The UKâ€™s Sciencewise program, a scheme that provides grants â€œfor projects that bring scientists, government and the public together to explore the impact of science and technology in our livesâ€ has announced its recent batch of successful applicants, and naturally â€˜nanoâ€™ plays a part.
While it is good to foster discussion, we do begin to wonder whether the plethora of public engagement projects, from Nanojury to Nanologue will assuage public fears or merely just confuse them. Similar schemes are popping up like mushrooms, and there is more than a hint of suspicion that some of these may be simply a way of keeping social science departments busy and pressure groups at bay.
NanoDialogues (Demos, Lancaster University, BBSRC, EPSRC, Environment Agency) â€œwill ensure that nanoscientists take a front seat role in constructive dialogue with the public. The project will use appropriate methods of ‘upstream’ engagement, to inform decision-making in two research councils (EPSRC and BBSRC), a regulator (the Environment Agency), a company (tbc) and an NGO (ITDG). â€œ
Nanotech Engagement Group (Involve, Cambridge University NanoScience Centre, University of East Anglia School of Environmental Sciences, Policy Studies Institute) â€œwill support public bodies (particularly government departments, agencies, and research councils) through the OST-led Nanotechnologies Issues Dialogue Group in developing and implementing a coherent programme of social and ethical research and public dialogue around nanotechnologyâ€
While not nano related, we were both concerned and amused to see that one of the grants went to a project called â€œRisky Businessâ€ which â€œ combines teaching â€˜ideas about scienceâ€™ with dramatical participative citizenship, promoting cogent student thinking for application to other issuesâ€