Monday 18

Notes from NanoDiode event in Brussels: Why engage in nanotechnology?

Posted by Ecsite on 18 Jul 2016

A report on the final NanoDiode working conference held on 31.05.2016 in Brussels, Belgium.

It was a great pleasure to be able to attend the final NanoDiode working conference held in Brussels on the 31st of May 2016. The program was quite promising and according to the description, the conference was supposed to “bring together a broad range of stakeholders to discuss the effective governance of nanotechnologies”.

And indeed, the organizers kept their promise and during the event I had great talks with many interesting people from various backgrounds. For example, I could chat about nanotechnology governance with someone from the big chemical company, and about ways to engage publics with an artist. The presentations were quite diverse, too. Among speakers were politicians, a journalist, industry representative and CSO representative. The panelists and speakers had a bit of homework to do in advance of the event. They prepared some provocative statements and participants had to vote whether they agree or disagree with the statement. This voting exercise led to very interesting discussions. Just to give you a couple of examples of these statements:

  • “The word stakeholder is meaningless, unhelpful and should be banned”
  • “The term engagement is too often used when what actually happening is communication. The term engagement should be used sparingly and only when it’s deserved”
  • “Some European research is too technical for stakeholder engagement to make sense.
  • “Extended stakeholder engagement will unavoidably create new vested interests. The arrangements must have an element of reflexivity (for example Constructive TA)”
  • “The European Commission should host dedicated dialogue platforms on key enabling technologies”

To sum up the discussions: the word stakeholder is too vague and should be substituted by the word “participants” that is more inclusive; communicating with the intention of engagement is more useful; at least everyone could agree on the statement that the EU Commission should continue hosting dialogue platform on emerging technologies.

Also, one of the great elements of the event was the presentation of the nanotechnology enabled wine during the “knowledge fair”. Imagine the wine that changes its taste, smell and color depending on the temperature when you put it in the microwave. It is a clear sign that nanotechnology is slowly but steadily coming into our daily lives in the form of such unusual products and it is up to us to decide whether we want this kind of future or not.

By the way, if you have missed the event, the organizers have kindly uploaded the slides that are available here.

Antonina Khodzhaeva

Antonina Khodzhaeva works on RRI Tools at Ecsite, in Brussels, which is responsible for the mapping of stakeholders in the RRI Tools project

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