From: "The Loka Institute" <>
Date: Tue, 17 Jun 2003 12:18:51 -0000

Loka Alert 10:1 (June 17, 2003)



Dear Friends and Colleagues,

If you believe we urgently need more citizen participation in federal
technology policy, this is the time to let your Senators know!

Thursday morning, June 19th, the Senate Commerce, Science, and
Transportation Committee intends to finish writing up S. 189, a bill
to coordinate federal nanotechnology research and development across
several agencies. The Senate Committee has a rare opportunity to
provide strong legislative authority for Citizen Panels a key
innovation for public participation in science and technology

The House has already passed its own nanotech bill, H.R. 766, which
includes a historic provision that would allow ordinary citizens to
take part in policy deliberations early on in the development of a
major new technology. It requires public input and outreach to the
public in federal policymaking for nanotechnology -- an area expected
to have dramatic impact on us all through "the convening of
and ongoing public discussions." The House bill also specifies
one method for achieving this public input would be Citizen Panels --
or Consensus Conferences, as they are also called. These panels of
ordinary Americans would review the social, environmental, and
ethical impacts of nanotechnology and advise the government on them.

Now the Senate Committee is considering whether to endorse or ignore
this House move towards democracy. Your voice could have a
significant influence on the outcome -- please call or fax your
Senators before Thursday morning to share your views on the
nanotechnology measures and whether you believe that Congress should
not just mention citizen panels, but provide a strong mandate for
them. Call the main Congressional switchboard -- 202-224-3121 -- and
ask for your Senators' office numbers. (Or visit
<> and enter your zip code to retrieve contact
information for your Senators and Representative.)

Do you live in one of the following states? If so, you have at least
one Senator who is actually on the Senate Commerce Committee, which
has the best chance to add citizen panels to the bill. So your phone
calls or faxes -- before Thursday, if possible -- are even more
important: ALASKA (Sen. Ted Stevens); ARIZONA (Committee Chair John
McCain); CALIFORNIA (Sen. Barbara Boxer); FLORIDA (Sen. Bill Nelson);
HAWAII (Sen. Daniel K. Inouye); ILLINOIS (Sen. Peter G. Fitzgerald);
KANSAS (Sen. Sam Brownback); LOUISIANA (Sen. John B. Breaux); MAINE
(Sen. Olympia Snowe); MASSACHUSETTS (Sen. John F. Kerry); MISSISSIPPI
(Sen. Trent Lott); MONTANA (Sen. Conrad Burns); NEW HAMPSHIRE (Sen.
John Sununu); NEW JERSEY (Sen. Frank Lautenberg); NEVADA (Sen. John
Ensign); NORTH DAKOTA (Sen. Byron L. Dorgan); OREGON (Sen. Ron Wyden
and Sen. Gordon Smith); SOUTH CAROLINA (Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, the
Committee's Ranking Democrat); TEXAS (Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson);
VIRGINIA (Sen. George Allen); WASHINGTON (Sen. Maria Cantwell); and
WEST VIRGINIA (Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV).

Citizen panels involve small groups of ordinary citizens assembled to
examine important societal issues about research and technology.
These citizens are selected in much the same way that we now choose
juries in cases of law -- but with greater commitment to represent
diverse experiences. The panels study and discuss relevant documents,
develop an agenda of major public issues to address, hear expert
testimony from those doing the research, listen to arguments about
technical applications and consequences presented by various sides,
deliberate on their findings, and write reports based on consensus
items developed among the panelists.

This gives policy-makers and everyone else a much better sense of
where the common ground lies among citizens who do not have a direct
political or economic stake in the issue under consideration -- i.e.,
the majority of the population. Citizen panels are good government,
good for business, and good for America's families and

Nanotechnology supporters are promising enormous benefits from
developments in this new field, others are raising serious concerns,
and this major new technology is expected to have profound social,
health, environmental, financial, and ethical consequences for
everyone. So this is an excellent time to contact your
representatives in Congress. Make sure to refer to Senate bill S.
189 or House bill H.R. 766. Urge them to support a mandate for
citizen panels in the legislation, which may spur a Senate floor
discussion on public participation in technology policy. Stress the
need for strong provisions in the bill to ensure careful
consideration and ongoing attention to the potential social,
environmental, and ethical consequences of nanotechnology.

A full Senate vote could follow soon after the Senate Committee on
Commerce, Science, and Transportation marks up the 21st Century
Nanotechnology Research and Development Act -- visit
<> and search for "S. 189" to see the

The House has already passed the Nanotechnology Research and
Development Act of 2003, authorizing $2.36 billion over three years
(to see the bill as passed by the House and referred to the Senate,
visit <> and search for "H.R. 766.RFS").

Spending could be much lower than this ceiling after the
appropriations process; however, even this amount does not include
nanotech spending by the Defense Department. In an April 9 hearing
dedicated to the Societal Implications of Nanotechnology, the House
Committee on Science heard from Langdon Winner, professor of
political science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and president
of the Loka Institute. He called for expanded public deliberations
through means such as citizen panels. Since this hearing, House
leaders have expressed greater interest in predicting and sorting out
the potential social impacts of nanotechnology, hoping to prevent
disasters and also to avoid a repeat of the public backlash against
genetically modified foods and other recently introduced technologies.

Initially, there were only vague references to public outreach in the
House bill. But Langdon Winner's testimony sparked interest in
idea of a mechanism like citizen panels. And the Loka Institute and
the International Center for Technology Assessment (
generated phone calls and visits to educate key Congressional
staffers on this rare opportunity to initiate citizen panels early in
the development of a major new technology.

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) embraced the idea of citizen panels
and proposed an amendment that would require the National
Nanotechnology Coordination Office to organize at least one citizen
panel every 18 months, and that specifically provided for funding of
these panels. Ultimately, House Republicans preferred to mention
citizen panels and consensus conferences as possible forms of regular
and ongoing public discussions for public input without mandating
them, and this compromise found its way into the final House bill.

Besides calling your own Senators, key members of the Senate Commerce
Committee especially Sen. McCain, who chairs the committee;
Wyden, who introduced S. 189; and Sen. Hollings, the senior Democrat -
- could benefit from hearing your feelings on this extraordinary
opportunity to democratize U.S. science and technology policymaking
by involving ordinary citizens in the process. If the Senate
includes even stronger language regarding public participation than
is now in the House version, ordinary citizens are likely to end up
with a voice in nanotech policy.

Thank you for your help in these efforts.

Evan Crutcher, Richard E. Sclove Fellow of the Loka Institute
Colleen Cordes, Member of Loka's Board of Trustees

For more information:

Contacting your Senators and Representative <>
(enter your zip code for contact information)

House Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2003
<> -- (search for "H.R. 766.RFS")

Senate 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act
<> -- (search for "S. 189")

Predictions of potential benefits

Predictions of potential negative consequences

April 9 hearing on the Societal Impacts of Nanotechnology

Langdon Winner's April 9 testimony

International Center for Technology Assessment <>

"Town Meetings on Technology", an article by Richard E.
Sclove on
citizen panels, or consensus conferences, as they are also called.

National Nanotechnology Coordinating Office <>

House Committee on Science <>

Center for Responsible Nanotechnology <>

Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

May 1 hearing on nanotechnology

Membership and phone numbers of the Senate Committee on Commerce,
Science, and Transportation


660 Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. 20003, USA E-mail, Web <> Tel. +1-202-547-9359 or 1-
301-585-9398; Fax: 1-202-547-9429.

Loka works worldwide to make research, science and technology more
democratically responsive. This is one in an occasional series on
the democratic politics of research, science, and technology issued
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