An analysis of nanoscientists as public communicators

Anthony Dudo, LeeAnn Kahlor, Niveen AbiGhannam, Allison Lazard & Ming-Ching Liang

The American public remains unfamiliar with nanotechnology despite more than a decade of investment and development. Nanoscientists have an opportunity to contribute to public conversations about their work, and its potential implications, through their engagement with lay audiences and media professionals. Indeed, the leaderships of many professional scientific organizations have placed a renewed focus on the public communication of science, particularly in the light of drastic changes in the information landscape and the increasing politicization of many technological and scientific issues. However, we have a limited understanding of nanoscientists’ perceptions and behaviours regarding their participation in public communication. Here, we report survey results that provide an examination of the public communication behaviours of nanoscientists affiliated with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN), an integrated partnership of US research institutions designed to facilitate nanoscale research and development. Our results suggest that nanoscientists are relatively frequent public communicators who commonly associate their communication efforts with positive impacts on their professional success. We also identify a handful of characteristics that drive nanoscientists’ intentions to communicate with the public about nanotechnology.



Redesigning the architecture of policy-making: Engaging with Māori on nanotechnology in New Zealand

Debashish Munshi, Priya A. Kurian, Debashish Munshi, Talei Morrison, and Sandra L. Morrison

Although there is an extensive literature on public engagement on the use of new and emerging technologies such as nanotechnology, there is little evidence of the participation of marginalised indigenous communities in processes of such engagement. How do particular cultural values and worldviews shape the perceptions of new technologies among such indigenous peoples? This article addresses this question through an analysis of the deliberations of an indigenous Māori citizens’ panel on nanotechnology in Aotearoa New Zealand. An active process of public engagement with the nation’s Māori stakeholders, and their conversations with nanotechnology experts, sustainability activists and Māori researchers, helps map an alternative, culture-based architecture of public engagement on policies around new technologies. The analysis is grounded in a concept of active citizenship that we term ‘sustainable citizenship’.


Nanotechnology in Dutch science cafés: Public risk perceptions contextualised

Anne M. Dijkstra, Christine R. Critchley

Understanding public perceptions of and attitudes to nanotechnology is important in order to understand and facilitate processes of dialogue and public participation. This research quantitatively analysed risk perceptions and attitudes of Dutch science café participants (n = 233) and compared these with members of the Dutch public (n = 378) who had not attended a café but were interested in science and technology as well. A qualitative analysis of the meetings contextualised and enriched the quantitative findings. Both groups shared similar key attitudes and were positive about nanotechnology while the Dutch café participants were even more positive about nanotechnology than the group of non-participants. The perception that nanotechnology would lead to risk applications was only predictive of attitudes for the non-participants. The qualitative analysis showed that café participants and speakers considered discussion of the risks, benefits and related issues important. Further research could investigate how science cafés can play a role in the science–society debate.


Science and National Pride: The Iranian Press Coverage of Nanotechnology, 2004-2009

Szczepan Lemańczyk

This study is the first attempt to study media representations of nanotechnology in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Content analysis has been used to investigate the potential risks and benefits of nanotechnology, centering on the dominating frames, themes, actors, and tone and on the geographical focus of the articles published in the Iranian daily press between 2004 and 2009. The results will offer a new perspective to the ongoing discussion on the social aspects of nanotechnology, looking at it through the lens of a different culture, religion, language, and sociopolitical system.