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NanoJury UK verdict overall positive

We bring you three accounts of the “verdict” from the citizen’s participation process NanoJury UK: one from Science and Development Network, one from Richard Jones, and one from Greenpeace UK.

From the first: “A British ‘citizen’s jury’ has recommended that public funding in nanotechnology should prioritise long-term solutions to health and environmental problems. Commenting on the jury’s conclusions, Ou Longxin, a policy research of China’s National Centre for Nanoscience and Technology, said that the jury had confirmed the belief that nanotechnology could bring many benefits to developing countries…But the panel, one of the first efforts to engage members of the public in ‘upstream’ discussions of new technological development, did not endorse calls for a ban on the new technology until more is known about its potentially damaging consequences.” [CP: However, they did recommend labeling requirements.]

From the second: “For nanobusiness, Barry Park, COO of Oxonica, expressed broad comfort with the balanced tone of the recommendations…There were approving words in an editorial in this weeks Nature (subscription required). Its conclusion is a good place to finish: ‘The results of the citizens’ jury suggest that nanotechnology is not perceived as a serious threat to the values of anyone but die-hard anti-technologists’.”

From Greenpeace’s Chief Scientist Doug Parr: “We endorse the NanoJury call for research spending emphasis on environmental protection, health and renewable energy. We hope that NanoJury will make government, industry, research councils and researchers reflect on what they do, and publicly justify what they are hoping to achieve and why.”

This process seems to have gone well. I continue to believe that these processes currently depend very heavily on the integrity and skill of the organizers, so it is very hard to judge whether any particular one has been done well until we have more standardized procedures for ensuring fairness. Kudos to those who manage to hold a balanced event prior to the establishment of such procedures. —CP

2 Responses to “NanoJury UK verdict overall positive”

  1. Richard Jones Says:

    Christine, I agree entirely with your view that these processes do depend strongly on the integrity and skill of the organisers. My experience with Nanojury UK – as the chair of the science advisory panel I was responsible for arranging and briefing the scientific witnesses, I sat on the steering committee, and I attended three of the sessions – gave me a pretty acute consciousness of the potential pitfalls such a process could fall into. We need to learn from the experience of this and other similar ventures in the UK and around the world – maybe it is unrealistic to prescribe a completely uniform set of standardised procedures, but we should certainly try and distill this experience into some guidelines for best practise. This is one of the goals of a new body called the Nanotechnology Engagement Group, which has just been set up by the UK government. I’m chairing this group, and I’d very much like to hear from anyone who has been involved in any kind of citizen’s participation process around nanotechnology.

  2. Christine Peterson Says:

    Hi Richard — The person to talk with about that is Jane Macoubrie, now with the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Wilson Center in DC. I will send you her email address. –CP

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