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NanOpinion promotes social reflection on nanotechnologies in Barcelona

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NanOpinion promotes social reflection on nanotechnologies in Barcelona

Pir, 28 Lie 2014
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The Unit of Public Engagement on Health Research at IrsiCaixa, together with the British Council in Barcelona, organized during the months of May and June 2014 three events to monitor public opinion on what Barcelona dwellers expect from the innovation with nanotechnologies. The Mobile Station was the arena for information and debate on nanotechnologies. These activities were carried out in collaboration with the Institute for bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC).

The orange mushroom was placed on 26 May at the public library Sagrada Familia and on 14 and 15 of June at the Ciutadella Park, where the Festival of Science, Technology and Innovation was taking place. Science communicators, experts and researchers resolved the doubts posed by participants, and facilitated social reflection on ethical, legal and socioeconomical aspects of nanotechnologies. With small demonstrations, products already available in the market and surveys, visitors could become more familiar with the main applications of nanotechnologies and express their thoughts on the risks and benefits of such innovations.

The attendees were as varied as high school or university students, families, tourists and retired people. In general, many visitors admitted having heard very little on nanotechnologies beforehand and were surprised to realize how many consumer products using nanotechnologies are currently on the market. In fact, the most repeated questions were regarding the nano-products. For example, they asked for the place where they could buy a Nano T-shirt, that never get stained and wondered what happens with the sweat in such textiles. Another frequent question was whether the nanoparticles in a sunscreen that is transparent were dangerous or not for human health.

Apart from these festive events, on 17 June, a workshop was held in the IBEC facilities. The participants, coming from various backgrounds (Chemistry, Architecture, Humanities, etc.), could not only give their opinion on science and nanotechnology applications, but also join in a guided tour through labs where research on this field is carried out. The workshop was very fruitful; attendees discussed their points of view on the applications of nanotechnologies and debated in depth on the role of science and innovation in our society and on how we get informed on scientific issues.

In general, participants agreed that science brings solutions to overcome problems, but they support it as long as it is monitored by ethical committees and products accomplish all safety standards. Another topic of discussion was focused on analyzing in which contexts we talk about science. Participants concluded that they were not likely to discuss on scientific topics with non-scientists relatives or friends. In fact, when they wanted to get information on a scientific topic, rather than talking with their families and friends, they would look it up on internet. However, they pointed out the difficulty to distinguish between the reliable and non-reliable sites on internet. At the end of the workshop, participants highlighted the need to organize more face to face reflexive activities, such as the nanOpinion workshops, to engage citizens in science and research issues.

 

 

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