research Associate, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

February 5, 2009

February 12 will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, the British naturalist who developed the theory of evolution through natural selection. Darwin published his treatise on evolution, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, nearly 150 years ago. Darwin's theory was controversial from the outset, and remains so among the public in his home country as well as in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Opinion polls over the past two decades have found the American public deeply divided in its beliefs about the origins and development of life on earth. Surveys are fairly consistent in their estimates of how many Americans believe in evolution or creationism. Approximately 40%-50% of the public accepts a biblical creationist account of the origins of life, while comparable or slightly larger numbers accept the idea that humans evolved over time. The wording of survey questions generally makes little systematic difference in this division of opinion, and there has been little change in the percentage of the public who reject the idea of evolution.

(Full report here.)