Public Perception of Industrial Biotechnology
The project to ‘Assess the Public Perception of Industrial Biotechnology (IB)’ is now complete. IB is the application of bioscience for the processing and production of chemicals, materials and energy.
Two initial citizens’ group meetings were delivered in Manchester and London. At each of these, 24 people were introduced to the basic issues surrounding IB and the chemicals-using sector.
A single group of 24 citizens was then re-convened in London. Participants were exposed to a wide range of perspectives on different aspects of IB and chemicals including bio-fuels, genetically modified organisms, bio-plastics, land use, bio-refineries and specialty chemicals.
In addition, 16 expert speakers from government, industry, academia and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were available to talk to and answer questions from the citizens to inform their deliberations.
Results in spring
The public dialogue project, which was completed in December 2008 and was delivered by Opinion Leader Research and 3KQ, was developed to allow intensive discussion of a range of issues under the wide-ranging umbrella of IB and the chemicals-using sector.
The results were fed into the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation & Growth Team (IB-IGT) at the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform for publication in spring, 2009. The IB-IGT report will outline the strategic view for the future of IB in the UK. It will also report on the innovation and growth challenges for its future competitiveness.
For more information, see http://tinyurl.com/chqrgm 
Nanotechnologies: commitment to dialogue
The cross-government group responsible for nanotechnologies made a statement in January which outlined a number of pledges to ensure responsible development of the field.
It identified the need to develop a strategy for the future development and use of nanotechnologies in the UK. This should incorporate the views of a range of stakeholders including academia, industry, NGOs and the public. It also discussed how to address concerns voiced by Which? and others about the safety of cosmetics and sunscreens containing manufactured nanomaterials.
All interested parties
The Ministerial group made seven commitments which these departments will take forward. They include the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) leading work to develop a programme of dialogue involving the full spectrum of interested parties (academia, industry, NGOs and the public) in the development of the strategy.
In the statement in January, Lord Drayson, Minister of State for Science and Innovation and Chair of the Ministerial Group, reiterated Government’s commitment to nanotechnologies: ‘The government is committed to the responsible development of nanotechnologies. We will work with all interested parties – including the public - to develop a suitable strategy that addresses both the exploitation of technologies and the management of potential risks.’
See http://www.dius.gov.uk/ 
Science and Society
January saw the launch of a new DIUS-led science communications campaign, Science: [So What? So Everything]. It began with a high-profile discussion at No.10 Downing Street.
Results from the Science and Society consultation were also published to coincide with the launch. Many of the responses specifically called for greater communication on the benefits of science from scientists, business and government to create a scientifically aware society that understands its value and is able to debate scientific developments.
The consultation responses also highlighted how strongly people feel that science in its broadest sense is vital to the country’s culture and prosperity.
Two key recommendations from the consultation were to create a British science brand and to demystify science by showing how science is important to everyone. The Science: [So What? So Everything] campaign aims to help achieve these two objectives over the coming months. It involves a consortium of partners including government departments, research councils, national academies, the British Science Association, the Technology Strategy Board and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
Science [So What? So Everything] – www.direct.gov.uk/sciencesowhat 
Science and Society - http://interactive.dius.gov.uk/scienceandsociety/site/