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IRG 3-3a: Public perceptions, construction of preference
(Nick Pidgeon, Terre Satterfield, Barbara Harthorn, Joseph Conti)
The 2008 national survey looked at key contextual, experiential, affective, and demographic factors that seem to be driving nanotech perceived risk, perceived benefit, reversals of judgments about risk vs. benefit, and construction of preference. The survey has been used to not only better understand public perceptions of nanotechnologies, but also other science and tech issues such as geoengineering and climate change.
Informed in part by the survey research, the November, 2011 special issue of Risk Analysis focused on risk perception research of nanotechnologies. The issue, edited by Pidgeon, Satterfield, and Harthorn, includes a paper on vulnerability and inequality as factors in nano risk perception (Conti et al. 2011). A paper on affect and ambivalence, ‘Not Yet a Hot Topic: Affect and Nanotechnologies,’ was also submitted to Journal of Risk Analysis. Additional analyses are in discussion in collaboration with UBC, Cardiff, UCSB, and U Wisc.
The Cardiff researchers also submitted an invited brief memorandum to the House of Commons Science & Technology Select Committee inquiry on the Regulation of Geoengineering. The Memorandum argued that public engagement on geoengineering is necessary to make the research as upstream and effective as possible, drawing explicitly on CNS funded work (Pidgeon et al., 2009: Nature Nanotechnology) and the field of upstream engagement in nanotechnology more broadly. Pidgeon also collaborated with Baruch Fischhoff (Carnegie Mellon University and the NSF funded Climate Decision Making Centre) on a 2011 paper in Nature Climate Change arguing that US scientists should build future strategic capability around risk communication for environmental decision making.
IRG 3 plans to collect additional national survey data in the US and to conduct experimental decision pathway analysis in collaboration with Decision Research.