Experts More Worried about Nanotech than Public



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.

NYTimes exposé reveals how Facebook handled scandals

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.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • 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.
Keep reading Show less

Russian reporters discover 101 'tortured' whales jammed in offshore pens

Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.

(VL.ru)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Russian news network discovers 101 black-market whales.
  • Orcas and belugas are seen crammed into tiny pens.
  • Marine parks continue to create a high-price demand for illegal captures.
Keep reading Show less

Unraveling the mystery behind dogs' floppy ears

Dogs' floppy ears may be part of why they and other domesticated animals love humans so much.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • 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.
Keep reading Show less