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How will nanotechnology affect you?

31 March 2006

Scientists working on nanotechnology, the science of manipulating structures at the level of individual atoms, claim their research could change the world. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is hosting events next week, as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, to give everyone the opportunity to speak to scientists and ethics experts and find out what nanotechnology means for everyone’s futures.

Nanotechnology could revolutionise the treatment of diseases and injuries, potentially extend the human lifespan and be applied to food and energy production. However, critics allege that nanotechnology involves inherent and unacceptable risks and question whether the public’s views are being considered.

BBSRC is holding a discussion meeting and public exhibition, Nanotechnology and You, that aims to help people understand the potential of this science and the steps being taken to ensure public views are being heard.

The discussion meeting will take place at 1.30pm, Saturday 8 April at The Hub, Castlehill, Edinburgh. Professor Daniel Robert, a scientist from the University of Bristol using nanotechnology to study the hearing of insects, will be on hand to explain his research and to join the debate. Alongside him will be members of the NanoJury UK, a panel of members of the public who made recommendations for handling nanotechnology in the future, Dr Robert Doubleday, an expert in the social aspects of nanotechnology from the University of Cambridge, and representatives from the Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre.

Dr Doubleday said: “Nanotechnology is already being used in many day-to-day products such as sunscreen and mobile phones. The science also offers the possibility of completely changing the way that we treat diseases and injuries. By examining things at the nanoscale level scientists are providing new perspectives on our world. However, researchers increasingly realise that nanotechnology research raises many important issues for society, and that people want the opportunity to find out more about nanotechnology and have a say in the how it is developed. This discussion meeting gives everyone the opportunity to meet scientists and other experts, talk to them and find out more.”

The Nanotechnology and You exhibition will be on display throughout the science festival, 6-15 April 2006, at the Edinburgh Central Lending Library, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. The exhibit explores the developments and potential of nanotechnology, together with the questions that need to be answered in the future.

Professor Nigel Brown, BBSRC Director of Science and Technology, commented: “BBSRC has always been at the forefront of nanotechnology in the biosciences. For example researchers funded by BBSRC are very close to using nanotechnology techniques to build tissue grafts to help injury victims. BBSRC has also been at the forefront of public dialogue in potentially controversial areas of science. The Council was involved in NanoJury UK and is soon to launch another public engagement project to gauge opinions on nanotechnology. I hope that anyone who wants to learn more about what this exciting area of science is all about visits the exhibition and joins in the discussion meeting.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

The discussion meeting will take place in the Dunard Library of The Hub, Castlehill, Edinburgh, EH1 2NE from 1.30pm, Saturday 8 April 2006.

The Nanotechnology and You exhibit will be on display 6-15 April 2006 at the Edinburgh Central Lending Library, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1EG. Opening hours: Monday-Thursday 10am-8pm, Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 9am-1pm.

The Edinburgh International Science Festival is an annual event of popular science talks, exhibitions, workshops, shows and hands-on interactive activities. For more information visit: http://www.sciencefestival.org

About BBSRC

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk

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