NISE Network Forum: “Risks, Benefits, and Who Decides?”
This study was conducted as a part of the formative evaluation of the NISE Network forum Nanotechnology: Risks, Benefits, and Who Decides? The purpose of the forum was to bring members of the public together to discuss whether experts, watchdogs, and/or the public should be the primary decision makers about nanotechnology policy. During the course of the forum, participants learned about nanotechnology and its societal and ethical implications from experts, had a chance to ask questions of the experts, participated in a small group discussion where they talked about the pros and cons of the three potential policy makers, and reported out to the larger group about their discussion. During 2006, all five NISE Network Forums Team institutions (Exploratorium, Museum of Science, Museum of Life and Science, Science Museum of Minnesota, and Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) presented this forum at least once. As a part of the presentation of the forum, formative evaluation information was collected including exit surveys, participant documentation, observations, educator debriefs, and video/audio tapes. This information along with data collected through other sources was used to help the team modify and optimize the forum for participants and program educators. In addition, it was felt that the data collected could be used to help future forum educators and expert presenters understand the needs of potential forum audiences and gain advice from past forum educators. Based on the results of the formative evaluation, advice to those presenting future Who Decides? Forums includes the following:· Balance the time allowed for expert presentations and small group discussion because participants find both of these segments important. · If at all possible, make sure the presentations cover the full range of content relevant to the discussion scenario, including information about nanoscale science and technology, nanotechnology applications, regulation of technologies, and societal and ethical impacts of technology. · Make sure that the speaker feels comfortable talking to the general public and can adjust his/her content to a level appropriate for the audience. · Use trained facilitators whenever possible to ensure that the pros and cons of each of the scenario options are discussed and to make sure that everyone gets a chance to speak. · Encourage participants to discuss the pros and cons of each of the three scenario options (experts, watchdogs, and the public), but do not force them to conclude the discussion by settling on just one of the options as the primary policy decision maker. · Make sure the participants clearly understand what they are expected to produce for the report-out.