Public Engagement in Nanotech Gets Ugly

Presumably the purpose of all the public engagement exercises that are funded around the world is to encourage citizens to be part of the process of scientific development.

I have issues with this attempt to make the general public our guides for the development of science and technology. On the one hand, I am cynical enough to think that the policy has been already been laid out and that the powers-that-be are engaging in a kind of charade to appease any public outcry. On the other hand, I fear that the same powers-that-be may actually be sincere and take the recommendations of the public too seriously.

But those are my somewhat jaundiced reasons for not really getting behind public engagement, I am sure those that are idealistic enoughâ''or maybe just realistic enoughâ''would welcome these kinds of public dialogues.

So I imagine when the Australian government decided to hold a public dialogue on nanotechnology in food it never occurred to them that the one constituency they were counting on being there would decide to skip it in a huff.

That's right your friendly neighborhood NGO decided they weren't going to engage in this dialogue.

TNTLog has an uproariously funny look at the utter hypocrisy of the Friends of the Earth (FoE) when they refused to engage in a public dialogue with different groups surrounding the issue.

The officials in the Australian government who set this all up must feel like they went to the trouble of hosting a party they didnâ''t want to give, and the guest of honor refuses to go because they prefer surprise parties.

I would like to humbly recommend that if we canâ''t even get to the point of discussion, canâ''t we just move on?


Tech Talk

IEEE Spectrum’s general technology blog, featuring news, analysis, and opinions about engineering, consumer electronics, and technology and society, from the editorial staff and freelance contributors.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Tech Alert newsletter and receive ground-breaking technology and science news from IEEE Spectrum every Thursday.