Not a week goes by in science that there isn't a new study related to synthetic biology or nanotechnology. They are two of the hottest fields in science and there is discussion of either ethical or environmental concerns on a recurring basis.
But the science is almost completely unaware of both, which human embryonic stem cell researchers may state would be a good thing but in reality a lack of buzz about newer areas of science mean it won't get funding, which will instead go to subsidizing old alternative energy technology policy that advisors in government like.
A poll of 1,001 American adults conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates and the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) found that 90 percent of Americans think the public should be better informed about the development of cutting-edge technologies - so is it the government's fault if people don't read? Or are journalists actually doing a good thing by not hyping up unproven technology?
The poll revealed that the proportion of adults who say they have heard a lot or some about synthetic biology more than doubled in the past year (from 9 percent to 22 percent). Awareness of nanotechnology (30 percent have heard a lot or some) increased slightly since last year, putting it back at the same level measured in 2006.
"Public awareness of nanotechnology has barely moved in over four years of our project's polling, despite billions of dollars of investment in research and a growing number of nano-enabled products in the marketplace," said Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor for PEN. "Clearly, the message about this new and important technology is not reaching the public."
The survey showed that the area of application is a decisive factor in shaping public attitudes towards synthetic biology. Over half the respondents supported research in synthetic biology aimed at the development of more efficient biofuels even after being informed of the potential risks and benefits of this application.
However, poll respondents harbored concerns about potential risks associated with the development of synthetic biology. Two-thirds of the participants supported regulation of this emerging technology.
"Regardless of their awareness of synthetic biology, or where they come down on the risk-benefit tradeoff, a strong majority of adults think this research should be regulated by the federal government," said Geoff Garin, president of Peter D. Hart Research Associates.
Because more government regulation is just what every nascent business needs.
A report which summarizes the findings of the poll can be found at http://www.nanotechproject.org/news/archive/hart4/.
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