Dutch Nanodialogue concluded

Peace & Security07 Feb 2011Ineke Malsch

The Committee Societal Dialogue Nanotechnology (CieMDN) recently offered its final report: “Responsibly onwards with nanotechnology; findings March 2009-January 2011,” to the Dutch government. State secretary Atsma (Infrastructure and Environment) promised to discuss it with the Second Chamber of Parliament on 17 February and that the government would give a public reaction in due course.

The CieMDN has drawn conclusions based on the reports of the project leaders of 35 dialogue projects, zero and final opinion polls, an international workshop with dialogue experts, a conference co-organised with engineers association KIVI-NIRIA and meetings with persons and organisations.

Thematic conclusions are:

  1. For the application domains of nanotechnology that interest Dutch citizens – health, food, personal care, security and privacy, it is important that citizens remain well-informed about the latest state of the art. Citizens are more in favour of sound information than avoiding risks.
  2. Openness about the risks of nanotechnology is an important element of holding a sensible dialogue on nanotechnology, whether or not it is inspired by certain events or interest groups. The better the process of information, the more confident citizens are.
  3. In the dialogue the potential contribution of nanotechnology to realising the UN millennium goals has not been discussed sufficiently and needs more attention.
  4. Developing educational packages made by experienced organisations and teachers is suitable for informing groups of young people about nanotechnology.

Conclusions regarding the types of activities: informing, awareness raising and dialogue:

  1. Up-to-date information on nanotechnology should continue to get attention. Complex issues can also be treated in this information supply (a.o. by Kennislink ). Young people are eager to learn about nanotechnology.
  2. Information supply on nanotechnology should be combined with activities for forming and exchanging opinions.
  3. Art projects are suitable for stimulating awareness on nanotechnology, but especially to stimulate thinking about nanotechnology in a broad audience.
  4. Dialogues should be held in small scale meetings like focus groups or workshops and not in internetforums or panels.

Preconditions for a successful dialogue:

  1. In the dialogue discussion of concrete nanoproducts should be highlighted (rather than nanotechnology in general). Concrete products give best rise to personal and societal questions among participants.
  2. “Vignetten” (short scenarios) are a good means for raising “soft impacts” of nanotechnology.
  3. It is important that groups with different value-orientations are engaged in the dialogue. These different backgrounds enrich the dialogue in views and opinions and contribute to more nuanced formation of opinions.
  4. It is important that all stakeholders are engaged in the development of and dialogue on nanotechnology. The different interests should be balanced to ensure exchange and further deepening of views and opinions.