Magna Carta for nano?

The more I investigated this Nano Carta news item on Nanowerk, March 14, 2012, the more confused I’ve become. Here’s the easy part,

Part of a Europe-wide debate about the ethical, social and legal questions associated with nanoscience will take place in Bristol on Tuesday [20 March, 2012].

The debate, featuring a group of Bristol University PhD students from the Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials [BCFN], will help form an ethical code for nanotechnology looking at privacy issues, acceptance, human health, access, liability, regulation and control.

Pupils in Years 10 and 11 at St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School will input their own thoughts after learning about nanotechnology – the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale – as part of an on-going partnership with the University.

The Nanochannels project is funded by the European Commission and involves 20 teachers from eight countries across the continent, each engaging students through the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and live debates. The Guardian newspaper is a partner in the project and is publishing articles on its Nanotechnology World microsite.

Dr Paul Hill, a science teacher at St Mary Redcliffe, won the grant and established the collaboration with the BCFN. Postgraduate students have since been teaching pupils about the theory and practical challenges of researching nanotechnology, with examples from their own PhD research.

Here’s the press release from the University of Bristol announcing the event.

It all got rather confusing when I started reading about the event elsewhere. The Scientix website notes the UK event is part of a larger series, which started in Tel Aviv (no mention of Nano Cartas or any other Cartas),

Nanochannels School Debate series started

Published on: 31/01/2012

Country: United Kingdom

Topic: Nanotechnology,  Project,  Event

Target groups: college students,  general public,  policy makers,  primary school students,  secondary school students,  teachers,  trainee teachers

Two school debates in Tel Aviv, Israel, kicked off the series of live discussions among students, researchers, NGOs, industry and the public on the risks and benefits of the use of nanotechnologies in our everyday life.

The Nano Channels website lists all of the events in this series of live debates which range from Israel (as noted) to the UK, France, Italy, Romania, Turkey, Germany, and Austria.

The topic listed for the March 20,  2012 debate for St. Mary Redcliffe and Temple School is listed as ‘Nano sensors for medical diagnostics’.

I then found an announcement of a March 13, 2012 event in this series held in Italy which does mention the Nano Carta, also on the Scientix website,

Nanochannels Live School Debate – Pavullo nel Frignano

Location: Pavullo nel Frignano

Country: Italy

Type of event: Debate

Organizer: Nanochannels

Project: Nanochannels

Target groups: general public,  industry,  primary school students,  researchers,  secondary school students,  teachers,  trainee teachers

Topic: Nanotechnology,  Education

Language of event: Italian

A live “role play” debate among students, also with participation from researchers, NGOs, the nanotechnology (NT) industry and the general public, who will discuss a specific issue concerning nanotechnologies and their use in our everyday life.

The outcome of the debate will be a “Nanocarta”, a summary of the debate produced by the students, which will be posted on the Nanochannels website and in social media. Over the school year the Nanochannels students will produce press articles with help from professional journalists. The best ones will be co-edited and published by the Nanochannels press partners: The Guardian, El Mundo and Corriere della Sera.

The debate is organised by the Nanochannel project and its partner school in Pavullo nel Frignano (Italy). The project aims to design and undertake a programme of communication on nanotechnology through a variety of media channels and outreach events.

My best guess is that they are focusing on specific topics in the schools so students can get a grasp of some basic nanotechnology concepts before embarking on a debate about larger issues such as ethics and social impacts.

(I have written about the Nanochannels project previously in my June 14, 2011 posting.)

Finally, I thought it would be interesting to get a definition of the Magna Carta (from the Wikipedia essay),

Magna Carta, also called Magna Carta Libertatum, is an English charter, originally issued in the year 1215 and reissued later in the 13th century in modified versions. The later versions excluded the most direct challenges to the monarch’s authority that had been present in the 1215 charter. The charter first passed into law in 1225; the 1297 version, with the long title (originally in Latin) The Great Charter of the Liberties of England, and of the Liberties of the Forest, still remains on the statute books of England and Wales.

The 1215 charter required King John of England to proclaim certain liberties, and accept that his will was not arbitrary, for example by explicitly accepting that no “freeman” (in the sense of non-serf) could be punished except through the law of the land, a right which is still in existence today.

If there’s a Nano Carta and following on the definition of the Magna Carta, whose will is not arbitrary and in what circumstance? Are nanoparticles being ceded rights? I’m being facetious but I hope they do approach these debates in an imaginative way and with questions that might seem ridiculous as that’s often the best way to stimulate new thinking and ideas.

3 thoughts on “Magna Carta for nano?

  1. Pingback: Magna Carta for nano? « FrogHeart - All about nano technology -

  2. BaxDoc

    hi Frogheart – I am not clear about this Magna Carta/nano/whatnot either, but it occurs to me that in 1975 a group of geneticists met and came up with an informal statement on ethics and how to proceed in terms of the gene transfers and so on; an attempt to ‘self police’ as it were given that so little was – is – known about the consequences of manipulating genes. Were this nano thing focused on people engaged in nanotechnology I’d say there’s a parallel there … but I don’t see it.

  3. admin

    Hi BaxDoc! Nice to see you back here. My suspicion (and I’m sure this occurred to you too) about this ‘Nano Carta’ thing is that some communications/marketing professional thought it would be a clever way to get attention. And, it worked on me. Cheers, Maryse

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