It’s been quite a while since I’ve stumbled across a study about public perceptions of nanotechnology. This study is focused on public perceptions as seen on Twitter (before the Elon Musk acquisition completed on October 27, 2022). From a May 9, 2022 article by Kristy McRoberts for Chemistry World,
Scientists should be aware of the impact social media could have on their work. A new study shows that to reduce the chance of disruption due to legislative, regulatory or funding changes linked to public opinion, it is important to include social media when considering risk.
Finbarr Murphy, from the University of Limerick in Ireland, and colleagues performed a sentiment analysis of tweets between 2006 and 2020 relating to three areas of nanoscience – silver, carbon and titanium – to examine the public perception of nanotechnology. They found that overall public perception is slightly positive. But whilst positive events have little to no impact on tweet volume or perception, adverse events caused an increase in the volume of tweets presenting a negative opinion.
If an event is perceived badly enough to generate a twitterstorm, this decrease in public confidence could have far reaching impacts, with legislation, research funding and insurance coverage all susceptible to public opinion. As many research grants are through public funds, a large negative shift in public opinion towards nanotechnology could result in a decrease in funding available for research in that area.
Murphy says that ‘insurers are potentially the weak link [emphasis mine] of the scientific community’ and if insurers are impacted by a change in public opinion ‘they might begin to either exclude nanotechnology from their premiums or withdraw’.
Finbarr Murphy was last mentioned here in a December 17, 2014 posting titled: “Insurance companies, the future, and perceptions about nanotechnology risks.”
Here’s a link to and a citation for Murphy’s latest research,
The risk perception of nanotechnology: evidence from twitter by Finbarr Murphy, Ainaz Alavi, Martin Mullins, Irini Furxhi, Arash Kia and Myles Kingston. RSC Adv., 2022,12, 11021-11031 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1039/D1RA09383E Published (online): 07 Apr 2022
This paper is open access.