Public opinions about human enhancement can enhance the expert-only debate: A review study

Anne M. Dijkstra, Mirjam Schuijff

Human enhancement, the non-medical use of biomedical technologies to improve the human body or performance beyond their ‘natural’ limitations, is a growing trend. At the same time, the use of these technologies has societal consequences. In societal debates about human enhancement, however, it is mainly the voices of experts that are being heard, and little is known about the public’s understanding of human enhancement. The views of the public can give valuable insights, and can, in turn, supplement experts’ voices in political decision-making as has been argued before for other emerging technologies. This study presents a systematic literature review of current public perceptions and attitudes towards technologies for human enhancement. Results show that the public’s view has not been assessed often. Studies originate mainly from western-oriented countries and cover a broad range of enhancement technologies. In the studies, the majority of respondents hold moderate to strong negative attitudes towards enhancement technologies for non-medical applications, although the type of technology influences these opinions. The study provides an overview of what is known about citizens’ attitudes towards technologies for human enhancement.



Can media monitoring be a proxy for public opinion about technoscientific controversies? The case of the Italian public debate on nuclear power

Federico Neresini, Andrea Lorenzet

Is it possible to infer information about public opinion by looking at how the media discuss controversial technoscientific public issues? We conduct content analysis on media coverage of nuclear power in Italy in the years 1992–2012 and compare it with longitudinal public opinion surveys. By treating a large amount of textual data and applying an innovative methodology based on indicators of the presence of ‘risky terms’, that is, keywords referring to the issue of risk and danger, very high correlation has been found between media discourse on risk and opposition within public opinion. The analysis is conducted testing as a preliminary step Mazur’s hypothesis on quantity of coverage and opposition towards controversial technoscience. Then, risk content measures are used in order to gain stronger correlations between media and public attitudes towards nuclear power.


Different ways of problematising biotechnology – and what it means for technology governance

Alexander Bogner, Helge Torgersen

To understand controversies over technologies better, we propose the concept of ‘problematisation’. Drawing on Foucault’s idea of problematisation and on the concept of frames in media research, we identify characteristic forms of problematising biotechnology in pertaining controversies, typically emphasising ethical, risk or economic aspects. They provide a common basis for disputes and allow participants to argue effectively. The different forms are important for how controversies are negotiated, which experts get involved, what role public engagement plays and how political decisions are legitimised – in short, for technology governance. We develop a heuristic for analysing the link between forms of problematisation and different options for technology governance. Applied to synthetic biology, we discuss different problematisations of this technology and the implications for governance.


Experimental evaluations of elementary science programs: A best-evidence synthesis

Robert E. Slavin, Cynthia Lake, Pam Hanley, Allen Thurston

This article presents a systematic review of research on the achievement outcomes of all types of approaches to teaching science in elementary schools. Study inclusion criteria included use of randomized or matched control groups, a study duration of at least 4 weeks, and use of achievement measures independent of the experimental treatment. A total of 23 studies met these criteria. Among studies evaluating inquiry-based teaching approaches, programs that used science kits did not show positive outcomes on science achievement measures (weighted ES = +0.02 in 7 studies), but inquiry-based programs that emphasized professional development but not kits did show positive outcomes (weighted ES = +0.36 in 10 studies). Technological approaches integrating video and computer resources with teaching and cooperative learning showed positive outcomes in a few small, matched studies (ES = +0.42 in 6 studies). The review concludes that science teaching methods focused on enhancing teachers’ classroom instruction throughout the year, such as cooperative learning and science-reading integration, as well as approaches that give teachers technology tools to enhance instruction, have significant potential to improve science learning.