Tool Guideline

How-to guide on participating in the nanodebate

Uploaded by Maud Bomert on 15 May 2020
Last modified on 18 May 2020

The EU-funded GoNano (Governing Nanotechnologies through societal engagement) project aims to improve the responsiveness of research and innovation to public values and concerns. Over the course of the project (2017-2020) citizens, researchers, industry, civil society organisations and policy makers across Europe worked together to align future nanotechnologies with societal needs and concerns.

GoNano developed a "How- to" guide to support citizens who would like to engage with nanotechnologies to express their own needs and concerns and ensure that their thoughts are taken into account in future developments. The guide offers a five-step approach which aims to help define your interests, identify the right opportunity and shares how to become involved in nanotechnology research and development.

For whom is this guide?

This booklet is a brief introduction for anyone who has a personal interest in emerging technologies and would like to share their thoughts with researchers and engineers. This may include those who have a personal interest in new technologies and would like to share their thoughts with others; those who are using new technologies and want to participate in their development; and those who want to contribute to a more sustainable future.

Why would nanotechnology matter to you? 

Nanotechnology is defined not by its subject matter, but by the scale at which it operates: the nanometer, or one billionth of a meter. Nanotechnology seeks to manipulate and control
matter in a size range of 100 nanometerdown to the size of atoms (approximately 0.2nm).

In recent years, sophisticated tools have been developed to investigate and manipulate matter at the nanoscale. By rearranging or restructuring the atoms and molecules of a particle, the properties and behaviour (such as melting point, conductivity or chemical reactivity) of the particle change. For instance, gold particles at the nanoscale are not yellow as we know them, but can appear red or purple. Because of these changes in their optical properties, gold nanoparticles can be used for medical imaging. Nanomaterials open doors to new
technological opportunities.

Nanotechnology is already a part of our lives. Nanomaterials are used to enhance the properties of consumer products like toothpaste, sunscreen, food packaging and smartphones. Proponents of nanotechnology claim that this is just a glimpse of the possible future benefits for consumers. But others are concerned that nanomaterials may harm human and environmental health.

To what extent can we anticipate the future impacts of nanomaterials? How should the potential benefits of nanotechnology be weighed against the possible unforeseen consequences? What products do we want? What risks are we prepared to take? And who gets to decide? These are questions which affect us all. As a stakeholder, you may also
want to become involved in what happens next.

This guide presents an approach to become involved in the debate. In five steps suggestions are offered on how to become involved, where to find the right opportunities, how to prepare yourself, what to expect, how to reflect and how to share your experiences.

Five steps


Based on their experiences the GoNano project has identified the following five steps to become involved in the research and innovation processes of your interest:

  1. Define your purpose
  2. Find the place and community
  3. Get prepared
  4. Create together
  5. Reflect on the process and results

Each step in this guide is illustrated by a brief summary of the step, followed by an example or exercise to help you visualize and guide you through the step. For each step we present a hint or advice based on the experience gained during the GoNano project, including links to background information, tools or inspiring ideas 


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