The promise of nanoscale science is that it will dramatically improve our lives, bringing great advances in applications as diverse as medicine, energy, electrical and chemical engineering, and materials. At the same time, nanotechnology’s potential negative impacts also touch on a broad range of societal concerns—environmental pollution, toxicity, the prospects of artificial life, and privacy violations. There is a middle ground between scientific boosterism and extreme rejection of these new technologies. Open deliberation can help steer the public conversation toward this more thoughtful, considered middle ground.
Around the world, science centers are exploring new models for engaging adults and older youth in dialog and deliberation about the societal implications of technology. This democratization of public policy deliberation is a strategy for stimulating learning by both scientists and the public and for revitalizing the role of science museums in the life of the nation. These efforts lay the groundwork for an exciting new role for science centers as a bridge between scientists and the public.
NISE Network partners have worked together to research, develop, and test a variety of program models aimed at engaging adults and older youth with in-depth informal educational experiences that incorporate dialog and deliberation around societal implications of nanoscale science, engineering, and technology. This team has developed a set of materials and expertise to share with the broader science museum community to build capacity in the field to engage the public in this kind of programming.
Available in the Catalog
- Public Forums Manual A guide on designing and planning forums.
- Risks, Benefits and Who Decides? This forum asks participants to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of three options.
- Energy Challenges, Nanotech Solutions? This forum places participants in the role of a governmental funding agency and asks them to consider how nanotechnology should fit into the timeline and scope of future national energy policy
- Nanomedicine in Healthcare This forum explores nanotechnology-enabled medical technologies and their potential to transform health care, while considering the societal, ethical, environmental and economic impacts of this emerging technology.
- Privacy. Civil Liberties. Nanotechnology. This forum asks participants to consider and discuss several nanotechnology application scenarios and the possible opportunities, impacts, risks, and benefits.
Cognitive Enhancement Teen Role Play Forum: This forum plays on very real concerns and fears of students: academic performance and taking standardized tests.
- Same Sides and Let's Talk About It: This 50-minute program includes an introduction to the nano-scale science, conversation time for the participants and 2 ten-minute plays that stimulate conversation about the impact the field of nanoscale science may have on our lives. The plays have also been performed individually as part of forums.
A Science Café is an event that brings scientists and the public together in an informal setting like a restaurant, pub, or coffee shop. Science Cafés are happening all over the world and have many different formats. Some are lectures with audience-guided questions and answers, some have a moderated discussion between the scientist and the audience, and some focus more on round-table discussion.share with the broader science museum community to build capacity in the field to engage the public in this kind of programming.
Available in the Catalog
- Science Cafe Guide: Guide to hosting an event that brings scientists and the public together in an informal setting.
More information about Science Cafés
- Sciencecafes.org: Whether you are looking for a science café near you, are interested in organizing a science café, or are just plain curious, you’ll find everything you need to know about science cafés on this site.