Public discourse about nano-related issues

The public discussion about the chances and risks of nanoproducts has started only recently and is subject to change as new ideas add to existing conceptions. The Leibniz Research Alliance Nanosafety deals with the question of how the public can be supported in the formation of an informed opinion on this recent and ambiguous research area. While it promises to innovate science in a way that will facilitate greater control of natural processes that affect our very lives, it causes anxiety and vague concerns about safety issues. Therefore, it is vital to further public discourse by creating opportunities to communicate and exchange information and opinions about nanosafety. This can be realised using digital and traditional media (e.g. the internet and television), or by mounting topic-specific exhibitions in museums. Both approaches try not only to impart factual knowledge but also to encourage people to deepen their understanding of complex and controversial issues.

Results from eye-tracking measurements on a fictional text on nanoparticles that contains contradictory information. The heat map shows the viewing time of the different parts of the website. It was generated by researchers of IWM in a cooperative research project. [Steffen Gottschling]

Current examples from our research:

Understanding complex information – study in cooperation between IWM and INM