Dreaming of a nanotech Christmas: What persuades the public to embrace and buy nanotechnology?

WASHINGTON –Will parents put an iPod Nano or Head® Nano Titanium tennis racket under the Christmas tree for their children this year? Will holiday revelers hang a Nano-Infinity stocking on their fireplace mantle for Santa Claus to fill? Just what does compel shoppers to either buy nanotechnology products, or avoid them because of real or imagined risks?

With over 350 manufacturer-identified nanotechnology consumer products available for purchase this gift-giving season (see: www.nanotechproject.org/consumerproducts), and with $2.6 trillion in manufactured goods incorporating nanotechnology expected by 2014, there is a lot at stake in how these questions are answered.

The results of the first large-scale empirical study of how consumers consider risks and benefits when deciding whether to purchase or use specific nanotechnology products will appear in the December 2006 issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology. The article's lead author, Steven C. Currall, University College London and London Business School, and a co-author, Neal Lane, Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and former U.S. Presidential Science Advisor, will report their findings at a program and live webcast on Tuesday, December 5th at 2:00 p.m. in the 5th Floor Conference Room of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (www.wilsoncenter.org/directions). The Nature Nanotechnology article is embargoed until December 5th at 2 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time.

At this program sponsored by the Wilson Center's Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, the authors will address whether greater popular awareness and understanding of nanotechnology will whet the public's appetite for the technology and lead to increased support for research, or raise concerns about the potential ill effects of new applications. They will discuss how public perceptions of nanotechnology are being shaped. They also will compare the experience of the emergence of nanotechnology to the experience of other "new" technologies, including nuclear power, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), embryonic stem cell research, and biotechnology.


The study was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Rice's Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology and NSF's Center for Nanotechnology in Society. Surveys were administered by Zogby International.

Dr. Lane is senior fellow in Science and Technology at Rice University's Baker Institute and the Malcolm Gillis University Professor at Rice. While director of NSF (1993-1998) and assistant to the President for Science & Technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (1998-2001), Lane played a major role in establishing America's National Nanotechnology Initiative--a federal investment to date of more than $6.5 billion in nanotechnology research and development. He is a leading proponent of greater citizen-scientist dialogue and public science education. Dr. Currall, formerly a professor at Rice, is professor of Enterprise and the Management of Innovation and director of the Management Studies Centre at University College London. He also is visiting professor of entrepreneurship and faculty co-director of the Institute of Technology at London Business School. He is an international authority on the application of behavioral science to workplace and marketplace dynamics.

*** Webcast LIVE at www.wilsoncenter.org/nano***

What: Dreaming of a Nanotech Christmas: What Persuades the Public to Embrace and Buy Nanotechnology?

Who: Steven C. Currall, Professor in the Faculty of Engineering Sciences at University College London, and Visiting Professor at London Business School
Neal Lane, former U.S. Presidential Science Advisor, and Senior Fellow in Science and Technology Policy at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy
Julia A. Moore, Deputy Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

When: Tuesday, December 5th, 2006, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m.

Where: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 5th Floor Conference Room. Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC

The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies was launched in 2005 by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and The Pew Charitable Trusts. It is dedicated to helping business, governments, and the public anticipate and manage the possible health and environmental implications of nanotechnology.

Media planning to cover the event should contact Sharon McCarter at (202) 691-4016 or [email protected]. UK journalists interested in an advance copy of the article, "What Drives Public Acceptance of Nanotechnology," Nature Nanotechnology (December 2006) should contact Professor Steven Currall at + 44 (0) 20 7679-0446 (if outside the UK, do not dial the "0" after "44") or e-mail [email protected] or [email protected]uk. US journalists should contact Jade Boyd, News & Media Relations, Rice University, by phone at (713) 348-6778 or by e-mail [email protected].

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