There are increasing government initiatives here and around the world to let the public “have its say” on nanotechnology issues. Yet in their article, published in the journal Nanoethics, Griffith University’s Dr Kristen Lyons and The Change Agency’s Dr James Whelan conclude that to a large extent industry interests have captured the policy process, and public consultation is often tokenistic, and disconnected from the real business of decision making.

The abstract of their article “Community Engagement to Facilitate, Legitimize and Accelerate the Advancement of Nanotechnologies in Australia” is below.

There are increasing calls internationally for the development of regulation and policies related to the rapidly growing nanotechnologies sector. As part of the process of policy formation, it is widely accepted that deliberative community engagement processes should be included, enabling publics to have a say about nanotechnologies, expressing their hopes and fears, issues and concerns, and that these will be considered as part of the policy process. The Australian Federal and State governments have demonstrated a commitment to these ideals, undertaking a number of public engagement activities in recent years. However, despite promises that these community engagement activities will enable policy makers to identify complex and contested community attitudes, and that these will be included as part of the policy making process, a closer look at Australia’s engagement activities reveals something quite different. Through an analysis of a number of Australia’s nano-engagement activities, this paper demonstrates the limits of public engagement related to the development of nanotechnology related policies and regulation in Australia. Our analysis reveals the extent to which industry interests have captured policy makers and regulators, dissenting voices have been excluded from engagement processes, and engagement processes have not connected with actual policy making activities. Reflecting on these limits, this paper concludes with recommendations for improving public engagement processes related to nanotechnologies in Australia.

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