The NY Times’ Barnaby Feder offers this report on the City of Berkeley’s decision to regulate nanotechnology locally. As this research area moves more and more into the market, and especially into overtly political contexts like city councils, state legislatures, and Congress, the issue will climb the media agenda, and shift in its framing towards more dramatic interpretations centered on scientific uncertainty, amplified risks, conflict, and the public accountability of scientists, regulators, and industry. It’s a pattern I have detailed extensively in studies of stem cell research, plant biotechnology, and intelligent design. For more, see this study published in 2006 laying out a generalizable model for how a technology evolves in media attention over time and the relation to policy outcomes.
For those that haven’t visited Dietram Scheufele’s NanoPublic, definitely check it out. Scheufele, a professor of Life Sciences Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, maintains the best resource on the public dimensions of this emerging and potentially divisive technology.