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08 December 2008
British and American people are optimistic about the benefits that nanotechnology could bring to society, according to new research involving the University.
The study, by the School of Psychology, in collaboration with the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that ordinary people in both countries hold positive views of nanotechnologies and what the future of these technologies might bring. Their findings are published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Nanotechnologies - the science and technology of exceptionally small materials and processes - are amongst the latest new technologies to raise concerns about health, environmental risks and public acceptability.
As part of the study, researchers held four workshops in Cardiff and California, in which participants debated the use of nanotechnologies in relation to energy and health.
As well as public optimism about the use of nanotechnology in these areas, other findings revealed that British participants were generally more aware of recent technological controversies and risk governance failures, for example GM crops.
The researchers also found that technological developments in relation to human health raised moral and ethical dilemmas, and that people taking part in the research questioned whether those responsible - governments, industry and scientists - could be fully trusted to control nanotechnologies in the future.
Professor Nick Pidgeon of the School of Psychology at Cardiff University, led the Cardiff research team: "This study represents the first ever public engagement exercise to be simultaneously conducted in two different countries," said Professor Pidgeon.
"The findings suggest that the possible benefits of emerging nanotechnologies are likely to continue to outweigh possible risks in public attitudes. The fact that participants voiced scepticism about who to trust to control nanotechnologies, and that health applications raised particular moral issues, means that it would be a great mistake to pursue development of such technologies without some form of public debate and oversight."
The research was funded primarily by the US National Science Foundation with additional support to Cardiff University provided by The Leverhulme Trust and can be viewed here.
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