Can effective policy recommendations for controversial scientific issues be developed by a group of random citizens?
This innovative way to "stimulate broad and intelligent social debate on technological issues" was pioneered in the 1980s by the Danish Board of Technology. A similar process, focused on nanotechnologies, is getting underway in the UK.
Hoping to influence views on nanotechnology by government, scientists, and the media, citizens in Madison, Wisconsin (USA), convened a consensus conference earlier this year on "the promises and perils of nanotechnologies."
We think this is a good sign. Public involvement in determining safe development and responsible use of advanced nanotechnology will be vital. CRN research suggests that these issues are likely to arise sooner than many expect. The surest way to avoid the worst dangers is to understand them in advance and take assertive action to prevent them.