A ‘nano’ overdose?

July 4, 2010

The word ‘nano’ has caught the world’s attention and we even have a car named the Nano,” David Guston from the Consortium of Science, Policy and Outcomes in the United States told a session on anticipatory governance of emerging technologies, at ESOF 2010 on 3 July. Anticipatory governance develops foresight, engagement and interaction with the public on their hopes, fears and expectations of nano and other new technologies, to help in more objective decision making.

Taking cues from developed countries, several developing countries too have joined the nano bandwagon, ignoring risks and regulatory aspects.

The ESOF session highlighted how nano-, and other emerging technologies, are challenging existing institutions of governance because they contribute to novel, unpredictable, yet potentially revolutionary innovations. Ultimately, public attitudes could influence their development, and it would be a good idea if, while scientists and engineers continue with their research, social scientists start mapping human responses to emerging technologies.

Ulrike Felt , a social scientist from the University of Vienna, says it is important to “understand the dynamics of (the public’s) expectations”. Citizen engagement with nano fairs and workshops to educate, interact and debate is vital to sensible anticipatory governance, says Felt.

The United Kingdom, apparently, has a more dialogue-based approach. So says Matthew Kearnes from Durham University, who worked on building social intelligence into nano scale science and engineering research.

The project dealt with how policy makers could engage with the public with regard to emerging technologies; and involved verifying public understanding of science, dialogue and public engagement.

Europe seems increasingly focused on public engagement on critical issues. Parliamentarians met at ESOF on 4 July to figure out how ‘parliamentary technology assessment’ (PTA) could support them in anticipating and managing the impact of science and technology on future societies.

Given the rapid advances in science and technology and their impact on a country’s economy, environment and society, policy makers need to keep abreast of the latest knowledge to promote or regulate new technologies, they say.

Marianne de Nazareth, SciDev.Net contributor

Scientoons anyone?

July 23, 2008

This is a scientoon –  a cartoon on science and technology that helps you look at science with a dose of humour.

ESOF 2008 devoted an entire session on scientoons that have emerged as an innovative way to spread science messages. For a non-scientist who may just have a passing interest in a specific scientific topic, scientoons are a way to grab their attention and put a piece of information across quickly.

The ESOF session on “Scientoonics : a novel way to learn science having fun”  was put together by a group of ardent ‘scientoonists’ from India: Manoj Patairiya from the National Council of Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC) in Delhi; Pradeep Srivastava from the Central Drug Research Institute in Lucknow; and Abhay Kothari, a designer in Ahmedabad.

For ‘scientoonists’, their art is not only about making a caricature that draws a smile but also provides information about new research, subject, data or concept in a jiffy.

So a scientoon is slightly different in its structure from a cartoon. A cartoon has two elements: a caricature and a satire at the bottom or in the form of a balloon. A scientoon has an additional third element: a box that contains the science information that needs to be communicated.

And the scientoon need not be confined to a print magazine or daily.  Or for that matter a research journal or a popular science magazine.

India’s NCSTC has produced radio skits on science or ‘radio scientoons’, puppet shows on science or ‘puppet scientoons’ and ‘multimedia scientoon’ on the internet and video.

It is now trying to develop theme-based scientoon strips, films, books to suit a variety of audiences, including persons with special needs, such as ‘Braille scientoon’ for the visually challenged.

So just let your imagination flow and begin your scientoon.

Dr. Manoj Patairiya is a science writer based in New Delhi.

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