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Democratic Technologies

That’s the title of The Final Report of the Nanotechnology Engagement Group [172 pages], by Karen Gavelin and Richard Wilson, both of Involve, with Robert Doubleday at Cambridge University.  This report presents the findings of the Nanotechnology Engagement Group (NEG). The NEG was established in 2005 to document the learning from a series of groundbreaking attempts to involve members of the public in discussions about the development and governance of nanotechnologies.  

In laboratories across the world, new scientific territory is being uncovered everyday; territory that offers groundbreaking opportunities for society, as well as new risks and unexpected challenges. Just as yesterday’s science and technology has contributed to shaping today’s world, these new technologies will help shape the world of tomorrow. The power of technology is clear, but its governance is not. Who or what makes these world-shaping decisions? And in whose interests are they made? These are the questions posed by a growing number of researchers, NGOs, citizens, politicians and scientists who seek to challenge the way that science and technology is governed and invent new ways to democratise the development of new technologies. This report documents the progress of six projects that have sought to do just that – by engaging the public in discussions about the governance and development of nanotechnologies.

The NEG studied six UK projects that sought to engage members of the public in dialogue about nanotechnologies. Their research found that upstream public engagement in science and technology can produce impressive results:

Researchers also identified some challenges for public engagement in science
and technology, including:

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