Reading on the Web about policy formation for advanced tech applications, I came across this tidbit:
…science is too important to be left to scientists. Their knowledge and their assessment of risks is only one dimension of the challenge for society. When science raises profound ethical and social issues, the whole of society needs to take part in the debate.
That's from the UK's Science and Innovation White Paper titled "Excellence and Opportunity", published in July 2000.
CRN agrees that other groups besides scientists must be involved in assessing societal impacts of emerging technologies. We commend the UK -- and Europe in general -- for being more proactive about creating public fora and gathering diverse input than is typically the case in the US.
On the other hand, it would be a mistake to discount the contributions that scientists and other technical professionals can make to the discussion. Especially in a field such as molecular manufacturing, a deep understanding of the relevant science is essential. That's one reason we created the Wise-Nano project: to offer a place for engineers, physicists, chemists, software designers, social scientists, and interested laypersons to share ideas.
We heartily support the concept that "the whole of society needs to take part in the debate."