Orginal Paper

Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 81-96

First online:

Avoiding Empty Rhetoric: Engaging Publics in Debates About Nanotechnologies

  • Renee KyleAffiliated withARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science, University of WollongongSchool of English Literatures, Philosophy and Languages, University of Wollongong Email author 
  • , Susan DoddsAffiliated withSchool of English Literatures, Philosophy and Languages, University of Wollongong

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Despite the amount of public investment in nanotechnology ventures in the developed world, research shows that there is little public awareness about nanotechnology, and public knowledge is very limited. This is concerning given that nanotechnology has been heralded as ‘revolutionising’ the way we live. In this paper, we articulate why public engagement in debates about nanotechnology is important, drawing on literature on public engagement and science policy debate and deliberation about public policy development. We also explore the significance of timing in engaging the public, and we make some suggestions concerning how to effectively engage publics. Our conclusions indicate the significance of scientific researchers, policy makers and representative consumer groupings in public reasoning towards a better public policy framework for debate about technological development.


Nanotechnology Public engagement Public policy Public trust Deliberative processes