Governing nanotechnologies through societal engagement
Nanotechnologies – the purposeful engineering of matter on the atomic or molecular scale – have given rise to great expectations in recent years, unlocking new research opportunities in areas as diverse as energy, healthcare, electronics, food, and construction. At the same time, concerns have been raised about possible unintended consequences of the use of nanomaterials.
GoNano believes that research and innovation can benefit from being more open to societal needs and concerns (the process of making research and innovation more transparent, reflective and open to societal needs and concerns has become known as responsible research and innovation). Over the course of three years, GoNano enabled collaborative development (co-creation) between citizens, civil society organizations, industry, researchers and policy-makers across Europe to align future nanotechnologies with societal needs and concerns. With the GoNano approach, we aimed to demonstrate how researchers can work with publics and professional stakeholders to create novel suggestions for future nanotechnology products the nanotechnological application areas of food, health and energy.
Work package (WP) 1 & 2 focussed on creating a knowledge database and develop a backbone for the pilot studies.
In WP1 GoNano first performed some exploratory research on how to facilitate and pursue a co-creation process. First, key findings from previous and ongoing EU and national engagement projects and relevant academic literature was reviewed and summarized (please see D1.1- Building on the state-of-the-art: ex-post evaluation on mutual learning). Next, interviews with RRI experts, co-creation practitioners, risk communication experts and societal engagement experts regarding stakeholder engagement in nanotechnology were used as input for the development of the pilot studies (please see D1.3 Stakeholders engagement in nanotechnologies: areas and issues for a dialogue). The role of values and culture in societal debased is described in D1.2- Understanding the role of culture, gender and communication traditions, and their implications for engagement methodologies, communication and dissemination.
WP2 describes the methodology behind the GoNano co-creation approache (please see D2.1.- The development and thoughts behind the co-creation approach). The aim for the pilot methodology development is to on the one hand design a process of co-creation through which citizens and professional stakeholders are facilitated to become responsive to each other’ s needs and concerns. On the other, to support mutual learning and increased understanding among the stakeholder groups. To support interaction between project partners and broader audiences throughout the different co-creation stages, an online co-creation platform was launched (please see D2.2- The co-creation platform).
Secure stakeholder engagement
WP 3 & 4 aimed to implement the GoNano co-creation process.
WP 3 focussed on envisioning and deliberating with citizens (please see D3.1-Background material as input for the citizen workshop). The background material was developed to 1) educate the participants about nanotechnologies, 2) introduce questions of risk, regulations, societal implementation, ethics, culture and the role of values, and 3) illustrate and situate, through future everyday use scenarios of nanotechnologies applications, visions of future nanotechnology applications in a context of use where the citizens can draw on their lay expertise to address the desirability, acceptability and sustainability of the nanotechnology applications. The background materials are translated to Dutch, Czech and Spanish. WP3 is designed to be implemented in parallel and close interaction with WP4, which is about co-creation with professional stakeholders. As part of the co-creation pilot studies in The Netherlands (health), Spain (energy) and Czech Republic (food), citizens were consulted about their wishes, needs and concerns regarding future nanotechnology applications (please see D3.2- citizens needs and values in relation to nanotechnology in food, health and energy). This output was used as input for the first and second stakeholder workshops (video), stimulating citizens, civil society organizations, industry, researchers and policy-makers across Europe to co-create research aims and think about concrete (product) suggestions for future nanotechnologies. The aim of the first round of stakeholder workshops was to come up with concrete ‘responsive’ design suggestions that can be fed back in ongoing research and innovation activities, building on the outcomes of the citizen workshops (please see D4.2a- working papers on the designs and outcomes of first stakeholder workshops). The suggestions resulting from the workshops were shared and discussed more widely via an online citizen consultation (please see D3.3- Briefing report on the outcomes of the online consultation). The results from the citizen consultation were in turn fed back into the second round of stakeholder workshops, focusing on the uptake of the responsive design suggestions of the previous round (please see D4.2.b – Outcomes of co-creation workshops round 2). The output of each co-creation session are multiple concrete (product) suggestions within the areas of food, health and energy that illustrate new opportunities for innovation and develop policy recommendations (To be submitted D4.5– product suggestions).
The co-creation processes were evaluated on the effect on mutual understanding, trust and confidence in nanotechnologies (please see D4.3-Evaluation report on the outcomes of the MML platform), and an overall engagement results (To be submitted, D.4.4).
Curious about the GoNano process design in real-life cases? Listen to people behind five noteworthy co-creation initiatives by watching these brief YouTube videos on co-creation best practices.
Share results and build convincing cases
WP5, 6 and 7 are about sharing the GoNano results.
WP5 focussed on developing concrete policy recommendations for governance of research and innovation in nanotechnology to increase responsiveness to societal needs and values. The targeted stakeholders are policy-makers and industry. The first output is a report about the current policy context, recent developments and debates regarding risk governance and regulations of nanotechnologies in Europe, inlcuding the main research and innovation priorities by European policies (H2020) and industries (European Technology Platforms) (please see D5.1 First briefing report on Risk governance and research R&I piorities in nanotechnologies). On a later stage, a second briefing report was written which serves to ensure alignment of GoNano activities with the current regulatory and policy context, specifically regarding the design of the White papers and business case (please see D5.2 – Second briefing report on the nanotechnology R&I policy context as input to developing the GoNano white papers). The latter feeds back to the three GoNano white papers (to be submitted) describing policy recommendations for the major challenges taken on board by the GoNano project;
- White paper 1 Why co-creation responsiveness makes sense in nanotechnology;
- White paper 2 Strategic focus regarding how to implement co-creation
- White paper 3 How to realize co-creation considering a gender and diversity perspectives.
The white papers are the basis of 6 policy briefs (2-3 pages) which each take up a specific part of the challenges dealt with in the white papers. The policy briefs are specifically directed to policy makers (to be submitted).
WP6 is about training and community capacity building by supporting responsive R&I form two sides; researchers and developers involved in R&I processes will have access to training materials on how to include societal needs and concerns; citizens will have access to easy to understand information about nanotechnology and a public engagement database to stimulate their voice in nanotechnology discussions. The training material includes Webinars, written guidelines and toolkits. As part of the training and educational efforts, GoNano organized a winter school after two years of the project. Postgraduate students and early career researchers from a broad range of disciplines were challenged to step out of their comfort zones and work together to increase their responsiveness to societal needs and values in nanotechnology innovations (please read D6.3 – the GoNano Winter School).
Information and guides for publics consists of tools, guidelines and easy to understand information about nanotechnology (please visit the Join the nanodebate webpage) and an online engagement database listing initiatives for the publics to engage in (nano)technology R&I.
WP7 was about raising awareness and ensure transparency of the GoNano results and on-going work, from kick-off to the end of the project. All GoNano communication materials, including movies, posters, and more, can be found on the project materials webpage.
All deliverables can also be found here.