Published on June 1, 2010

Europe Ahead of US in Science Dialogue

An interesting article from this month’s Sciencewise Dialogue Bulletin:

A new report from the Science and Technology Innovation Programme at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, calls for more citizen participation methods to complement expert analysis in technology assessment. The report’s author, Dr Richard Sclove, argues:

“We style ourselves as living in a ‘technological society’ and an ‘information age’, yet we lack adequate information about – of all things -the broad implications of science and technology.”

The report argues for the creation of a new US Expert & Citizen Assessment of Science & Technology (ECAST) network; the preceding Government agency responsible for co-ordinating the study of technological assessment closed in 1995. The report highlights the important role that European Governments have played in developing public engagement as part of technological assessment:

‘18 European Technology Assessment agencies are flourishing and have pioneered important new methods, including Participatory Technology Assessment (PTA)’.

This report is complemented by an interesting blog this month by the Director of the Centre for Nanotechnology in Society in the US.

In the blog, the author makes the case for involving the public in deliberation on nanotechnologies at an early stage and also highlights the appetite among US policy makers for dialogue in science and technology. The US Congress has put in place a legal mandate to incorporate public participation into its central body which co-ordinates nanotechnology research: the National Nanotechnology Initiative.

This report suggest that while the US has a strong culture of public engagement on single issues like nanotechnology, it lacks the strategic direction for involving the public across science and technology fields that is present in Europe.

An event on 28 June will address the governance of science and technology policy in the UK. London’s Southbank will host the Royal Society Debate on The Experimental Society, looking at what happens when evidence, uncertainty and politics collide.

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