As scientists create the first synthetic cell, the future safety of synthetic biology will depend on sound science

May 26, 2010

Last week’s announcement from the J. Craig Venter Institute that scientists had created the first-ever synthetic cell was a profoundly significant point in human history, and marked a turning point in our quest to control the natural world.  But the ability to use this emerging technology wisely is already being ...

Want advice? Never trust your family!

May 25, 2010

As you’ll have realized from my post last week, I will be competing in I’m A Scientist, Get Me Out Of Here in in a couple of weeks’ time.  I’m going to be attempting to capture the event from my perspective through a series of rather shorter, more informal blogs ...

Deja vu and synthetic biology – will we learn the lessons of nanotech and genetic modification?

May 25, 2010

A guest blog by Hilary Sutcliffe, Director of MATTER, a UK think tank which explores how new technologies can work for us all. The other day, I wrote a piece on the implications of synthetic biology where I  suggested that we “need to place discussions on a science basis, and ...

It’s life Craig, but not as we know it!

May 22, 2010

Typical.  One of the most anticipated technological breakthroughs in years hits the streets, and I’m completely off the web – holed up in an Italian hotel with no internet and no phone. I’m talking of course about J. Craig Venter’s team’s breakthrough in synthesizing a living organism, almost from scratch – ...

I’m a scientist – and I’m going to be hanging on for dear life’s sake!

May 17, 2010

I can’t sleep, I’m distracted, I keep breaking out in a cold sweat.  And the reason?  I have a deceptively simple question going my head – and I don’t know the answer! The question… well, I’ll come to that in a minute.  I’d rather put the moment of embarrassment off for ...

Building trust between science and society: A Scientist’s Manifesto

May 9, 2010

Having recently finished Robert Winston’s “Bad Ideas?  An Arresting History of our Inventiveness,” I was rather taken by his concluding “Scientist’s Manifesto” – a fourteen-point guide to help strengthen the relationship between science and society.  As well as reflecting much of my own thinking, it embodies many of the ideas ...

Public participation in nanotechnology – should we care?

May 4, 2010

A guest blog by Barbara Herr Harthorn, Director of the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at the University of California Santa Barbara. A couple of weeks back, my colleague David Guston wrote here about engaging the public on nanotechnology.   In his piece he gave an excellent overview of the ...

Nanotechnology policy and regulation timeline

April 30, 2010

Marc Saner at Carleton University in Canada sent this timeline of key nanotech policy events to me the other day.  It’s probably the most comprehensive compilation of events influencing the development of nanotech policy in America, Europe and Australia I’ve seen to date – well worth taking a look at ...

Power to the people – should citizens be more involved in assessing energing technologies?

April 28, 2010

Does the US need more public participation in assessing technologies and their potential impact on society, and informing decisions on their development and use?  Richard Sclove – author of a new report on technology assessment – thinks yes; but only as part of a new paradigm for technology assessment.  The ...

Found in translation – Journalist Andréia Azevedo Soares’ take on a Brazilian nanotechnology documentary

April 25, 2010

Language is often seen as a barrier to communication.  But sometimes it provides a valuable buffer between hearing, understanding and responding, and allows unique perspectives that are often drowned out to be heard. A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by Brazilian TV presenter Luís Fernando Silva Pinto for the TV ...

TSCA reform and engineered nanomaterials

April 23, 2010

A bit of a wonky blog I’m afraid, but having seen relatively little on the recently introduced Safe Chemicals Act of 2010 and its relevance to engineered nanomaterials on the web, I thought I would post something short and sweet here. Just over a week ago, Senator Lautenberg introduced a bill ...

The nanotech gamble – double or nothing?

April 20, 2010

There’s a bit of a brouhaha over nanotechnology safety brewing over at AOL Online.  A few weeks ago, investigative reporter Andrew Schneider posted a series of articles questioning both the safety of nanotechnology-enabled products entering the market, and the US government’s response to the emerging challenge.  Today, Clayton Teague – ...

The secrets of engaging teens with science

April 13, 2010

A guest blog by Sophia Collins, producer of the on-line teen science event “I’m a Scientist, Get me out of Here!” “itz hometime but we want to stay and ask questions” These are the words of a 14 year old student, at a school in inner-city London. The school has some of ...

White House plans a new government policy coordination group on emerging technologies

April 10, 2010

According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) plans to form a new interagency group on emerging technologies, including nanotechnology and synthetic biology.  The announcement was make by Tom Kalil, deputy director for policy at OSTP, at ...

Cultivating ingenuity & humility in an increasingly complex world

April 6, 2010

To coincide with my move to the University of Michigan, Seed Magazine has just published a series of ten questions and answers on what I do and what motivates me as a scientist.  You can read how well I fared (or didn’t, as the case may be) with questions as ...

Making sense of nanotechnology – a piece of cake!

April 4, 2010

The quality’s a bit flaky, but I thought I would upload this video for a bit of fun.  It’s the first – and possibly the last – time I will simultaneously attempt to unravel the mysteries of nanotechnology… while baking a cake! Filmed at the National Museum of American History as ...

Public Engagement with Nanotechnology

March 30, 2010

A guest blog by David H. Guston, Director of the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University. The President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) has recently put the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) through its biennial paces.  Launched in 2000 by President Clinton, authorized in 2003 ...

New horizons – Goodby DC; hello University of Michigan

March 25, 2010

As many of you will have picked up from recent blogs, I am moving on from my position as Chief Science Advisor to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.  From April 1, I will be taking up the post of Director of the University of Michigan Risk Science Center.  This is ...

“I’m a Scientist…” – Seriously addictive science engagement!

March 24, 2010

The website “I’m a Scientist – Get me out of here” should come with a government warning – something along the lines of “Visiting this site could seriously disrupt your professional, social and personal live while altering your perceptions on getting kids hooked on science – proceed with extreme caution.”  ...

The UK Nanotechnologies Strategy – disappointing

March 18, 2010

Ten years ago, President Clinton laid the foundation stone of the current global Nanotechnology Initiative.  In a speech given at at Caltech, he announced the formation of the US National Nanotechnology Initiative, and set a chain of events in motion that has led to economies and businesses around the world ...