Friday, August 29, 2008


This workshop was hobbled by (1) the transfer in which the value of the grant demanded less funds to support a conference, hence we transitions to a workshop, (2) the proliferation of meetings and conferences has made it very difficult to get people together especially the world of nano and risk communication [it is a very small population], and (3) the economy led to many universities cutting back on support for travel funds.

This led me to take more seriously remarks made by Dawn Bonnell (U Penn) earlier this year at a meeting on nano-bio held in Ispra, Italy. It is time to use the technology at our hands to enable remote participation - webcasting and web-conferencing. Thanks to a strong tech team at NCSU we took a stab at this.

The results have been archived at our site and we webcasted the entire workshop on August 28-29, 2008.

We did learn a few things:

1. Rent a facility and pay the technicians.
2. Mike all speakers for archives.
3. Nail the live speakers to a spot on the floor so head insets are easier.
4. Record on studio quality tapes and have two tape decks esp. if you plan to archive the materials so they can be downloaded and streamed.
6. Connections need to be rehearsed with technical staffs at both locations. There are a variety of ways to do this including desktop systems such as Skype Meeting and iChat. However, the quality of free meeting software is mixed.
7. Power points needs to be designed to accommodate the video of the speaker (one quadrant needs to be designed without text or photo). Re-design templates so they are more appropriate for webcasted presentations with insets. Print and business of the slides can be problematic as well. Speakers need not to point at their PowerPoints with a laser pointer or a finger or even a fist because that doesn’t translate given how the broadcast has been planned.
8. Inset videos of the speakers needs to be fed from the remote site correctly. If the remove site fails to send the correct feeds
9. The primary issues are receptivity by the PC at the other end. Most webcast professionals can broadcast at high speeds but the Internet itself can be problematic. There are delays and glitches that impact receptivity.
10. In terms of streaming videotaped lectures there are many different software packages and we have not examined all of them though Final Cut with compressor seems to be effective.
11. It might be useful if we could tell the audience when they are on.

A summary and an updated version of this will appear in our annual report and maybe a publication.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

DAY 1 of WORKSHOP completed - summaries posted below.


It is important to note that we will be streaming all the presentations and you will be able to download them from our web site -

This was a webcasted workshop. We had people speaking from our site on the campus of NCSU in Raleigh and we had people giving presentations from all over the USA (from Las Vegas, Nevada to New Haven, Connecticut. We had some minor problems but, by and large, it worked and we will post here (soon) a summary of the technical challenges so others can learn from our efforts.

WHAT FOLLOWS is a summary of the presentations.



LENNART SJOBERG from Stockholm School of Economics opened the session.
He studies public risk perception of technology (nuclear waste, food, genetically modified food, and nanotechnology). He discussed the roles novelty and dread play in risk variances between expert and public risk determinations. He claims dread trumps novelty in explaining variance. Dread is viewed emotively. Dread involves severity of consequences rather than the emotional items. Generally, dread is related with interfering with nature. He claims social trust = authoritative trust has little relationship with risk determination by publics (0.3 or less). He claims epistemic trust = trust in science is much more relevant. He discussed risk sensitivity – what makes some people more risk sensitive than others and antagonism as a variable. He adds new risks may bring about new aspects that require new variables. He discussed risk targets – people defer to general risk rather than individual risk is assessing rankings. He covered probability neglect and noted affect trumps data on social trust. He warned the instruction in many surveys complicated findings since affect data of dread are affected by whether one internalizes or externalizes dread. He noted substantive experts had similar structure of risk perception as the public which was different from the original work on general experts. These concepts make it important for us to check material on variance assoc. with public and expert risks when examined personally. He added ratings between gender/sexes minimal. He validated effect on social interaction and validation on risk rankings.

SUSANNA PRIEST from UNLV spoke from Las Vegas using video conferencing software.

She claims attitudes toward stem cells are a function primarily in the belief associated with the moral status of the embryo – an ethical risk. She argues risks are not the same and questions: What kind of risks? Do they think narrowly of harm? are very important. She adds we need work on justice issues and distributional variables.

ROB GOBLE from Clark University appeared live.

The bulk of his presentation was associated with importance of contextualization. He challenged us to find a way of defining a hazard when there is so much uncertainty. [We expect more work soon on horizon mapping - Scheufele and I are developing hypotheses in this area]. He added a discussion of banding = recharacterization or reframing the problem as a possible route.

DAN KAHAN from Yale appeared electronically.

His presentation was on public reactions and what risk communicators can do. He discussion the cultural cognition hypothesis and noted biased assimilation/cultural polarization leads the public to attend in a biased ways. He covered cultural credibility heuristics – (trust experts) – generally, the expert individuals will trust are experts individuals perceive share cultural worldview. He covered framing whereby the same general information with a different lead in a newspaper article framing the salience of a specific application impacts perception (framing by lead). He discussed snap intuitive judgment of risk sensitives populations versus risk skepticals and noted the divide widens as they seek out the views. He then connected this finding to some advocacy groups (NGOs) who arouse views by exposure to information to reinforce their predispositions toward nanotechnology resulting in deep-seated resentment such as occurred with nuclear power. He claimed we can manage and counter-act polarization and create an environment open-minded to the best information. He wants a deliberative environment and noted PEN/CCP will release full results of the framing experiments discussed above.


DIETRAM SCHEUFELE from the University of Wisconsin appeared live.

He referenced dependent perceptions and discussed framing effects which are extremely strong for ambiguous stimulants. He noted optimistic framing effects w/o understanding the technology. He discussed perceptual filters that shape interpretations (processing) such things as culture, religious beliefs, moral schema. He added a review of the PEW MEDIA study out about 2 weeks ago. One category, the Net-newsers, suggest a shift from traditional news sources on digital media. He speculated on the implications for attenuation and amplification data sets associated with traditionalists. He noted we need to narrow communication gaps in science between population rather than continuing to preach to the choir. He responded to the “marketing of science” indictment. Ethics of marketing science and technology is something that needs to be further investigated.

JOHN STONE from Michigan State appeared live and lively.

He presented a review of his NIRT and addressed how information needed to be pulled-up to policy makers as well as pushed-out to publics. He is using the extension service as a way to move local knowledge up the stream. This project is a good contact for the last phase of the NIRT when we complete focus groups on food and nanotechnology.

MARTIN CLAUBERG from Tennessee appeared via Skype Meeting software.

He discussed a meta-analysis of research on risk. This was an EC Project and everyone is encouraged to check the final report. He discussed a lot of data and the slides/power points will appear on our site and you should go there in a week or so to read them. He noted uncertainty is generated by multiple views by different representatives.

VICKI COLVIN from Rice was live and presented here rather than Friday morning so she could get back to Texas ahead of the hurricane. She covered the unique properties of nanoparticles - magnetic, chemical and optics and called for proactive risk research is associated with horizon scanning. This may involve risk forecasting much like what is used a meteorology.

DAY TWO REPORT FORTHCOMING as well as a technical review of the webcasting experiment.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Just got back from a Gordon Conference in Montana on Science and Technology Policy. Learned a lot about synthetic biology and neurotechnology. As you know, we are not allowed to write about what happened, but I can see some articles on the horizon.

This is not a teaser though.

The purpose of this post is that you can eavesdrop on our workshop since we are webcasting all of it.

This is the address:

The press release follows:

Press Release: 14 August 2008


NCSU Workshop on
Communicating Health and Safety Risks on
Emerging Technologies in the 21st Century
McKimmon Center, North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC August 28-29, 2008

This NSF supported workshop is designed to review some findings and develop the ground plan to complete the award (NIRT: Intuitive Toxicology and Public Engagement) in an efficient and productive manner. After the workshop, the presentations will be reexamined to help define variables needed in the first round of quantitative research funded under the grant (a set of modified Delphi rounds involving expert and inexpert samples).

“The primary objectives of this workshop are to isolate the key variables and to produce appropriate instruments with which we can assess public perceptions of the risks of applied nanosciences. The workshop should also provide us with a clearer picture of the predictions of experts, based on the most recent research, of how the public perceives risks and how different modes of communication affect those perceptions.”

We have designed the workshop with presentations in Raleigh at NCSU McKimmon Center and others from remote locations via the web. We are webcasting the entire workshop and we are streaming selected portions from our website as deliverables. Below is the schedule of speakers. Some titles remain in flux but this seems to be the team with whom we will work.

Our web site is: Schedule

“Communicating Health and Safety Risks on
Emerging Technologies in the 21st Century”
McKimmon Center, North Carolina State University
Raleigh, NC August 28-29, 2008

Transportation will be provided to and from the Clarion Hotel (2 miles away).

Day One, Thursday, August 28, 2008.
Introduction and welcome – David Berube, NCSU (13:00-13:10).

Risks and Publics.
Keynote Speaker — Lennart Sj√∂berg, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden (13:15-14:00).
Panel (14:05 -16:00) –
(WebConf) Susanna Priest, UNLV, TBA.
Rob Goble, Clark U., “Uncertainty and risk communication concerning merging technologies: Describing uncertainties is not the only challenge.”
Dan Kahan, Yale Law School, TBA.

Researching How Toxicology is Communicated to Publics.
Speaker – Dietram A. Scheufele, U Wisconsin (16:15-17:00).
Panel (17:05 -19:00) –
John Stone, Michigan State U., Public perceptions of agrifood nanotechnologies: Using Extension to assess and link stakeholder knowledge with public policies.”
Martin Clauberg, U. Tennessee, “A review of risk perception methodologies and empirical studies focused on risks from chemicals released from consumer products/articles.”
Jennifer Kuzma, U Minn, “At taxonomy of risks and communication challenges.”

Day Two, Friday, August 29, 2008.

Morning food and coffee (09:00)
Nano-toxicology and Risk.
Speaker – Vicki Colvin, Rice University (09:30-10:15).
Panel (10:20-12:20) –
Tara Sabo-Attwood, Dept of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, U. South Carolina, TBA
James Bonner, Dept of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, NCSU, TBA.
Mark Weisner, Dept of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering, Duke U., TBA

Lunch break – provided by workshop.

Risk Engagement and the Public.
Speaker – Pat Gehrke, U. South Carolina (13:20-14:15).
Panel (14:20-16:35) –
(WebConf) Kenneth Foster, Dept of Bioengineering, U. Penn., “Risk assessment and risk communication for electromagnetic fields: A WHO perspective”.
Roy Schwartzman, Dept of Communication, UNC – Greensboro, Nanotoxicartography: Rhetorically mapping public engagement with nanotechnology’s promises and perils.”
(WebConf) Sharon Friedman & Brenda Egolf, Lehigh U., “Coverage of Nanotechnology’s Potential Health and Environmental Risks in the US and UK Media.”
Kevin Elliott and Travis Reider, Dept. of Philosophy, USC, “Philosophical Debates about Policy Making and Public Perceptions of Risk: Roles for Empirical Research."

Challenges in Emerging Technologies.
Speaker – William Kinsella, Dept of Communication, Science and Technology Studies, North Carolina State U., TBA (16:40-17:15).

If you have any questions, please contact us: Katie Hayes (Workshop Admin. Asst.), Christopher Cummings (Grant Admin. Asst.), or David Berube (Grant PI).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Some NEW work

Sorry for dropping off like this but I was working on a 100 plus page White Paper on RISK COMMUNICATION. It will be surfacing soon.

In addition, I thought you might want to visit our web pages not that they are up. One is associated wit the NIRT grant ( and the other with the project I am working on at NCSU ( .

In addition, we did a report on ALTERNATIVE ENERGY AND NANOTECHNOLOGY. It was designed for the thousands of high school students who are interscholastic debaters. Next year, they are debating US policy toward alternative energy. It can be found and downloaded for free at: (

Finally, I wrote a book review for PUoS and am recommending the following two books, esp. the first one.

Gardner, Dan, Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear (London: Virgin Books, 2008) 355pp. ISBN 978-1-905264-15-5 £17.99 (hardback).

Briscoe, Simon & Hugh Aldersley-Williams, Panicology: What Are You Afraid Of? Two Statisticians Explain What's Worth Worrying About (and What's Not) in the 21st Century (London: Viking Penguin, 2008). 304 pp. ISBN 978-0-670-91701-3 £18.98 (hardback).