See-through Science is the title of a pamphlet by James Wilsdon and Rebecca Willis, from the left-of-centre UK think-tank, Demos. It’s a thoughtful reflection on how one ought to engage the public in the development of new technologies, with the emerging debate on nanotechnology taken as its focus. I particularly like the undogmatic tone. The report is very clear on the failings of the old ideas of the “deficit model” of public engagement, which unconvincingly and patronisingly maintained that it is sufficient to educate the public in the wise ways of science to convince them of its benefits. The report also warns against the danger that all debates about new technology get twisted round to focus narrowly on risk assessment. This is particularly timely in view of the way the nanotechnology debate has unfolded, with its excessive focus on the one issue of nanoparticle toxicity.
In terms of recommendations, perhaps for me the most telling point is the way the report highlights the almost complete absence of those parts of industry involved in nanotechnology from this debate. I think this situation needs to change, and very soon.