Public Engagement – We Got The Wrong Answer, Can We Have Some More Money To Try Again?

The long awaited video from the DEEPEN Project meeting in February is finally out. I mentioned at the time that I didn’t find it particularity useful in terms of fostering wider understanding of science, but it certainly made me much more aware of the need for better public engagement.

The problem with many of these projects is that a bunch of people who know nothing about nanotechnology, geographers or philosophers for example, start off with a preconceived notion that nanotechnology is something that the public should be worried about (I know that these studies always claim to be impartial, but you don;t need to be a psychologist to spot which way things are skewed). What then happens is that as the lay people learn more about nanotechnology they conclude that it is quite cool and useful and the geographers and philosophers have to apply for some more funding to run another study until people come up with the ‘right answer’ – a bit like referendums in the EU.

But isn’t it all really a waste of time and effort compared with simply improving science teaching? If people had some basic scientific literacy they could make their own mind up without prompting. Then we wouldn’t be side tracked into debates attempting to link nanotechnology with wealth inequality and privacy, both of which have nothing to do with our particular branch of science.

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