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Public engagement and nanotechnology in the UK: restoring trust or building robustness?

Groves, Christopher Robert 2011. Public engagement and nanotechnology in the UK: restoring trust or building robustness? Science and Public Policy 38 (10) , pp. 783-793. 10.1093/spp/38.10.783

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Concerns about the social sustainability of emerging technologies are identified as a motivation behind recent interest in public engagement as a mode of formal technology assessment, nanoscale science and technology (NST) being a key example. Two rival understandings of engagement as a contribution to social sustainability, namely ‘restoring trust’ and ‘building robustness’ are identified. These different approaches are analysed as strategic responses to the politics of uncertainty in technological societies, each reflecting different assumptions about how to domesticate an intrinsically uncertain future. Government-sponsored experiments with upstream engagement around NST in the UK were surrounded by rhetoric concerning the need to build robustness into how nanotechnologies develop. It is argued, however, that assumptions held by policy and business actors about the strategic value of narratives of restoring trust, together with deeply embedded assumptions about how technological innovation creates the future, tended to place obstacles in the way of turning this aspiration into reality.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Publisher: Beech Tree Publishing
ISSN: 0302-3427
Funders: ESRC
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2017 04:53

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