Small World, a nanotechnology blog, was launched today (Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2013) on the UK’s Guardian newspaper science blogs network. Here’s more from the Introductory page,
Small World is a blog about new developments in nanotechnology funded by Nanopinion, a European Commission project. All the posts are commissioned by the Guardian, which has complete editorial control over the blog’s contents. The views expressed are those of the authors and not the EC
Essentially, Nanopinion is paying for this ‘space’ in much the same way one would pay for advertising but the posts will be written in an editorial style. In practice, this is usually called an ‘advertorial’. The difference between this blog and the usual advertorial is that the buyer (Nanopinion) is not producing or editing the content. By implication, this means that Nanopinion is not controlling the content. Getting back to practice, I would imagine that the Guardian editors are conscious that is an ethically complicated situation. It would be interesting to see what will happen to this paid-for-blog if ‘too many’ posts are negative or if their readership should decide this setup is so ethically questionable that they no longer trust or read the newspaper and/or its blogs.
The first posting on this blog by Kostas Kostarelos, professor of nanomedicine at University College London, on Apr. 23, 2013 is thoughtful (Note: Links have been removed),
There is beauty in exploring the nanoscale. But the idea gets more tainted the more we learn about it, like a young love affair full of expectation of the endless possibilities, which gradually becomes a dysfunctional relationship the more the partners learn about each other. One day we read about wonderful nanomaterials with exotic names such as zinc oxide nanowires, say, or silver nanocubes used to make ultra-efficient solar panels, and the next we read about shoebox bomb attacks against labs and researchers by anti-nanotechnology terrorist groups. It makes me wonder: is there a particular problem with nanotechnology?
As with all human relationships, we run the risk of raising expectations too high, too soon.
He goes on to discuss the dualistic nanotechnology discourse (good vs bad) and expresses his hope that the discourse will not degenerate into a ceaseless battle and says this,
… We should not allow vigilance, critical thinking and scientific rigor to transmute into polemic.
As someone who lives and breathes exploration on the nanoscale – which aims to create tools for doctors and other health professionals against some of our most debilitating diseases – I hope that this blog will offer an everyday insight into this journey and its great promises, flaws, highs and lows. We want to offer you a transparent and honest view of nanotechnology’s superhuman feats and its very human limitations.
I have mentioned Kostarelos in past postings, most recently in a Jan. 16, 2013 posting with regard to his involvement in a study on carbon nanotubes and toxicity.
As for Nanopinion, it put me in mind of another European Commission project, Nanochannels, mentioned in my Jan. 27, 2011 posting,
From the Jan. 17, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,
Nanotechnology issues are about to hit the mass media in a big way. The new EC-funded NANOCHANNELS project was launched last week with a two-day kick-off meeting that led to the planning of a dynamic programme of communication, dialogue, and engagement in issues of nanotechnology aimed at European citizens.
Here’s how they describe Nanopinion (from the About Nanopinion page),
Nanopinion is an EC-funded project bringing together 17 partners from 11 countries with the aim of monitoring public opinion on what we hope for from innovation with nanotechnologies. The project is aimed citizens with a special focus on hard-to-reach target groups, which are people who do not normally encounter and give their opinion nanotechnologies at first hand.
Dialogue is facilitated online and in outreach events in 30 countries presenting different participatory formats.
To promote an informed debate, we also run a strong press & social media campaign and offer a repository with more than 150 resources.
Finally, nanOpinion offers an innovative educational programme for schools.
There are differences but they do have a very strong emphasis on communication, dialogue, and outreach both for the public and for schools. Although how a blog in the Guardian science blogs network will help Nanopinion contact ‘hard-to-reach’ target groups is a bit of a mystery to me but perhaps the blog is intended to somehow help them ‘monitor public opinion’? In any event, they sure seem to have a lot of these ‘nano’ dialogues in Europe.
The title of this new Guardian science blog (Small World) reminded me of an old Disney tune, ‘It’s a small world.’ I refuse to embed it here but if you are feeling curious or nostalgic, here’s the link: http://youtu.be/nxvlKp-76io.