Friday, May 09, 2003

Citizens panels and the nanotechnology bill in Congress

As part of my testimony to Congress on April 9, I suggested that among the activities
employed to assess the societal and ethical dimensions of nanotechology, the nation
should now include citizens panels. Evidently, the idea was well received. A couple
of versions of a proposal of this kind were debated on the floor of the House of Representatives
on Wednesday May 7 and one of them, the Republican version, was adopted in the
language of H.R. 766, the bill that passed. The Senate takes up similar legislation soon.

A press release on the nanotechnology bill can be found on the Committee on Science
web page.

Here is the relevant section of the legislation as it now stands.

[Section 3 (b)] (5) ensure that societal and ethical concerns, including environmental concerns and the potential implications of human performance
enhancement and the possible development of nonhuman intelligence, will be addressed as the technology is developed by--

(A) establishing a research program to identify societal and ethical concerns related to nanotechnology, and ensuring that the results of such research
are widely disseminated;

(B) insofar as possible, integrating research on societal and ethical concerns with nanotechnology research and development, and ensuring that
advances in nanotechnology bring about improvements in quality of life for all Americans;

(C) requiring that interdisciplinary research centers under paragraph (1)(C) include activities that address societal and ethical concerns; and

*******(D) ensure through the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office established under section 6 and through the agencies and departments that
participate in the Program, that public input and outreach to the public are both integrated into nanotechnology research and development and
research on societal and ethical concerns by the convening of regular and ongoing public discussions, through mechanisms such as citizens panels,
consensus conferences, and educational events, as appropriate; . . .

My specific suggestions to the committe can be found in the testimony
on my web page.

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