Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 691–697

Participating Despite Questions: Toward a More Confident Participatory Technology Assessment

Commentary on: “Questioning ‘Participation’: A Critical Appraisal of its Conceptualization in a Flemish Participatory Technology Assessment”

DOI: 10.1007/s11948-011-9314-y

Cite this article as:
Guston, D.H. Sci Eng Ethics (2011) 17: 691. doi:10.1007/s11948-011-9314-y


While the important challenges of public deliberations on emerging technologies are crucial to keep in mind, this paper argues that scholars and practitioners have reason to be more confident in their performance of participatory technology assessments (pTA). Drawing on evidence from the 2008 National Citizens’ Technology Forum (NCTF) conducted by the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University, this paper describes how pTA offers a combination of intensive and extensive qualities that are unique among modes of engagement. In the NCTF, this combination led to significant learning and opinion changes, based on what can be characterized as a high-quality deliberation. The quality of the anticipatory knowledge required to address emerging technologies is always contested, but pTAs can be designed with outcomes in mind—especially when learning is understood as an outcome.


Nanotechnology Deliberation Participatory technology assessment Consensus conference 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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