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Public perception and knowledge on nanotechnology: A study based on a citizen science approach

Joubert, I.A., Geppert, M., Ess, S., Nestelbacher, R., Gadermaier, G., Duschl, A., Bathke, A.C. and Himly, M. (2020) Public perception and knowledge on nanotechnology: A study based on a citizen science approach. NanoImpact, 17 . Art. 100201.

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Even with the widespread use of nanomaterials (NMs) in everyday life, consumer knowledge about the functionality, benefits, and possible dangers of nanotechnology (NT) is still modest. As with any developing technology, its public perception has direct implications on future policies and has to be taken into account by academia and industry alike. As part of the “Nan-O-Style” interdisciplinary research project, an online survey was conducted using a Citizen Science-guided approach. The main goal was to evaluate the current levels of knowledge and the attitude towards NT among the general Austrian public and to determine how differing sociodemographic factors may affect these. Over the course of 17 months, a total of 1067 responses were collected and quantitatively analysed. We found that while Austrians display a generally optimistic view and a positive attitude towards NT, there are still remaining concerns about its safety and possible risks. Participants expressed great desire for more information about NT and its applications, as well as for clear labelling and transparency of products containing NMs. Notably, we found that age did not affect the general attitude towards NT nor the levels of NT awareness. While participants with a university degree were generally more knowledgeable on this specific topic, surprisingly, there were no significant differences in the attitude towards NT among people from different educational backgrounds. Similar to previous studies, we observed that male participants demonstrated a more positive attitude towards NT and scored slightly higher in our NT quiz compared to female participants. However, female participants voiced greater desire for more information and transparency regarding NMs. Interestingly, while participants with a negative attitude towards NT scored lowest on the NT quiz, they also expressed the least interest in receiving more NT-related information. This illustrates a difficulty in mitigating public aversion solely by providing more information.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Elsevier B.V.
Copyright: © 2019 The Author(s).
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