Planning guide for public engagement and outreach in nanotechnology

The emergence of nanotechnology in the economy and in society at large is expected to have significant impacts. Nanotechnology is increasingly stimulating discussion regarding the technical possibilities it brings, for example, applications in products relevant to day to day life such as touch screens and tyres, and its role in addressing major global challenges including clean water, sustainable energy and improved health.
Policy makers and practitioners are also increasingly studying the policy issues related to the "responsible development" of nanotechnology. Responsible development is a key element in nanotechnology governance strategies, as the field raises a number of questions linked to health, environment and safety, as well as ethical concerns.
Nanotechnology also features in revived policy and public debate on the role and place of emerging sciences and technologies in society. Nanotechnology stirs discussions around major issues such as:
- How do governments and civil society make decisions regarding scientific and technological development and interventions to undertake for society? and
- How to govern emerging sciences and technologies and their potential risks?
The public and society at large are increasingly becoming key actors in the development of the field of nanotechnology and of its acceptance in marketable products.
As a consequence, over the past few years, strategies for outreach and public engagement in nanotechnology have been identified as important elements of government policies regarding nanotechnology. The need to clarify how to communicate, with whom, and how to engage a wide audience in the debate on nanotechnology, and the development of policies related to it, has been a major point of discussion amongst policy makers.
In the past, policy makers had to develop their communication strategies for emerging sciences and technologies from scratch. However, as nanotechnology is a rapidly developing field, providing guidance to policy makers to assist in the development of efficient and well defined communication plans has become critical. Conscious of these issues and of the difficulties policy makers and other practitioners can face in establishing communication strategies, in 2007 the OECD Working Party on Nanotechnology (WPN) initiated a project on public engagement that lead to the development in 2009 of eight key points to assist policy makers in establishing activities for communication and outreach in nanotechnology. These key points for consideration are presented in this "Planning Guide for Public Engagement and Outreach in Nanotechnology". The guide may also assist industries, industry bodies and other entities in establishing their communication strategy and engaging with the public. The guide may also be used as support for developing public engagement activities for other emerging technologies which would raise the same type of societal issues such as synthetic biology.
This report presents the planning guide, and details the methodology through which the WPN developed the guide. It details the eight key points for consideration when planning and evaluating public engagement activities in nanotechnology. Finally, it provides a critical review of these key points and presents case studies from countries that have been using the guide since 2009 in their communication activities.
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What Countries are Doing

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Published by OECD in 2013

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