Sensible Swiss views on nanotechnology benefits, downsides

Switzerland’s Centre for Technology Assessment has issued its report Public Reactions to Nanotechnology in Switzerland (428 KB pdf), and — not surprisingly — it’s relatively balanced. From page 33 (page 35 of pdf file):

“There’s a good and a bad side to everything” — This saying sums up quite well the way that the publifocus participants review the opportunities and risks of nanotechnology.

True enough. And the introductory brochure for this public participation project, Know Your Nano! (511 KB pdf), is one of the best I’ve seen. Normally these include some obvious errors, but a quick check of this one found none.

However, see also the list of questions asked of participants (page 51 of final report, page 53 of pdf). Although it’s clear that the project has tried to make these balanced, the overall impression given by the questions is negative. How can one avoid this — biasing the questions? It seems to me that, between the information presented and the wording of the questions, it’s very difficult to avoid influencing the participant’s responses. As mentioned here repeatedly, a more explicitly adversarial process might give more accurate results.

Monday and Tuesday are holidays here at Foresight, so we’ll be back online Wednesday. —Christine

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