Experts More Worried about Nanotech than Public
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
My colleague Dietram Scheufele is lead author on a study in the latest issue of Nature Nanotechnology. In their survey work, Scheufele et al. find that experts are more concerned about the health and environmental risks of nanotech than the public at large. This gulf in perceptions is despite a widespread lack of knowledge about the issue among citizens. See the press release.
The findings are consistent with a study I published earlier this year with another University of Wisconsin colleague Dominique Brossard. In our survey analysis examining American perceptions of plant biotechnology, we describe as a strong value construct in American culture the tendency to automatically defer to scientific authority and expertise.
On most issues, most of the time, the preferred heuristic for the public is to trust scientists and government regulators. In other words, absent any cues that an emerging area of science might conflict with a rival value system such as religion or environmentalism, the public for the most part prefers not to know much about the risks or benefits of a technology. All that is needed is for scientists and regulators to reassure the public that a product is safe.
With nanotechnology, at this stage in its mediated issue development, no news is good news. Nanotech remains covered at the science and business pages and has yet to spill over into the wider public eye. Moreover, this limited amount of coverage remains strongly framed in terms of social progress and economic development.
However as I note with Scheufele in our article at The Scientist there are signs of a possible emerging frame shift. Yet until competing elites start to actively frame the issue in terms that trigger the application of values other than a default deference to science, expect the public to remain blissfully ignorant and supportive of nanotech.
Delay, deny and deflect were the strategies Facebook has used to navigate scandals it's faced in recent years, according to the New York Times.
- The exhaustive report is based on interviews with more than 50 people with ties to the company.
- It outlines how senior executives misled the public and lawmakers in regards to what it had discovered about privacy breaches and Russian interference in U.S. politics.
- On Thursday, Facebook cut ties with one of the companies, Definers Public Relations, listed in the report.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
Dogs' floppy ears may be part of why they and other domesticated animals love humans so much.
- Nearly all domestic animals share several key traits in addition to friendliness to humans, traits such as floppy ears, a spotted coat, a shorter snout, and so on.
- Researchers have been puzzled as to why these traits keep showing up in disparate species, even when they aren't being bred for those qualities. This is known as "domestication syndrome."
- Now, researchers are pointing to a group of a cells called neural crest cells as the key to understanding domestication syndrome.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.