Deliberating risks under uncertainty: Experience, trust, and attitudes in a swiss nanotechnology stakeholder discussion group

NanoEthics 1 (2):143-154 (2007)
Scientific knowledge has not stabilized in the current, early, phase of research and development of nanotechnologies creating a challenge to ‘upstream’ public engagement. Nevertheless, the idea that the public should be involved in deliberative discussions and assessments of emerging technologies at this early stage is widely shared among governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders. Many forums for public debate including focus groups, and citizen juries, have thus been organized to explore public opinions on nanotechnologies in a variety of countries over the past few years. In Switzerland the Centre for Technology Assessment (TA-Swiss) organized such a citizen panel in fall 2006. Drawing from an ethnographic study of this panel called ‘publifocus on nanotechnologies, health, and environment’ this paper looks at the ways members of a stakeholder group deal with the epistemic uncertainty in their deliberation of nanotechnologies. By exploring the statements of the participants in the stakeholder discussion group, this paper reconstructs the narratives that constitute the epistemic foundations of the participants’ evaluations of nanotechnologies.
Keywords Citizen panel  Nanotechnology  Upstream public engagement  Risk  Uncertainty
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DOI 10.1007/s11569-007-0015-6
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