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December 13, 2016

Germany Publishes Report on Nanoview Project

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

On November 15, 2016, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) published a report, in English, entitled Nanoview — Influencing factors on the perception of nanotechnology and target group-specific risk communication strategies.  In 2007, BfR conducted a survey concerning the public perception of nanotechnology.  Given the newness of nanotechnology and that large sections of the population did not have any definite opinions or knowledge of it, BfR conducted a follow-up survey, Nanoview, in 2012.  Nanoview also included the additional question of which communication measures for conveying risk information regarding nanotechnology are best suited to reach the majority of the population.  BfR developed two alternative concepts for the target group-oriented risk communication of nanotechnology in areas relevant to consumers on this basis.  The report states that, given the findings from the 2007 representative survey, which confirmed gender-specific differences in the perception of nanotechnology, ideal-typical male and ideal-typical female concepts were developed.  Focus groups then reviewed and optimized the conceptual considerations.  According to the report, the ideal-typical male concept met the expectations of the male target groups (nano-types “supporters” and “cautious observers”).  The report states that the concrete communication measures do not adequately achieve the objectives, however, because the measures are too specific and give the impression of being overly focused on technical fascination and not addressing potential risks to the desired degree.  According to the report, the conceptual approach of the ideal-typical female concept met the expectations of the female target groups (nano-types “sceptics” and “cautious observers”), as well as catering to the information needs of some men (“cautious observers”).  Of the concrete communication measures discussed, acceptance levels are particularly high for the online platform and the brochure, and these represent the most effective channels to provide basic information.  The report states that when consumers are asked to draw up communication approaches, the main focus is on the interlinking of scientific aspects and everyday consumer aspects.  The importance attached to the two different areas varies between target groups, however.  With regard to the communication media, the surveyed men and women prefer a website that provides basic information presented in a stimulating format.  The report concludes that, with regard to the central communication measure, creating an information portal on the Internet appears to be the most meaningful strategy.  The information services and content should be prepared and presented to cater to the specific main gender-sensitive requirements and information needs.  The report states:  “The ideal-typical male concept is geared towards the provision of information on scientific, technical and application-related aspects of nanotechnology, for example.  The ideal-typical female concept focuses on the provision of information on application-related aspects of nanotechnology and support for everyday (purchase) decisions.”