In this communication we will present the results of a recent Delphi study carried out on Spanish nanotechnology researchers, focused on the social communication of nanotechnology.

Nanoscience or nanotechnology can be defined as the study, control and manipulation of material at a nanometric scale. At this scale material displays different properties than at the macroscopic scale, creating different situations and challenges for many fields. According to predictions it will have a great economic impact, but its social repercussions will also be considerable.

Despite this, public opinion on this field in Spain and much of Europe ranges between unawareness and unconcern. According to the studies carried out no opinion or social image of nanotechnology exists yet in Spain; in fact, the public generally knows very little or nothing about them. But this is only temporary.

Over the past few decades, the relationship between science and society has changed in many aspects: public perceptions, attitudes, roles and functions have all been transformed. Today the public is more active and demands information on anything that may concern or affect it and even to have a say in such issues.

For scientists, a need has arisen to transmit to the public a basic understanding of their research and a realistic idea of future risks and prospects. This is particularly true in the case of nanotechnology, a very new field dominated by complexity and uncertainty, as there is a growing demand for information on the nanotoxicity of materials. In this scenario, an ideal strategy to obtain information is the Delphi method.

This method consists in consulting experts when, due to a lack of precise information, a certain level of consensus is sought regarding forecasts and orientations on certain issues. In our case, we circulated questionnaires with the goal of evaluating the risks and benefits of nanotechnology, anticipating situations related to public opinion, optimizing communication strategies for different audiences and evaluating attitudes regarding the new roles of the public in scientific and technological development. The results are the content of this communication.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Expert knowledge and social communication of nanotechnology

Jose Manuel de Cozar   University of la Laguna (Spain)

Javier Ferri   University of Valencia (Spain)

In this communication we will present the results of a recent Delphi study carried out on Spanish nanotechnology researchers, focused on the social communication of nanotechnology.

Nanoscience or nanotechnology can be defined as the study, control and manipulation of material at a nanometric scale. At this scale material displays different properties than at the macroscopic scale, creating different situations and challenges for many fields. According to predictions it will have a great economic impact, but its social repercussions will also be considerable.

Despite this, public opinion on this field in Spain and much of Europe ranges between unawareness and unconcern. According to the studies carried out no opinion or social image of nanotechnology exists yet in Spain; in fact, the public generally knows very little or nothing about them. But this is only temporary.

Over the past few decades, the relationship between science and society has changed in many aspects: public perceptions, attitudes, roles and functions have all been transformed. Today the public is more active and demands information on anything that may concern or affect it and even to have a say in such issues.

For scientists, a need has arisen to transmit to the public a basic understanding of their research and a realistic idea of future risks and prospects. This is particularly true in the case of nanotechnology, a very new field dominated by complexity and uncertainty, as there is a growing demand for information on the nanotoxicity of materials. In this scenario, an ideal strategy to obtain information is the Delphi method.

This method consists in consulting experts when, due to a lack of precise information, a certain level of consensus is sought regarding forecasts and orientations on certain issues. In our case, we circulated questionnaires with the goal of evaluating the risks and benefits of nanotechnology, anticipating situations related to public opinion, optimizing communication strategies for different audiences and evaluating attitudes regarding the new roles of the public in scientific and technological development. The results are the content of this communication.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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