CIPAST Newsletter January 2008

Dear reader!
The new year is still young enough to wish you all a good and healthy 2008. And the first deadlines are already getting close. The recent EC calls in Science and Society - which already close on 18th March - focus on ‘Public understanding of science and promotion of public debate’ as well as on ‘Exchanges and co-operation of local actors on scientific culture’ - expecting actions for the development of a scientific culture at the local level by bringing together relevant local actors involved in science, culture, entertainment, education, local economical development and citizens‘ participation. I wish you all to be successful.

Yours sincerely,
Norbert Steinhaus, Editor

You can download a pdf-version of this newsletter here (256 kb).

Table of Contents


  • Best practice, ideas and strategies - Proceedings of 3rd Living Knowledge Conference
  • Democracy 2007
  • Consumer Conference Nanotechnology
  • Citizen Science - Ice-breaking pairs game

STACS: Science, Technology and Civil Society
When researchers and NGOs are co-producing knowledge

Non-profit and public-interest oriented organisations have become important knowledge producers. Indigenous people, amateur naturalists or farmers’ organisations are now seen as key actors in the conservation of biological diversity, and numerous peer-to-peer cooperative innovation processes (Free Software, Wikipedia, Tela Botanica, etc .) are known. A third sector of knowledge production and innovation (beyond the state and market sectors) has thus strongly emerged within Civil Society.

There is a growing awareness >>more

Nanodialogues: Experiments in public engagement with science

Depending who you ask, nano-technology might be the Next Big Thing, the next Asbestos or the next GM. But before its impacts have been felt, nanotechnology has become a test case for a new sort of governance. It is an opportunity to reimagine the relationship between science and democracy. The emergence of nanotechnology has coincided with a greater openness in science and innovation policy. For government, public engagement has become a way of avoiding a repeat of past mistakes. This pamphlet presents the findings of the Nanodialogues – a series of experiments in upstream public engagement with different partners in different contexts. Over two years, with the Environment Agency, two Research Councils, Practical Action and Unilever, we asked members of the public to join scientists in discussions on regulation, research funding, development and corporate innovation. Our experiments have taken us behind the scenes of science policy. From backstage, we can see that policymakers tend to see the public as a problem rather than an opportunity. For public engagement to matter, it must go beyond risk management. New conversations with the public do not provide easy answers. They ask difficult but important questions, opening up new possibilities for science. The value of public engagement is that it takes us into a vital discussion of the politics of science. Download a pdf copy here Contact: Demos, Third Floor, Magdalen House, 136 Tooley Street, London SE1 2TU, UK, tel: + 0845 458 5949,,

Democratic Technologies?
The final report of the Nanotechnology Engagement Group

In laboratories across the world, new scientific territory is being uncovered everyday; territory that offers groundbreaking opportunities for society, as well as new risks and unexpected challenges. Just as yesterday’s science and technology has contributed to shaping today’s world, these new technologies will help shape the world of tomorrow. The power of technology is clear, but its governance is not. Who or what makes these world-shaping decisions? And in whose interests are they made? These are the questions posed by a growing number of researchers, NGOs, citizens, politicians and scientists who seek to challenge the way that science and technology is governed and invent new ways to democratise the development of new technologies. This report documents the progress of six projects that have sought to do just that – by engaging the public in discussions about the governance and development of nanotechnologies.
In 2005, a group of pioneering projects, from various contexts and with different motivations, set off on separate voyages into this new territory. Their mission: to explore how we might ensure that future developments in nanotechnology are governed in the interests of the many, not the few. In short, to bring democracy to these new, unchartered territories. Democratic Technologies? follows the journeys of these projects, and the scientists, citizens and civil servants who joined them.
This is the report of the Nanotechnologies Engagement Group (NEG), a body convened by Involve with the support of the Office of Science and Innovation’s Sciencewise scheme, and the Universities of Cambridge and Sheffield. Our role has been to observe and support the pioneers of nanotechnology public engagement and log their experiences for the benefit of future journeys into the interface between democracy and technology.
Download a pdf copy here
Contact: Research & Analysis - Involve, 212 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7BF, UK, tel: + 020 7632 0123,


Best practice, ideas and strategies
Proceedings of the 3rd Living Knowledge conference

More than 330 people from more than 50 countries joined one or more of the 18 sessions of the 3rd Living Knowledge conference, with its nearly 100 oral presentations, and explored the more than 30 posters, watched the videos, and discussed at Open space workshops. The conference also included two sessions on participatory processes in science and technology. And there have been much more proposals for presentations which gave the organizers the difficult task to accept and refuse. A documentation of the conference with detailed papers, its presentations, posters, pictures and videos is under preparation and will be available by the end of January 2008. To get an impression of the conference you can already have a look at some pictures and a conference video at

Democracy 2007
The Rhône-Alpes Regional Council organized the World Meeting on the theme “Participatory democracy from the local to the global level: for what sort of development ?” on 10-12 December 2007 in Lyon, France. This initiative put in light the extreme wealth of the participative democracy experiences from all over the world. Over 800 ideas or propos-als came out of only one day’s workshops and, with those from the forums and agoras on the second day, constitute the building blocks produced by the meeting. Details at

Consumer Conference Nanotechnology
The „Consumer Conference on the perception of nano­tech­nology in the areas of foodstuffs, cosmetics and textiles“ was launched as a pilot project by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). It is jointly staged with the Independent Institute for Environmental Concerns (UfU) and the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW). The consumer conference draws on the model of the consensus conference.
The main emphasis of the consumer conference was on:
  • overcoming information deficits and promoting a differentiated opinion-forming process on nanotechnology amongst consumers;
  • preparation of an informed vote by consumers on applications of nanotechnology in the areas foodstuffs, cosmetics and textiles;
  • the public handing over of the consumer vote to the decision-makers in consumer protection, politics, science and industry.

16 people of various ages and occupations were extracted from a cohort of 6,000 randomly selected individuals on the basis of socio demographic criteria for the consumer conference. This group took a comprehensive look at this subject at two preparatory weekends, prepared questions on various consumer aspects of this technology and selected experts from science, associations, public agencies and industry to answer them. The closing event of the “Consumer Conference on Nanotechnology” was held in Berlin from 18 to 20 November 2006. At a public hearing the invited experts responded to the consumer group’s questions on the use of nanotechnology in foodstuffs, cosmetics and textiles. In private deliberations the group afterwards prepared its vote on nanotechnology. It was presented to the public on 20 November 2006 and handed over to representatives of public agencies, politics and associations. The main demands formulated in the vote were for comprehensible labelling, clear definitions, terms and standards as well as far more research into the potential risks before nanotechnology is used to a greater degree in consumer products. The vote names foodstuffs as the most sensitive area for the use of nanomaterials. Consumers felt that the promised advantages to be derived from using nanotechnology like changes to the flow properties of ketchup or the trickling properties of products were non-essential given the potential risks. Regarding the use of nanotechnology in cosmetics and textiles the consumers felt that the already foreseeable benefits clearly outweighed potential risks. For instance, nanoparticles in sunscreen could provide better UV protection and help to counter the increase in skin cancer.
Unique to this process is the fact that the instrument of the consensus conference is applied to final consumer domains and contributes to the shaping of new technologies. Furthermore, it has been for the first time in Germany that a federal agency launches such a deliberative process.
You can download the English version of the consumer vote here.
Contact: René Zimmer, Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR), Thielallee 88-92, 14195 Berlin, Tel.: +49 (0)30-8412-3808,

Citizen Science
Ice-breaking pairs-game for the debate on nanotechnologies

Citizen Science is designed to be instrumental in engaging young people and teachers in discussion about bio-medical science issues that affect society today. Funded by the Wellcome Trust, Citizen Science was set up by the At-Bristol Education team and the University of Bristol, along with teachers and scientists. The project created opportunities for students to engage in informed debate and gives teachers support in using new debate formats in the classroom. Cloning, nanotechnology, and genetic testing are just a few of the current controversial science-related issues that at some point we’ll all need to make choices about.
The programme included over 30 nationwide events per year delivered in partnership with teachers and other education professionals. Science experts, ethicists, public bodies and government groups joined young people in a diverse range of experimental education techniques, using experts and professional decision making processes. The techniques found to be most effective are being shared with teachers and science centre staff across the UK through their website. Nano Pairs is a resource for nanotechnology that was developed and trialled with secondary students as part of the funded ‚Citzen Science‘ project. The resource is based on the traditional ‚pairs‘ game, but adapted to help students begin to discuss some of the ideas and issues that surround nanotechnology. It is an ‚ice breaker‘ activity - just to get students talking, and we found it was very useful.
Contact: Rachel Murray, Director of Learning, At-Bristol, Anchor Road, Bristol BS1 5DB, UK, tel. 00 44 (0)117 9157145,,

AquaStress and NeWater
Water stress is a global problem with far-reaching economic and social implications. The mitigation of water stress at regional scale depends not just on technological innovations, but also on the development of new integrated water management tools and decision-making practices.

AquaStress is an EU funded integrated project delivering interdisciplinary methodologies enabling actors at different levels of involvement and at different stages of the planning process to mitigate water stress problems. AquaStress generates scientific innovations to improve the understanding of water stress from an integrated multisectoral perspective to support (besides others):
  • diagnosis and characterisation of sources and causes of water stress;
  • development and dissemination of guidelines, protocols, and policies;
  • development of a participatory process to implement solutions tailored to environmental, cultural, economic and institutional settings;
  • continuous involvement of citizens and institutions within a social learning process that promotes new forms of water culture and nurtures long-term change and social adaptivity.

NeWater addresses some of the present and future challenges of water management,such as balancing water quantity and quality, flooding, drought, maintaining biodiversity and ecological functions and services, in a context where human beliefs, actions and values play a central role. The project recognizes the value of highly integrated solutions and advocates integrated water resource management (IWRM) concepts. NeWater identifies key elements of current water management regimes and investigates their interdependence. Research is focused on transformation processes of these elements in the transition to adaptive integrated water resources management. Key IWRM areas where NeWater is expected to deliver breakthrough results include (besides others):
  • governance in water management (methods to arrive at polycentric, horizontal broad stakeholder participation in IWRM)
  • stakeholder participation (promoting new ways of bridging science, policy and implementation)
One of the key objectives is to develop protocols and tools for stakeholder engagement and analysis in participatory research and management of IWRM.,
Contact:Dr. Yorck von Korff, Coordinator of Participatory Projects, Cemagref Irrigation Montpellier, BP 5095 361, rue J.F. Breton, 34196 MONTPELLIER CEDEX 5 - FRANCE, Tel.: +33/(0)4 67 04 63 40,

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