Posted: May 22nd, 2012 6th International Authorities Dialogue: “Governance ofNanomaterials” in Zurich ( Nanowerk News ) The 6st International Nano-Authorities Dialogue with Governmentofficials from Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein and Switzerland tookplace on 8./9. May in Z ich. The Swiss Federal Office for theEnvironment (FOEN) invited representatives of the publicauthorities dealing with regulatory issues of nanotechnology inhealth, environment or occupational safety areas. The topic of the2 day-conference was the communication of scientific data andpublic dialogue. The participants discussed how scientific data andinformation could be transformed into relevant information for thepublic and other involved stakeholders.
Besides this topic theparticipants discussed current developments in regulation, researchand education on national and international level. The annualNano-Authorities Dialogue series is organized and moderated by theInnovation Society, St.Gallen since 2008. Switzerland as host 6th International conference Dr. G ard Poffet (Vice-president, FOEN) welcomed the numerousdelegates from Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein and Switzerland onbehalf of the Swiss Government and the Swiss Federal Office for theEnvironment (FOEN). In his opening speech he emphasized that theSwiss Federal Offices are dealing with engineered nanomaterialssince nearly 10 years.
The Swiss Government has published aNano-Actionplan in 2008 where several measures are listed whichshould be taken in order to guarantee a safe and sustainabledevelopment of nanotechnology and nanosciences in Switzerland. Oneof the key elements in the actionplan is the strengthening ofpublic dialogue and communication with the public. G ard Poffetmentioned that the communication of scientific data on bothopportunities and risks of nanotechnology should stick toscientific facts on one hand and must be understandable on theother hand. These are the preconditions for an objective process ofopinion forming and public debate. Open and transparent scientificcommunication should be used to inform about the state of knowledgeand also about the areas of ignorance. Portable Desiccant Dehumidifier
Thereby unfounded fearscould be omitted without playing the potential risks down. He alsomentioned the importance of this annual meeting for an informalexchange of experiences among European public authorities and thestakeholders from industry, academia and politics. Many nano-activities: Actionplans, research programs andstakeholder-dialogues Several speakers presented the ongoing nano-activities in theircountries and on global level. Focusing on national researchstrategies, national and international actionplans and numerouscommunication- and stakeholder-dialogue activities in the specificcountries. Refrigerant Dehumidifier
There are actually many parallel activities in theEuropean countries going on. In all German speaking countries thereare presently national actionplans with different activities. Thereare also numerous national or international research programs whichare initiated by authorities and which are conducted by researchgroups or in cooperation with industry. Many of these researchprograms are focusing on scientific risk research projects onenvironmental, health or partly occupational safety topics. InSwitzerland the national research program NFP 64 “Opportunities andrisks of Nanomaterials” comprises actually 23 different projects.The NFP 64 program was presented by Prof. China Ducted Dehumidifier
Peter Gehr who is thepresident of the steering committee. He gave a short overview overthe structure and the goals of the program. Prof. Rik Eggen(EAWAG-Vice-president) presented the Swiss Federal Institute ofAquatic Science and Technology (EAWAG) and highlighted the role ofa national research institution as an interface between scientists,public authorities and the public.
On the basis of three practicalresearch projects on nanomaterials in aquatic systems the resultsand the transformation process from scientific data to publiclyunderstandable information was discussed. Nanotechnology in the media On the second day Prof. Heinz Bonfadelli from the University ofZurich presented the role of the media for the information andcommunication process. He illustrated media reality and effects ofmedia on the example of nanotechnology. Although the number ofnano-articles in the past view years has decreased the publicperception of nanotechnology in Switzerland and other Europeancountries is still positive.
The state of knowledge aboutnanotechnology is comparably high. In the dissemination process theso called “PUSH-Media” (press, radio, television) are veryimportant as they provide information to the consumers actively. Onthe other hand most of the information on nanotechnology isactually presented on “PULL-Media” (e.g. online Informationplatforms).
Many public authorities present their information onsuch platforms, where the interested public can pick informationdue to specific interests. These platforms play an important rolefor multiplicators, who are looking for well structured, unbiasedand balanced information. In Switzerland the public authoritieshave presented a new information platform on nanotechnology”InfoNano” in February 2012 (www.infonano.ch). For teachers andstudents there is the “Swiss Nano-Cube” http://www.swissnanocube.chplatform which is supported by Swiss Federal Offices. Expert knowledge for political decision making Maya Graf (Member & Vice-president of the Swiss National Council;Greens, BL) highlighted in her presentation the developments on theregulatory level in Switzerland and beyond and discussed the roleof scientific data for the political decision making process.
InSwitzerland and in other European countries the expert know-howcomes into the legislative process through the work of commission.The politicians need data from the area of science and technologyas well as ethical, legal and social (ELSA) aspects ofnanotechnology. In the political decision making process theinformation has to be transformed and simplified to a certainextent. As nanotechnology is an enabling technology it has anextremely wide range of application, reaching industrial as well asconsumer products. It is therefore very important to differentiatein the communication. As far as nanotechnology in consumer productsis concerned many consumer organizations are calling for moretransparency and labeling; especially in the area of body-nearapplications (e.g.
food, cosmetics). Maya Graf considers adeclaration of nanomaterials in such products as compulsory. Theconference ended with the announcement of the 7th internationalNano-authorities dialogue which will take place in Vienna in Spring2013. The Nano-Authorities Dialogue The Nano-Authorities Dialogue is an international platform forgovernment officials, industry representatives and associations ofGermany, Austria, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
The platform aimsto foster informal cross-border dialogue and exchange ofexperiences on current issues about nanotechnologies. The platformhas been organized and moderated by the Innovation Society,St.Gallen since 2008 on behalf of the respective host authorities.