Australian community attitudes held about nanotechnology


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Australian community attitudes held about nanotechnology

  1. 1. FINAL REPORT – KEY TRENDS Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and SHORT REPORT SHOWING KEY TRENDS: Research (DIISR) – Nanotechnology AUSTRALIAN COMMUNITY ATTITUDES HELD ABOUT NANOTECHNOLOGY – TRENDS 2005 TO 2009 MARS J801 FINAL REPORT Introduction A series of national random telephone surveys of up to n=1,100 people aged 16 years and over have been conducted to measure community awareness and attitudes towards nanotechnology. These large scale Australian community surveys have been conducted regularly during the period 2005 to 2009 to assess changes in community awareness and attitudes towards nanotechnology. In 2005 and 2007 the sample size each year was n=1,000 telephone interviews conducted across Australia using statistically representative random sampling techniques. The 2008 and 2009 surveys reported in the following pages provide more recent measures of community awareness and attitudes held towards nanotechnology covering n=1,100 randomly selected people in each year 2008 and 2009 with residents of households living in metropolitan, regional, and rural areas of Australia conducted through telephone interviews using representative random sampling techniques. In both 2008 and 2009 the large scale surveys also included a series of “intensive qualitative interviews” conducted with n=100 randomly selected respondents in each year to help support the large scale surveys through gaining detailed “qualitative” insights about public opinion towards nanotechnology. In 2009 a series of indepth focus group discussions were also conducted with segments of the Australian community living in Sydney and the regional city of Wagga Wagga, NSW. The focus groups were conducted prior to the 2009 large scale community survey to help review and set the 2009 survey questions.
  2. 2. Page 2 The following focus group discussions were conducted during October 2009: INITIAL FOCUS GROUPS: • Session 1: mothers of children aged under 17 years (conducted in the southern suburbs of Sydney); and • Session 2: a general mix of employed people aged 25+ years (conducted in the Sydney Central Business District). FOLLOW-UP FOCUS GROUPS - SYDNEY • Session 3: general sample of the population, male and female, aged 18-70 years (conducted in the southern suburbs of Sydney); and • Session 4: people with a non-English speaking background (conducted in south western suburbs of Sydney). FOLLOW-UP FOCUS GROUP – WAGGA WAGGA NSW • Session 5: general sample of a regional located population, male and female, aged 18-70 years (conducted in the NSW regional city of Wagga Wagga). Representatives from DIISR observed each focus group (with participants’ consent). In total, 45 people drawn randomly from the Australian population participated in the focus groups). The large scale random telephone survey which followed was conducted during November 2009. Key trends which emerged for 2009 are shown below: Note: A difference of plus or minus 3% or more (between 2005 to 2009) in the percentage estimates shown suggest a “real” change in community awareness and attitudes towards nanotechnology. A summary of key trends 2005 to 2009 are shown overleaf.
  3. 3. Page 3 KEY TRENDS – “NANOTECHNOLOGY” 2005 TO 2009 Awareness of “Nanotechnology” A summary of key top-line trends for the period 2005 to 2009 relating to awareness and attitudes* held about “nanotechnology” are shown below: 2005 2007 2008 2009 (1a) Person has heard of the term 51% 63% 69% 74% “nanotechnology” (prompted question) (1b) For people aware: Measures across total population (i) have heard of nanotechnology 28% 34% 32% 29% but don’t know what it means (ii) know what nanotechnology means but don’t know how it works 19% 22% 29% 33% 23% 28% 37% 45% (iii) know in detail what nanotechnology means and how it 4% 6% 8% 12% works *Source: large scale random telephone surveys 2005 to 2009 2005 2007 2008 2009 (2) Awareness of any products which include na na 27% 32% nanotechnology or are made with nanotechnology Conclusion: Public awareness of nanotechnology is increasing. *Source: large scale random telephone surveys 2005 to 2009 Note: During unprompted questioning “nanotechnology” as a new science and technology area was only mentioned by 2% of the Australian population in 2009. Extent of Hearing About “Nanotechnology” Applications* 2009 only IF AWARE: PROMPTED QUESTION AWARE Positive Negative Neither Unsure • the use of nanoparticles in sunscreens and cosmetics............................................................... 36% 38% 33% 21% 8% • using nanoparticles to change nutrients and vitamins to improve nutritional qualities of food .... 17% 38% 23% 36% 4% • new drug delivery systems in a hospital setting through a patch on your skin ................................. 58% 77% 2% 19% 3% • nanoparticles in food packaging to monitor food quality and freshness............................................. 18% 57% 15% 20% 8% • using nano silver which provides anti-bacterial surfaces in consumer products such as fridges and washing machines .......................................... 20% 64% 5% 24% 6% • water filtration through nanosized filters using nanosized engineering .......................................... 24% 76% 4% 16% 4% • new solar panels using nanotechnology............... 28% 75% 2% 17% 6% • or media reports about carbon nanotubes used in the workplace..................................................... 15% 46% 12% 31% 11% Conclusion: Generally, for people claiming awareness of specific applications of nanotechnology the opinion held is positive except for uses associated with food or some skin applications. *Source: large scale random telephone surveys 2005 to 2009 Trends in people being excited, hopeful, concerned, or alarmed about nanotechnology are shown overleaf.
  4. 4. Page 4 Level of Excitement or Hope for Nanotechnology or Concerns or Alarm: Trends 2005 to 2009* 2005 2007 2008 2009 % % % % Excited ............................. 14 81% 18 23 21 83% 86% 81% Hopeful............................. 67 65 63 60 Concerned ....................... 12 11 9 12 14% 13% 10% 14% Alarmed............................ 2 2 1 2 None of these/Neutral ...... 5 3 3 5 Other ................................ - 1 1 1 Perceived Risks vs Benefits of nanotechnology: Trends 2005 to 2009* 2005 2007 2008 2009 % % % % The risks of nanotechnology outweigh the benefits ...... 8 5 3 6 The risks of nanotechnology are equal to the benefits ....................................................................................... 35 28 18 28 The benefits of nanotechnology outweigh the risks ...... 39 52 53 46 Can’t say/Don’t know..................................................... 18 15 26 21 Conclusion: Overall, the vast majority of the Australian community after considering the potential risks and benefits of nanotechnology express “excited” or “hopeful” views about nanotechnology, and that nanotechnology benefits will exceed or equal the potential risks. *Source: large scale random telephone surveys 2005 to 2009 Examples of How People Talk About “Nanotechnology”: 2009 To give a context for the 2009 findings illustrative comments expressed during the focus groups and indepth interviews about nanotechnology are shown below. MOST PEOPLE MADE “POSITIVE” COMMENTS LIKE THESE BELOW (DESPITE A LACK OF KNOWLEDGE ABOUT “NANOTECHNOLOGY”): “Although risks can still exist, people are open minded about science and technology such as nanotechnology if they can perceive benefits.” (Female, young professional accountant – not aware of nanotechnology participant in Sydney focus group) “You get used to science and technology moving along in your life and it seems normal, and so far it seems that nanotechnology benefits outweigh the risks.” (Mother with young children – not aware of nanotechnology, participant in Sydney focus group) “Nanotechnology, I feel, gives real opportunity to improve lifestyles and economies, and in this area Australia could lead the world.” (Male, engineer – previously aware of nanotechnology, participant in Sydney focus group) “Nanotechnology sounds positive and amazing if it is beneficial.” (Female, part-time employed, 42 years – not aware of nanotechnology participant in Sydney focus group)
  5. 5. Page 5 “Nanotechnology sounds positive to monitor and treat diabetes.” (Female, 33 years, self employed dressmaker – not aware of nanotechnology, participant in Sydney focus group) “Food packaging that monitors environmental conditions to prevent food spoilage and decay monitoring sounds positive. In fact, most medical and environmental applications of nanotechnology sound useful.” (Male, 38 years, major bank senior executive – not aware of nanotechnology, participant in Sydney focus group) “Now that I have had nanotechnology better explained I feel it sounds quite positive.” (Female, 35 years, part-time employed – not aware of nanotechnology, participant in Wagga Wagga focus group) “It is a fact of life that risks can arise. All technology will have positives and negatives. There will always be risks, but nanotechnology seems to give a lot of positives.” (Female, 47 years, farmer – slightly aware of nanotechnology, participant in Wagga Wagga focus group) “I am not really aware of nanotechnology but I can recall now hearing about its use in sunscreens and cosmetics. It all sounds very interesting and it seems to be a step in the right direction as long as it is extensively researched. A lot of people won’t understand it, but the public needs to be kept informed about nanotechnology in a positive way. I would like to know more about it because it sounds interesting.” (Male, 50-59 years, looking for work, Perth – “hopeful” about nanotechnology) MINORITY “CONCERN” OR NEGATIVE COMMENTS EXPRESSED: “Nanotechnology must be used appropriately and not be upsetting to nature, nor controlling, nor overwhelming.” (Comment expressed in Sydney focus group – this person (a female) had little interest in science and technology and was not aware of nanotechnology) “Nanotechnology sounds positive and we cannot stop progress in society. But science and technology will develop anyway and therefore controls are needed to stop dangerous use and to ensure nanotechnology is under control.” (Comment expressed “general community” focus group in Sydney) “I have heard of nanotechnology particularly the use in creams and cosmetics, but I don’t know how it works. Overall, I feel positive about nanotechnology because it seems like it can help in a lot of areas, particularly in health. But I don’t want nanotechnology included in food.” (Female, 60+ years, retired, Gold Coast Qld – “hopeful” about nanotechnology) “I am a little concerned because nanotechnology is complex and I don’t really understand it. Nanotechnology sounds good but I think it needs to be shown that it is not harmful.” (Female, 30-39 years, employed part-time, Darwin – “hopeful” about nanotechnology)
  6. 6. Page 6 “I am excited about nanotechnology because it sounds like it is taking things further in improvements. But it is always the case that regulations and safeguards do not keep up to date. I am mildly concerned.” (Female, 50-59 years, employed full-time, Brisbane – “excited” about nanotechnology) Conclusion: Following time given to consider nanotechnology, most participants in the Sydney and Wagga Wagga focus groups held in 2009 felt “excited” or “hopeful” about nanotechnology. Very few participants expressed concern or alarm. Similar outcomes also emerged during the intensive interviews conducted across Australia. __________________________________ The most positive perceptions held about nanotechnology relate to nanotechnology use and applications in health and medical technologies, environmental control and monitoring, and protection of food and in protective clothing technologies for people working in dangerous conditions. After completing the intensive qualitative interviews discussing the issues relating to areas of “risks” and “concerns” about nanotechnology most people actually strengthened their positive opinion about nanotechnology. This occurred in both 2008 and 2009: Intensive Interviews After Intensive “Excited” or “Hopeful” During Initial Qualitative about Nanotechnology: Interview Followup Outcome Increase in positive • 2008 86% 90% views held about nanotechnology • 2009 occurred in both 84% 87% 2008 and 2009 “Despite considering possible risks and concerns around nanotechnology I remain excited and very enthusiastic about its potential.” (Male, 40-49 years, employed full-time, Townsville Qld – “excited” about nanotechnology) “I still remain hopeful about nanotechnology despite the possible concerns and risks because I feel that nanotechnology developments will make our lives better.” (Female, 60 + years, retired, Gold Coast Qld – “hopeful” about nanotechnology) The conclusion to draw from the intensive interviews is that after detailed consideration of potential risks about nanotechnology public perception and expectations about nanotechnology increases positively. During the 2009 community research to assess awareness and attitudes towards “nanotechnology” there were news media reports occurring about the negative impacts of nanotechnology. These negative news media reports occurred during November 2009 during the conduct of the large scale community survey and intensive interviews. Following pages present a more Detailed Overview of Key Findings.
  7. 7. Page 7 SUMMARY OF 2009 COMMUNITY RESEARCH METHODOLOGY • “Pre-survey” qualitative research (October 2009): o five (5) focus group discussions of 1½ hours were conducted with people recruited from Sydney and Wagga Wagga NSW residential communities o the purpose was to review and help “set” questions to be asked in the 2009 Australian community survey • 2009 Australian Community (November 2009): o n=1,000 telephone interviews of 15 minutes length were conducted across Australia using random statistically valid and reliable telephone interviews (which cover 99% of the Australian population, excluding remote indigenous communities) • 2009 Indepth Intensive Qualitative Interviews (November 2009): o n=100 intensive qualitative telephone interviews were conducted across Australia o the purpose was to intensively explore in more detail the factors, issues, and community expectations about “nanotechnology” identified in the large scale 2009 Australian community survey
  8. 8. Page 8 MORE DETAILED OVERVIEW OF KEY FINDINGS Interest in Science and Technology Developments Key Finding 1: Most Australians (84%) feel positive that science and technology are improving society, and such positive perceptions have been strongly held over recent years. In each of the surveys conducted 2005 to 2009 the survey introduction and the first few questions asked focused on public awareness and attitudes towards science and technology – the topic of “nanotechnology” at this stage of the survey was kept “blind”. In 2009 over eight in ten (84%) people in the Australian community felt positive about recent developments in science and technology. The following chart illustrates examples of these outcomes…. AUSTRALIAN COMMUNITY INTEREST AND POSITIVE FEELINGS TOWARDS SCIENCE: 2005 and 2009 81% 2005 Feel positive about 88% 2007 science developments 2008 89% 2009 84% Many people could also nominate recent scientific and technological developments they are aware of – in 2009, recent developments in swine flue vaccine, internet technology developments, and developments in computer technology, cervical cancer vaccine and cancer research and medical advances generally were often mentioned. Key Finding 2: Awareness of nanotechnology is increasing, but detailed understanding is still remaining relatively limited (although “detailed understanding” is beginning to increase from the low levels achieved in 2005). “Top-of-mind awareness” – that is awareness without being prompted – of “nanotechnology” is very low, with only 2% of the Australian community recalling nanotechnology as a recent scientific and technological development when an unprompted question is asked. This low “top of mind” outcome emerged in each of the 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009 community surveys. When prompted, over seven in ten (74%) Australians claimed to have previously heard of the term nanotechnology, up from 51% in 2005 and 63% in 2007. A summary of this trend is shown overleaf.
  9. 9. Page 9 During 2009, although most people (over seven in ten – 74%) claim awareness of the term “nanotechnology”, most people still have a limited understanding of what nanotechnology means or how it works (although increases are beginning to emerge compared to 2005). Across the total sample of people interviewed in 2009: (1) around three in ten people (28%) claimed to have “heard of the term but don’t know what it means”; (2) over three in ten (33%) “know what it means, but don’t know how nanotechnology works” (rising from 19% in 2005); and (3) 12% of people “know in detail what nanotechnology means and how it works” (rising from 4% in 2005). Note: over two in ten people (26%) in 2009 were not aware of the term “nanotechnology”. Aspects of these findings are illustrated below…. AWARENESS AND DETAILED UNDERSTANDING OF “NANOTECHNOLOGY”: 2005 TO 2009 51% Aware of the term 63% "nanotechnology" 69% (when prompted) 2005 74% 2007 2008 Know in detail what 4% 2009 "nanotechnology" 6% means and how it 8% works 12% Key Finding 3: Despite a lack of detailed knowledge of nanotechnology, most people believe that the benefits of nanotechnology exceed the risks. Most people also express “hopeful” or “excited” views about nanotechnology. The Australian community are hopeful about nanotechnology, particularly for use in medical applications. Each of the 2005 to 2009 national surveys found this outcome. However, caution was often expressed about nanotechnology applications in food products (and this “caution” was first mentioned in 2005 and has remained an area of concern in 2008 and 2009). Despite lacking concrete knowledge about nanotechnology, most Australians are continuing to be cautiously optimistic about nanotechnology, with over eight in ten people in 2005, 2007 and 2008 (81%, 83% and 86% respectively) being “hopeful” and “excited” by the potential implications of nanotechnology. In 2009 81% of the Australian population felt “excited” or “hopeful” about nanotechnology. Only around one in ten people were concerned or alarmed by nanotechnology (14% in 2005 and 13% 2007). In 2008 this concern or alarm declined to 9% but rose again (to 14%) in 2009. Consequently, the conclusion to draw is that only around one in ten people are concerned or alarmed about nanotechnology, and the vast majority of people are hopeful or excited.
  10. 10. Page 10 More Australians (52% in 2007 and 53% in 2008) believe nanotechnology’s potential benefits outweigh its perceived risks (this public assessment has increased significantly since 2005 rising from 39%), but in 2009 the measure was 46% while only 3% to 6% people (including 6% in 2009) believing nanotechnology risks outweigh the benefits. The remainder in 2009 (28%) believe the benefits equal the risks or answered “don’t know” (21%). When asked to respond to a number of potential applications using nanotechnology, medical health and environmental applications were the areas most strongly supported. Miniature surveillance devices, changing nutrients and vitamins in foods, and integrating computers into clothing or consumer goods were least supported…. PUBLIC OPINION ON POSITIVE USE OF NANOTECHNOLOGY: 2005 to 2009 Medical Implants for diabetics that monitor sugar 93% 96% 96% & deliver insulin 92% Machines that exist in the blood stream to 90% 89% clear arterial clots & cancer cells 95% 87% Environment Filters that control pollutants from 96% 95% entering the environment 94% 89% Technology that disassembles and breaks 91% 92% 94% down waste and garbage 90% Security 2005 Protective suits with sensor to detect 77% 2007 66% 79% chemical and toxic dangerous situations 86% 2008 Miniaturized and undetectable 32% 2009 30% surveillance devices 35% Food Food packaging that monitors 74% environmental conditions to prevent food 74% 71% 70% spoilage 49% 55% Changing nutrients and vitamins in foods 34% 32% Consumer Products 58% 48% Stain-repellent fabrics and materials 57% 70% Integrating computers into clothing or 31% 27% 35% consumer goods
  11. 11. Page 11 During the 2009 large scale community survey the following new issues were assessed: 2009 – NEW QUESTIONS TO ASSESS PUBLIC OPINION ON POSITIVE USE OF NANOTECHNOLOGY Sunscreen lotions using nanotechnology to give lotion invisibility and higher sun 72% protection Socks impregnated with antibacterial nano 59% 2009 silver to make the socks smell less Bandages impregnated with antibacterial 83% nano silver to make them more sterile Throughout 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009 the strongest positive feelings about nanotechnology were expressed for (based on 2009 priorities in public support): (1) implants for diabetics that monitor sugar levels and deliver insulin as required – 92% in 2009; (2) machines which exist in the blood stream to clear arterial clots and cancer cells – 87% in 2009; (3) filters that can control pollutants from entering the environment – 89% in 2009; and (4) technology that disassembles and breaks down urban waste and garbage – 90% in 2009. More findings are shown overleaf.
  12. 12. Page 12 Key Finding 4: Even when the Australian community were asked to consider specific concerns raised about nanotechnology, most people remained quite positive and hopeful about nanotechnology whilst recognising that concerns could exist. In the 2009 community survey a series of concerns which can be made about nanotechnology were explicitly raised to allow respondents to consider possible negative issues before making a judgement about nanotechnology. The following outcomes emerged and the findings indicate that the more people consider nanotechnology most people accept that risks relating to nanotechnology may be possible: EXAMINATION OF ANY CONCERNS ABOUT NANOTECHNOLOGY: 2009 Not Only mildly Greatly Reasons causing concern concerned Unsure concerned concerned • the complexity of The complexity of nanotechnology nanotechnology makes it makes it difficult to keep up or can be difficult to understand......... 34% 4% 39% 23% frightening • because nanotechnology is so new there might be Precautions/testing regulations are problems for public safety expected or worker safety ................. 17% 4% 45% 35% • the general public is not Many views were expressed that being kept well informed information about nanotechnology about nanotechnology ....... 19% 3% 39% 38% should be readily available • nanotechnology regulation and safeguards are not Regulation was expected and that keeping up with the precautions and testing should be in development of place nanotechnology ................. 20% 20% 34% 26% Many comments were expressed about “concern of the use of nanotechnology • food labelling should in food” and expectations were that provide information about information about nanotechnology any nanotechnology used.. 17% 17% 23% 58% should be readily available *Note: most of those people concerned expressed “mild concern” rather than “great concern” (except for the issue of nanotechnology in food, if it occurred). A similar result emerged in 2008. When people are prompted about any concerns relating to nanotechnology most concerns expressed were: • views that food labelling should provide information about any nanotechnology used in food production processes; and • warnings should occur or testing procedures or regulations should be in place to address any possible problems for public safety and worker safety due to nanotechnology. However, despite the above issues, most people only express “mild concern” rather than having a great concern or worry (except for the issue of nanotechnology in food, if it occurs, where public concerns are much stronger).
  13. 13. Page 13 Questioning next asked each person interviewed to give their overall assessment relevant to the level of excitement, hope, or concern about nanotechnology. The following outcome emerged… OVERALL LEVEL OF EXCITEMENT OR HOPE FOR NANOTECHNOLOGY: TRENDS 2005 to 2009 Q12. Which best describes how you feel about the potential implications of nanotechnology? 2005 2007 2008 2009 % % % % Excited ....................................... 14 81% 18 83% 23 86% 21 81% Hopeful ...................................... 67 65 63 60 Concerned ................................. 12 11 9 10% 12 14% 14% 13% Alarmed ..................................... 2 2 1 2 None of these/Neutral................ 5 3 3 5 Other .......................................... - 1 1 1 A new question asked in 2009 also explored where nanotechnology fits against other new science and technology developments: POSITIONING OF NANOTECHNOLOGY RELATIVE TO OTHER NEW SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS: 2009 Q21. We have been discussing nanotechnology but I would like to touch base with you on whether or not you are excited, hopeful, concerned or alarmed about other science and technology developments: Neutral/ Don’t Excited Hopeful Concerned Alarmed No concern know % % % % % % 82% 14% • Stem cell research ....................... 38 44 11 3 2 2 27% 68% • Genetically modified GM foods .... 6 21 41 27 4 2 • Cloning (including therapeutic 31% 65% cloning) ......................................... 10 21 39 26 3 2 • The role of science and 69% 25% technology in addressing climate change ............................. 20 49 19 6 5 2 81% 13% • Nanotechnology ........................... 25 56 11 2 3 3 Nanotechnology and stem cell research each gain over eight in ten people feeling excited or hopeful about the impacts of these new science and technology developments. By comparison GM foods and cloning (including therapeutic cloning) gained much lower public support.
  14. 14. Page 14 The specific outcomes from additional more explicit questioning in 2008 and 2009 identified that concerns about nanotechnology exist in the following areas: (1) mild concern that “because nanotechnology is so new there might be problems for public safety or worker safety” and mild concern that “the general public is not being kept well informed about nanotechnology”; and (2) greater levels of concern that “food labelling should provide information about any nanotechnology used in association with food”. Overall, however, after considering possible concerns and risks about nanotechnology over eight in ten people (86% in 2008 and 81% in 2009) in the Australian community continue to feel “excited” or “hopeful” about the potential application of nanotechnology. Many comments were expressed that “the potential for nanotechnology appears positive particularly for medical, health, and environmental purposes”. Key Finding 5: Most people in the Australian community feel that nanotechnology will improve quality of life, and want to know more about nanotechnology and its potential applications. As indicated earlier, most people (81% in 2005, 83% in 2007, 86% in 2008, and 81% in 2009) are “excited” or “hopeful” about nanotechnology. Participants in the surveys were asked to indicate how much they agreed or disagreed with specific statements about nanotechnology. Trends for 2009 continue indicate that the Australian community are interested in nanotechnology and are positive about its potential. An interesting trend was a decline and rise (from 72% belief in 2005 then declining to 65% in 2007 and 2008 and rising to 72% in 2009) in concerns about unknown and long term side effects of nanotechnology. In other words, as people hear more about nanotechnology there is an increase in wanting to hear about any possible risks, as well as the benefits. Key specific trends for some of the statements asked are shown below: TRENDS IN PUBLIC OPINION TOWARDS NANOTECHNOLOGY: 2005 to 2009 81% Excited and hopeful about 83% nanotechnology 86% 81% 77% I believe nanotechnology will improve the 83% future quality of life in Australia 79% 75% 2005 72% 2007 I am concerned about unknown risks 65% involved in the use of nanotechnology 65% 72% 2008 Nanotechnology applications will have a 55% 2009 68% positive influence on the economy and 63% employment in Australia 63% 39% The benefits of nanotechnology outweight 52% the risks 53% 46%
  15. 15. Page 15 In 2009 there continued strong perceptions (held since 2005) about the possible benefits from nanotechnology in health and medical applications and environmental applications. More detailed questioning also perceived benefits from nanotechnology in: • food packaging to monitor food spoilage; • protective suits with sensors to help protect personnel working in chemical or toxic dangerous situations; and • the use of nanotechnology in developing stain repellent clothing. Overall, most people feel that nanotechnology will provide positive benefits for the Australian economy and employment, and will improve the quality of life in Australia. Most people also have a desire to learn more about nanotechnology and its applications. However, balanced with these strongly positive views is a desire to be made aware of any currently known risks involved in the use of nanotechnology, to help people understand and consider risks vs benefits of nanotechnology. Key Finding 6: Australians want to learn more about nanotechnology, especially from scientists, via the Internet and mass media channels. Government agencies and regulators were also expected to play a key role in providing information about nanotechnology to the Australian community, and to regulate and monitor the nanotechnology industry. The Australian public (in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009) had a strong expectation and trust that Government agencies and regulators will keep the public informed about issues in the nanotechnology field (up to 94% public expectation), and that Government agencies and regulators will monitor and regulate the nanotechnology industry (up to 88% expectation). The importance of Government funding to public research institutions and universities to undertake research in nanotechnology has also been highly supported in each survey. However, support for the provision of government sector funding to private enterprises to encourage development in nanotechnology has continued to be lower (this outcome emerged in each of the community surveys in 2005 to 2009). Australians placed the largest amount of trust in scientists (90% in 2009) to inform them of the risks of nanotechnology, followed by government agencies and regulators (77%). Non-government agencies (or NGO’s) also received a level of trust but at a lower level (at 62% expressed trust). The Internet was also regarded as an important source of information regarding new developments in science and technology – accounting for 39% media usage “first mentions” when this issue was addressed in the survey (and most people advised that they would do a “Google search”). Mass media was also strongly relied upon for information in this area, with newspapers, television and radio media accounting in total for 26% of media sources “first mentioned” for science and technology information (including information about nanotechnology). More findings are shown overleaf.
  16. 16. Page 16 Key Finding 7: More detailed intensive interviewing conducted in 2008 and 2009 confirmed Australian community support for nanotechnology, and feeling “excited” or “hopeful” about nanotechnology, despite feeling concerned about some specific nanotechnology issues. At the conclusion of the interviews conducted in 2008 and 2009 a new intensive investigation approach was adopted. A sub-sample of respondents were randomly selected to undertake an intensive interview to further explore specific underlying concerns or worries about nanotechnology which may exist in the Australian community. The following outcomes emerged for 2009: OUTCOMES FROM INTENSIVE INTERVIEWING: 2009 Adequacy of Safety and Testing of Consumer Products Using Nanotechnology No concern expressed = 69% Concern = 31% “No concerns! I assume safety and testing “I am very concerned because history has shown that of nanotechnology is being done properly.” we are not good at ensuring safety and testing of (Female, 50-59 years, employed full-time, consumer products, particularly in new unknown Regional Tasmania – “excited” about areas. There is always a risk of long term effects.” + nanotechnology) (Female, 60 years, retired, Gold Coast Qld – “hopeful” about nanotechnology) Impact of Nanoparticles Entering the Environment No concern expressed = 64% Concern = 36% “I cannot see what harm it would do “There is always the risks of human error or lack of because a lot of particles enter the concern about impacts. The lack of timely response environment anyway.” to new risks is the concern I have.” (Male, 50-59 years, looking for work, Perth (Male, 50-59 years, employed full-time, Canberra – – “excited” about nanotechnology) “hopeful” about nanotechnology) Nanotechnology Use is Largely Self Regulated No concern expressed = 44% Concern = 56% “I am not concerned. Overall, I feel “I am mildly concerned because science is often regulations to protect public health in ahead of regulations and therefore understanding the Australia are generally quite good.” limitations of nanotechnology is important.” (Female, 50-59 years, employed part-time, (Female, 50-59 years, self employed, Perth – Launceston Tasmania – “hopeful” about nanotechnology) “hopeful” about nanotechnology) Workers and Researchers Involved with Nanotechnology Are Potentially Exposed To Nanoparticles No concern expressed = 62% Concern = 38% “Safety is pretty good today in workplaces “I am a little concerned mainly because I don’t know and I am confident that protection would be much about it or what nanotechnology workers or done properly.” researchers can do to protect themselves.” (Female, 50-59 years, employed full-time, (Female, 30-39 years, employed part-time, Darwin – regional Tasmania – “hopeful” about nanotechnology) “excited” about nanotechnology) More qualitative outcomes are shown overleaf.
  17. 17. Page 17 Manufacturers Not Providing Nanotechnology Information No concern expressed = 36% Concern = 64% “I don’t have any concerns because I think “I am mildly concerned because manufacturers that manufacturers would provide always have vested interests and we could get biased information properly.” information which is not best serving the consumer (Female, 50-59 years, employed full-time, products using nanotechnology.” regional Tasmania – (Female, 50-59 years, employed full-time, Brisbane – “excited” about nanotechnology) “excited” about nanotechnology) STRATEGIC OUTCOME – At the completion of the above intensive qualitative interviews for 2009 when a range of “concerns” or potential “risks” about nanotechnology were considered respondents mostly retained their positive view of nanotechnology or strengthened their positive view about nanotechnology. This outcome is shown below. Following the above intensive interview questioning the person interviewed was asked further final assessments: Q36a. Finally, and again thank you for your thoughts, I just want to touch base with you on your final thoughts about nanotechnology based on our discussion today. Overall, what now best describes how you feel about the potential implications of nanotechnology? 2009 – OVERALL PERCEPTIONS OF NANOTECHNOLOGY Intensive Interviews 2009 2009 During Initial After Qualitative In 2009 “excited” Interview Interview or “hopeful” % % views about nanotechnology Excited .............................. 26 84% 25 87% increased Hopeful ............................. 58 62 following Concerned ........................ 4 6 consideration of 4% 6% possible risks or Alarmed ............................ - - concerns about None of these/Neutral....... 9 6 nanotechnology. Other................................. 3 1 The conclusion to draw is that following the intensive interview most people strengthened positive views held about nanotechnology even in a situation where they were encouraged to consider and present their views on potential “risks” or negative issues relating to “nanotechnology”. The same outcome occurred in 2008. The following outcomes (shown overleaf) identified the final outcomes from people randomly selected who participated in the intensive interview.
  18. 18. Page 18 Q32. ASSESSMENT OF PERSON’S VIEW ABOUT NANOTECHNOLOGY AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE INTERVIEW: 2009 Total % • Person retained positive views..................................................... 73 • Person strengthened positive views............................................. 7 87% • Person changed from negative to positive views ......................... 7 • Person had limited knowledge about nanotechnology and did not strengthen their opinion either way ........................................ 1 • Person remained neutral and unconcerned about 6% nanotechnology ............................................................................ 5 • Person changed from positive to negative views ......................... 3 7% • Person retained negative views ................................................... 4 • Person strengthened negative views ........................................... - The general pattern of assessments following the intensive re-interviews show that most people remained hopeful and excited about nanotechnology despite raising some concerns during the intensive interview. In fact, most people strengthened their positive views about nanotechnology, rather than become negative. In 2008 “intensive interviews” identified a similar outcome. To give a context for the 2009 findings final illustrative comments expressed at the conclusion of the intensive interviewing are shown below. MOST PEOPLE MADE POSITIVE COMMENTS LIKE THESE BELOW: “I remain excited because nanotechnology is a new frontier and there will be great possible benefits.” (Female, 50-59 years, employed full-time, Brisbane – “excited” about nanotechnology) “After this interview I am still hopeful about nanotechnology. It is an area where society can improve certain aspects of life, particularly in human health, and if nanotechnology can do it safely that will be great. Nanotechnology is an area being researched to a significant level and maybe the time is right to let the public know a bit more about it.” (Female, 50-59 years, self employed, Launceston Tasmania – “hopeful” about nanotechnology) BUT A FEW PEOPLE MADE NEGATIVE COMMENTS: “I had never heard of nanotechnology before this survey. Initially I was hopeful because it sounds a good thing for health such as diabetes and high cholesterol, and the other uses seem OK as long as we don’t get harassed by the technology and there are proper regulations around it. But now at the end of the interview I have become concerned because I don’t quite understand what nanotechnology is.” (Female, 60+ years, employed full-time, Brisbane – initially “hopeful” but changed to “concerned” about nanotechnology) Conclusion: Overall, the Australian community express “excited” or “hopeful” views about nanotechnology, and that nanotechnology benefits will exceed or equal the potential risks. Being able to hear more about applications of nanotechnology, as well as risks and benefits, was also expected.
  19. 19. Page 19 Overall Conclusions There is a high level of belief within the Australian community that nanotechnology will provide long term benefits to the quality of life in Australia, and will help achieve economic and employment benefits. But “nanotechnology” is not an issue that most people consider or discuss. Few risks, or concerns about nanotechnology are foreseen, although most people recognise that risks could arise (and should then be addressed). Despite a low level of knowledge the vast majority of the Australian community express “excited” or “hopeful” views about nanotechnology, and that nanotechnology benefits will exceed or equal the potential risks. In 2009 there has been a shift to the measurement indicator – “nanotechnology risks and benefits are equal” – even though most people are “hopeful” or “excited” about nanotechnology because of views held that all major scientific and technology developments may often contain risks (which need to be managed). The general pattern of assessments following the intensive re-interviews conducted also confirmed a positive public opinion for “nanotechnology” even in a situation where a range of negative issues and “risks” potentials for nanotechnology were discussed. At the end of the intensive interviews most people remained hopeful and excited about nanotechnology despite raising some concerns being raised during the intensive interview. In fact, most people strengthened their positive views about nanotechnology, rather than become negative. The 2008 “intensive interviews” identified a similar outcome.