Skip to main content

TIME for Nano - Tools to Increase Mass Engagement for Nanotechnology

Final Report Summary - TIME FOR NANO (Time for nano - tools to increase mass engagement for nanotechnology)

Executive summary:

TIME FOR NANO developed and spread creative new ways of engaging young Europeans on the topic of nanotechnology. The field of nanoscale research, engineering and technology has always posed significant challenges to science communicators and this project demonstrated a number of successful methods of engaging the general public and particularly young people, on the associated benefits and risks.

Two key tools were developed: the Nanokit, a box full of specific activities to be carried out using real nano materials; and the annual online video contest, a YouTube-based European competition inspiring young people to create their own films to explore themes of nanotechnology.

The project and its tools had a significantly wide impact thanks to the three formats it developed: Nanoday events, which took place across Europe, engaging young people face-to-face with science communicators and researchers; multipliers' training sessions, training educators to work with young people on nanotechnology; and the online web platform, promoting the project, hosting resources and acting as the hub of the community of users which the project developed.

From a pedagogical perspective, the two central methodologies of the project were enquiry-based learning and debate. Since the project made use of real materials related to nanotechnology, as part of the Nanokit, enquiry-based learning allowed the young people to engage with the objects in an ideal way. As for debate, the project tackled five central controversial topics: health, privacy, environment, socioeconomic divide and improvement.

Project website: http://www.timefornano.eu

Project context and objectives:

The TIME FOR NANO project finds its context at a time when research on nanotechnologies and nanosciences is widely contributing to the advancement of science. The applications of the results of this research are revolutionising our society in many fields such as medicine, computing, materials science, energy production and manufacturing, with significant impact. Yet, to the general public, these advances can be invisible or difficult to understand because of the nano scale and of the complexity of such phenomena.

Studying phenomena and manipulation of matter at the nanoscale and developing nanotechnologies leading to the manufacturing of new products and services is the current approach of European research in this sector. It has a huge potential to improve competitiveness and sustainable development across a wide range of industrial sectors. On the other hand, while understanding and technologies advance, some critical aspects appear in relation to the possible impact of nanotechnologies development on human health and environment. Current knowledge concerning toxicity and eco-toxicity of nano-materials is still incomplete and many civil society organisations have already pointed out to citizens many possible risks. Moreover, recent public debates on controversial scientific issues - such as genetically modified organisms - have taught us that scientists and society should engage in dialogue sooner rather than later, if we are to build a climate of trust and openness and develop robust policymaking processes.

This was the challenge for nanotechnologies which the project addressed: the fast development of nanotechnologies is raising radically new public policies fostering upstream citizens' participation in the debate about the governance of these emerging issues.

TIME FOR NANO was designed to ensure that nanoscience and nanotechnology (N&N) research activities would be made comprehensible to the public and even more should respect fundamental rights and be designed, conducted, implemented, disseminated and used in the interest of the well-being of individuals and society.

The initial objectives of TIME FOR NANO can be divided into three broad categories:

1. to implement innovative tools to engage young people
2. to communicate on five key issues, namely health, privacy, environment, socioeconomic divide and improvement
3. to develop a community.

Project results: According to the framework, tools and activities developed in TIME FOR NANO can be divided into three types of action:

1. Outreach: The overall communication actions of the project, which focus on raising awareness among the target audience. In TIME FOR NANO, the main outreach activities were the Nanoday events and the general project dissemination through the project website, online activities, press relations, conferences and publications.
2. Dialogue: These were the project activities which aimed at truly engaging the public with nanotechnology. The Nanokit activities and online video contest were the key TIME FOR NANO activities in this category.
3. Educaiton: These activities were those that integrated public engagement with nanotechnology into the education system. The multipliers training sessions fall into this category.

Outreach: target audience

The project's target audience was always broad and the outreach activities aimed at the broadest range of targets within the project, since their primary aim was to raise awareness of the issues at stake regarding nanotechnology and nanosciences. The specific target audiences of these activities were young people, the general public and, secondarily, professionals and teachers.

Outreach: Actions

The Nanoday events, which took place at science centers, museums, universities and festival locations, were the central outreach actions of TIME FOR NANO.

The strategy behind the coordination of the Nanodays events was to ensure that partners were able to share from each others' experience and specialisation in order to generate true European collaboration. This meant that the format of the Nanodays was multiple and flexible, allowing the partners to adapt the events to their audiences and their facilities, making the most of local collaboration with researchers, schools and other stakeholders. Throughout the project, partners documented their experiences carefully and shared the results among the consortium, at project meetings and electronically. The result was that partners were able to share activity formats and ideas, trying out new ideas from other countries, exploiting the Nanokit - both with the schools and with the general public - and supporting the participation of youngsters in the TIME FOR NANO videocontest. Nanodays were organised in France, Germany, Finland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Belgium, Turkey and the United Kingdom (UK).

Dialogue: target audience

The dialogue activities can be seen as the project's central activities, with a heavy focus on the primary target audience of the project, i.e. young people. The aim of these activities was to fully engage young people in the issues at stake in N&N. Teachers were an indirect target group for the Nanokit and video contest activities, as it was through schools that many young people became aware of the TIME FOR NANO project. The general public and professionals were strictly secondary and although few of the project's dialogue activities were targeted at these groups, a significant number still participated.

Dialogue: Actions

There were two central dialogue-based elements to the TIME FOR NANO project: the Nanokit activities and the online video contest.

The Nanokit is based on the enquiry-based learning approach, specifically developed in science centres and science museums and consists of hands-on and interactive activities in which the public can understand nanotechnology and nanosciences through practical experiments. A thousand editions of the kit were distributed throughout schools and science centres where they were also used as a tool for the Nanoday events and to increase the involvement of young people in the online video contest. It was also made available in schools to be used by teachers as an educational tool in class and integrated into the school curriculum at different levels and used by scientists in public lectures and conferences.

The kit is a 22 x 22 x 33 cm box full of nano objects, worksheets describing each activity intended for young people as well as students and teachers, an instruction book, two card games: a version of the game PlayDecide specially personalised for the kit and a illustrated game for younger children. In addition to the physical nano-kit, feedback tools were designed to provide data on the opinions, knowledge and reactions to opportunities and risks related to nanotechnologies.

The concept behind the nano-kit was that it would have an impact on three layers of information: On the cognitive level, the experiments and demonstrations included in the kit provides understanding of the unique properties of nano-materials. The kit also influences the experiential knowledge of the public. Experiential knowledge is the knowledge based on common sense and personal experience. It tends to be higher in emotive content than cognitive knowledge and thus can cause greater conflicts. The kit contains real products and applications of nanotechnology, which together with the training modules provided by the project, foster discussions about appropriateness and potential of the research. The third level is social or political knowledge. The discussions on these subjects are centred on how 'good' these activities can be said to be. Such discussions are extremely engaging for the public.

A prototype was produced in ten copies and tested by the project partners, before finalising and producing the kit in February 2010. The kit includes 10 hands on activities which are of three different kinds:

1. Activities one to three are activities that introduce the nano world and the nanoscale;
2. Activities four and five present two nano objects;
3. Activities 6 to 10 present applications of nanotechnologies.

All these activities can be undertaken by young people from eight-year old children to high school students. They are meant not to exceed half an hour.

The activities in the kit are the following:

1. How tall are you in nanometres? How big is your hand in nanometres?
2. Dilution
3. Magnetic probe
4. Make your own buckyball
5. Virus
6. Ferrofluid
7. Magic sand
8. Hydrophobic textile
9. Anti fog
10. Memory metal.

PlayDecide

It was decided to add a new version of the game PlayDecide to the kit. This game has already demonstrated its effectiveness in triggering debates and discussions among the participants. This game is meant for young people above 12 years old. The game was adapted for the nano-kit. The last part of the game has been modified so as to introduce the nanodilemmas defined in the description of work and to trigger debates around these issues. The youngest children will not be able to play Decide. On the back of the PlayDecide cards, there are images made by BridA with which the children can tell a story by lining them up like a comic book. It was called PlayDecide Junior. The story can feature the member of the Nano family. Some objects proposed for the story are objects involving nanotechnologies. They are individualised by a distinctive sign and a glossary explaining in very simple word the nanotechnology involved is add in the kit.

Online video contest

An international online video contest was launched in two editions during TIME FOR NANO. The aim of this contest was to engage young people in N&N by encouraging them to create short videos communicating one of five ethical issues, or 'nanodilemmas', in an innovative and creative way. The contest was heavily promoted by project partners across their vast networks of schools, through project activities. This produced a real engagement with many complex issues related to nanotechnology and nanosciences in the classroom and in science centres and museums as students got to grips with the five nanodilemmas and came up with ways to communicate them to their peers through the medium of video. The result was also a total of 207 videos uploaded to YouTube by young people, which also serve as an excellent tool to engage other young people on nanotechnologies and which have attained over 30 000 views during the project alone.

Any non-professional video relating to nanotechnology, either concerning the basic science and definitions or the applications and social implications of research and products could be submitted to the contest. The video must relate to at least one of the proposed themes - the 'killer questions' described in deliverable 4.3 and have a maximum length of 4 minutes. The TIME FOR NANO consortium prepared 8 'channels' on Youtube and one on Vimeo to receive and host the videos submitted to the contest. The use of Vimeo was necessary in Turkey, where there are restrictions on the access to Youtube. These channels were also linked from the main project website. The competition was open to all European countries; the promotion of the contest and the workshops to support the youngsters to produce the videos were held in the nine countries of the TIME FOR NANO consortium. The TIME FOR NANO partner in each country nominated a jury to select the winner of the contest; in some countries a second winner was selected based on the highest popularity on the YouTube channel or through a popular vote by the visitors at the Nanodays. The finalists of each country were admitted to the European final competition; the international jury selected the German movie 'Nano Games' as the European winner.

The first edition of the contest was launched on 1 February 2010 and the deadline for submissions was 31 August 2010. The consortium decided to keep the competition open until 31 August in consideration of the different school calendars in each country and to allow for a wide participation of young people, both during the school term and the summer holidays. For the first edition, five 'killer questions' were developed, one related to each nanodilemma, in order to inspire participants to come up with creative interpretations. In total, 92 videos were submitted to the first edition of the contest.

The second edition of the TIME FOR NANO video contest was held from 1 February 2011 to 30 June 2011. During this period, youngsters from all over Europe submitted 117 videos to the contest.

In the second year the participation in the video contest increased by 25 % in comparison to the first year. This positive result was due to several factors. During the course of the project, the staff of the partner institutions of TIME FOR NANO acquired more skills for mentoring the students in their video projects and was able to improve their work through the experience gained in the first year. BridA organised more video workshops in collaboration with the partners and produced a broad variety of videos to support and inspire the participants. There was also a more intensive communication and promotion of the contest among schools. The videos submitted in the second year of the competition present many different approaches to the 'nano dilemmas' which the students were asked to consider. The seven winners of the national contest entered the European competition.

Dialogue: Impact

The Nanokit impact was twofold. The Nanoday events described in the 'Outreach' chapter of this report centred on activities from the Nanokit. Nanoday events therefore served as a key opportunity for dialogue activities involving the Nanokit. What is more, 1 000 editions of the kit were produced and distributed to schools and science centres across Europe where Nanokit activities were subsequently integrated into the day-to-day programme of those institutions. As such, the dialogue-based results of the Nanokit had a broad impact across these institutions, further multiplied when we consider the network of schools working with each science centre, for example.

Education: target audience

Education activities were primarily targeted at two key groups: teachers and science centre and museum professionals. Young people were an indirect target audience for education activities.

Education: Actions

The key actions for education in TIME FOR NANO were the multipliers' training activities, to which an entire work package (WP) of the project was dedicated. This took place on a national and European level.

multipliers' training: National level

One objective of TIME FOR NANO was to create a growing community of people interested in nanoscale research, engineering and technology, starting from the community of researchers, science communicators and informal science educators represented by the project consortium. Specific strategy of training and dissemination were implemented during the project to ensure the sustainability of the products after the project is over. The aims of the training sessions were, more specifically:

1. to give basics knowledge on nanoscale and applications especially for teachers who are often not up-to-date with this science as their initial training may be outdated;
2. to introduce five key debates around nanotechnologies so as to encourage the teachers to involve their students in the competition and project activities;
3. to allocate resources for helping the organisation of debates among young people which is often lacking in schools;
4. to help the teachers link nanosciences to the school curriculum so as to allow them to use it with their classes.

The training sessions included meeting with expert and laboratories' visits; practice of the Nano-kit; play Decide to learn how to organise a debate with young people and students; encouraging to work with local artists and academic institutions; optional visit of science centres.

The teachers were also given guidelines, resources and links between the school curriculum and the experiments in the Nanokit.

Four training modules were proposed, which could be organised independently or grouped together. Each module is a half day training session. Thus, each partner in the project organised sessions in relation to the schedule of their institutions or schools. Module one was an introduction to nanotechnologies, module two focussed on practice with the Nanokit, module three concerned play Decide and, finally, module four analysed how to engage young people in Nanodays and the web contest.

Evaluation

Each participant filled in a grid at the end of the training in which they were asked to answer the following questions:

1. When are you going to use the Nano-kit and how?
2. Will you organise a debate on nanotechnologies?
3. How are you going to link the Nano-Kit activities to your school curriculum?

CCSTI-Grenoble as WP leader worked hand-in-hand with Observa to define the best tools for the evaluation of the training session. Observa collected and analysed the data from the partners.

The trainees were teachers and explainers or staff members of the museums and science centers. They were all given a general introduction about nanoscience and nanotechnologies and instructions on how to use the kit in their classrooms or in workshops. They were strongly encouraged to promote the video contest for their class or groups. They were also informed about Nanodays organised by each partner.

Each partner organised its training session on the basis of the programme described above. The schedule and programme were adapted so as to be individualised to the programme of the museums, their own schedule and the teachers involved. The programmes were validated by CCSTI Grenoble, the WP leader. In total, local training sessions were organised across Europe reached 1 375 participants. Considering that each of these participants is a multiplier and can therefore reach hundreds of young people through their work, this represents a considerable impact.

European training

The general aims of the European training and outreach activities were the following:

1. train professionals from countries not involved in the project in the use of TIME FOR NANO's tools for creating engagement with nanosciences and nanotechnology
2. provide training for 25 science communication professionals and explainers from science centres and museums.

Therefore, the European training activity was complementary to the teacher trainings organised by the consortium for school teachers on a national level.

The strategy followed for the activities linked to European Union (EU) training and dissemination aimed to enhance the European added value of the project, heighten its impact and promote the exchange of experiences and knowledge among members of the community of science communication professionals. This also ensures the sustainability of the products after the project is over by distributing 100 copies of the nano-kits all over Europe and beyond.

The training courses included the following sessions:

1. introductory explanation about the TIME FOR NANO project objectives
2. play Decide demonstration in order to learn how to organise a debate with young people and students
3. presentation of best practices in communicating nanotechnology and nanoscience in science centres and museum
4. Nanokit: Practice of the nano-kit with tips and examples on how to use the experiments
5. http://www.timefornano.eu : stimulate participation in the TIME FOR NANO video contest
6. teacher training: tips for interacting with teachers and educators to prepare them for work on nano
7. Nanodays: examples and best practice from science centres to involve schools and youngsters in N&N.

The European training and outreach activities in TIME FOR NANO were supported through the following four different tools:

1. training for science communication professionals
2. demonstration of the Nanokit and introduction to the project activities and goals
3. Nanokit distribution
4. travel support for trainees.

In order to facilitate the creation of a community of users on a European level, the European network of science centres and museums (Ecsite) organised training and outreach events in connection with international events and conferences where the target audience was assembled. Since the target of these activities was European professionals in science communication and education, the events chosen for the training and outreach activities were among the most important in the field. Shorter, more informal sessions were also set up in order to familiarise the science communication community with the field of nanosciences and nanotechnology and introduce them to the tools developed within TIME FOR NANO, namely the video competition and the Nanokit.

The European training and outreach activity has proven extremely successful in reaching out to the project's target groups, familiarising them with the objectives of the project and providing in-depth information about the communication tools developed to reach young people in Europe and beyond. The structured training sessions have provided in-depth knowledge and first-hand examples and expertise to more than 50 multipliers from science centres and museums. Since each science centre works with hundreds of school groups locally, this activity is considered to indirectly impact about 5000 teachers throughout Europe, raising the number of countries informed about the TIME FOR NANO instruments significantly.

Demonstrations were carried out in major events relating to science communication to reach the following target audiences:

1. more than 800 multipliers from the science communication community, including explainers, education managers and other communicators in the Ecsite annual conference
2. fifty science centre and museum professionals highly specialised in the field of transmitting scientific content to visitors and school groups
3. twenty master students in science communication benefited from the TIME FOR NANO project as an example of means of communication and discussion
4. about 500 professionals from the academic and industrial sectors in the major international conference organised by the Belgian authorities in the framework of the EU presidency
5. eighty five Nanokits were distributed in 26 countries, in the EU and outside, giving preference to the countries that are not benefited directly from the project. The materials in each kit can be used about 5 times for a group of 20 people, therefore each kit can be considered to directly reach at least 100 young people, for a total of 8500 young people reached so far. However, this number increases greatly when we consider that some of the activities in the kit, such as the card games and the nano-measuring tape, can be easily reproduced at a very small cost, this number increases significantly. Moreover, the Nanokit has proven to be a very successful instrument with young adults and children, with a high appeal connected to interactivity, ease of understanding and graphic appeal.

Potential impact:

Overall conclusions from the project evaluation

Observa's monitoring and evaluation process showed the project TIME FOR NANO is a successful platform for communicating and engaging young people with N&N. The quantitative and qualitative data coming from the evaluation tools demonstrate the following key findings:

1. science centres are important interfaces between science institutions and the general public
2. a significant number of young people have participated in the various activities of the project
3. young people participating in TIME FOR NANO have become more informed on N&N
4. young people have engaged creatively with N&N
5. young people participating in TIME FOR NANO show a greater awareness of the socio-ethical impact of N&N.

The quantitative data coming from the entry and exit questionnaires show that there has been a significant cognitive output for young people involved in the activities scheduled within the Nanodays. The majority of young people who stated they knew little or nothing at all about N&N before the visit, later answered that they learnt something about science in general and about N&N.

The data shows that the majority of young people involved in the project trust N&N research and believe that it is useful for improving quality of life.

Most participants became particularly interested in the activities conducted thanks to the Nanokit or the experiments designed by each science centre. The quantitative data collected and the reports prepared by the project partners point to the effectiveness of TIME FOR NANO as a platform that stimulates young people's awareness of N&N-related social, environmental and ethical issues.

Participants in the discussion groups and the PlayDecide game valued the opportunity to engage with their peers and with experts in a discussion on N&N, with a particular attention given to the nano dilemmas, especially those related to health and enhancement (which are closely related in young people's perception) and environment.

Young people understand the impact science has on our lives. They seem to be aware of the risks and benefits associated to N&N and they are willing to engage first-hand with science either by using the tools made available (the Nanokit, the web contest) or by conducting further research.

The videos and the reports of the discussion groups show that participants paid great attention to the application of N&N that have a direct impact on the human body. Health is one of the most discussed issues in the groups and among the most represented in the videos.

The possibility that partners had to use some or all tools in their planned activities, guaranteed the production of a context-dependent communication strategy on N&N, a strategy that preserves and enriches cultural and local differences.

The target group of 8 to 12 year old young people was particularly difficult to reach via the web contest, whereas the Nanokit and the other activities in each science centre were more successful.

The web platform was a successful tool from which to launch the web contest. However, the possibility to engage with N&N products and experts in science centres/museums through the Nanokit and the Play Decide game encouraged young people to work on the creation and submission of videos: less significant, in comparison, was the role of social networks and peer-to-peer communication via the web. In light of the results obtained and the goals accomplished during the first and the second year of TIME FOR NANO, the web platform become stronger as a resource centre, attracting the wider community of N&N communicators and the general public. The second year of the contest and the new layout for the web platform achieved more in-depth promotion of the site. The role of social networks was enhanced but there is still room for improvement. In this direction goes also the proposal made by IDIS to adopt a special format during the Nanoday, that is, the possibility to run video workshops to assist participants in creating the videos for the contest without relying exclusively on teachers.

A close examination of the videos submitted to the online video contest demonstrates that creative engagement with N&N is clearly a new dimension of the TIME FOR NANO project which deserves close attention under evaluation. Being the most experimental part of the project as a whole, since the beginning it was clear that the web platform would present some challenges. However, those challenges have been promptly tackled by project partners in the second year of activities and, in particular, by those in charge of the web platform. In the second, all partners have contributed to implement and to improve the new release of the web platform and the section devoted to the contest.

Participants in the TIME FOR NANO project activities had the chance to acquire and use expressive communication skills to address N&N research (scientific content as well as social and ethical issues related to nanotechnologies). Participants learnt to use the communication skills of video making, dialogue and hands-on practice with the Nanokit objects and activities.

An important result coming from the videos submitted to the contest is the inventiveness and the collaborative spirit of young people's video productions. Participants very often worked together with their peers (classmates in most cases) in order to make the video. Even when credited to only one person, therefore, the videos submitted by young people show the collaborative nature of their enterprise.

The evaluation shows evidence of having reached inclusiveness and fostered participation of diversified audiences. The tools of TIME FOR NANO allowed targeting different audiences even beyond those outlined in the original project. The web community is still under-represented and is an objective that the consortium will be concentrating in the future activities. By 'inclusion' we mean here ensuring that communities such as disabled children, young people living in suburbs and 'difficult' areas were involved in the web contest and in the Nanoday activities. So, these interesting results indicate that it is possible to reach a wide range of young population. Some videos, for example, were made thanks to the participation of peripheral or disadvantaged communities (i.e. in Italy, Portugal and Turkey).

For evaluators, the possibility to make use of visual materials such as the videos prepared by contest participants and the photographs or video excerpts made by partners during the Nanodays, is extremely helpful, although there are no shared guidelines for evaluating images (and their cognitive meaning) rather than words.

In the study carried out as part of TIME FOR NANO, Observa found that, generally speaking, there is a positive feeling towards N&N among young people. In particular, youngsters involved in the project underlined the relevance of N&N used in the domains of security and information. Most participants showed interest in the applications of nanotech and the desire to understand N&N better.

As for the negative perceptions of N&N, young people are particularly concerned about health issues, especially those related to the biomedical sector, privacy and the use of nano-robots. The project found that young people are relatively uninformed about N&N. Participants in the Nanodays highlighted uncertainties about the sector.

Thanks to TIME FOR NANO's practical activities, Observa saw that young people were able to recognise the ways in which N&N are closely related to everyday life. In many cases, participants maintain that N&N are useful. The young people were often surprised and had positive reactions to the more creative activities.

The project demonstrated novel ways of representing nanotechnologies to young people. The Nanokit and science centres' hands-on activities serve both as a useful source of information and an immediate and exciting practical experience. However, it also became clear that there is still work to be done in successfully communicating the complexities of N&N. Experiences offered are, at the moment, limited. Young people sometimes had difficulty understanding the process of N&N and often expressed concern about unpredictable effects in the sector.

The Nanokit and other activities proposed during the Nanodays are useful tools for teachers, taking into consideration that N&N rarely feature in the standard school curriculum, currently. From an ethical point of view, we understood from participants in the Nanodays that there is not a clear awareness about nano issues. There is also an increase in sceptical attitudes towards nanotechnologies.

The project's various activities have invited new questions from youngsters and this potentiality could be used in the future for preparing hands-on and instruments of information on N&N. The most engaging activities were also the most difficult to achieve. It is difficult to deal with ethical dilemmas and the safety demands of young people. But these are some of the greatest challenges for the future development of nanotechnology.

Conclusions on the online video contest

The TIME FOR NANO website provides the entry point to the second year web-based video contest which ran from January 2011 to June 2011 at the national level in nine countries. A total of 117 videos were posted at the time of the evaluation. As we shall see, the numbers are encouraging considered that the conception and implementation of the web platform took more time and effort than foreseen on the side of project partners. Despite the number of videos submitted to the contest which was not always high, with significant differences between countries, the web-based video contest demonstrated the importance of letting young people use a creative language to express their perceptions on N&N. It seems that in order to properly work, the web platform and the video contest need to be more strongly implemented within the Nanodays activities, partially because the topic of N&N is still new and its impact is not hugely present in societal debates, partially because school teachers often do not have the technical skills nor the time to assist young people in video making. The web contest, in summary, needs constant attention from each project partner.

Conclusions on the web platform

The web platform had a total of 729 active contacts from January 2010 to June 2011. The online quiz was a useful tool for getting quantitative and qualitative data from the web community.

Conclusions on the online video contest entries

Looking at the videos entered by contest participants, it becomes clear that N&N is perceived as a difficult topic to represent visually. Therefore in some cases, young people chose to speak in front of the camera through demonstrations of a Nano application, for instance some British students play the rule of scientists or reporters to describe what N&N are and how they work. The videos described above make use of objects present in the Nanokit, for instance the bucky ball or the magic sand, thus linking more explicitly the connection between the Nanokit and the web contest. By doing so, we can easily deduce that the students of those videos made use of the Nanokit either during a Nanoday or in their classroom. Therefore, videos can provide evidence of the use of the Nanokit and, even more, they can show the effective behalf of using the Nanokit as a tool to engage young people in N&N. Other participants preferred to use their imaginations to present nanotechnologies by means of fictional stories with puppets or cartoons. Thanks to young people's vivid imaginations, some videos use speech bubbles to tell a story and give characters a voice.

The majority of videos submitted to the contest contain a forward-looking perspective on nanotechnologies. In particular, some 'cartoon-like' videos represent N&N in a futuristic scenario in which nanotechnologies are able to solve problems. For example the video 'La centrale nucleare di Spingfileld' depicts a situation in which people eat special apples made by nano research to cure cancer. Other highly creative videos focus on fantasy scenarios in which a giant panda thinks about nanomedicine to became smaller and not be marginalised from other animals or a pirate who is able to get treasure by means of nanotechnologies.

In other cases, some videos, despite keeping a futuristic development, show the actual application of nanotechnologies more carefully, through a dichotomic view (paradise/evil) of the world with or without nanotechnologies.

Videos such as the one before mentioned that do not deal with any nanodilemmas give a more detailed account than others of the actual functioning of nanotechnologies and how they will make our lives more comfortable.

The majority of videos submitted to the contest show the N&N effects on the body and environment and discuss the impact of N&N research on everyday life. These are the most represented topics by young people. Issues of privacy, conversely, are less dealt with by contest participants. Within the category of videos dealing with N&N and the human body, we see that those videos either focus on pros and cons associated to nanomaterials and their unexpected risks for people, or they present viewers with an unproblematic, positive view of N&N.

The national participants of the video web contest were interviewed using the interview grid prepared in advance by Observa. Those interviewed are between 14 and 19 years old. These interviews let us know some challenges of the web contest, according to some participants.

In order to overcome the eventual technical difficulties related to the making of a video dealing with N&N, some partners organised specific workshops, sometimes collaborating with professionals and experts in video composition and editing, because school teachers often did not feel comfortable enough in handling the medium of video. Even so, the challenges highlighted by participants in the web contest were mainly related to technical aspects.

The latest update of the web platform, however, has probably ensured more online participation/feedback as well as ensuring the consistent number of videos submitted. This will guarantee the presence of a growing community of people interested in N&N and in the related benefits and risks, even after the end of the TIME FOR NANO project, a community that interacts not only during the Nanoday activities but also through the web platform.

Analysing young people's interviews, it seems that the opportunity to ask questions on N&N to teachers or explainers at a science centre is fundamental to make young people aware of N&N research and its impact. The web platform works well to provide contest participants with in-depth information on N&N. School plays a big role in stimulating interest in the topic of N&N. Nevertheless, a lot of information on N&N has been taken on students' own initiative, according to web contest participants.

Some of our proposals to increase the impact of the web-based video contest were implemented in the second edition. There was a better connection between schools and teachers and Nanoday activities and increased participation via the web platform (the role of social networks as Facebook should be improved). In this perspective, it will be important to plan future cooperation with non-scientific actors/institutions (for example science festivals) and students' training in video making.

Conclusions on the Nanodays

Between October 2010 and June 2011, science centres in nine different countries organised at least five Nanodays (for some more than five) during which the different products and activities of the TIME FOR NANO project were used (Nanokit, TIME FOR NANO web-based video contest, PlayDecide, conferences, discussion groups).

The general format of the Nanoday foresaw the use of products and the design of activities to communicate N&N to young people, stimulating their creative engagement on the topic. Most Nanodays entailed a moment of introduction to N&N research by means of a lecture or short presentations by experts, a moment of discussion and debate and a moment of creative engagement through the hands-on activities contained in the Nanokit which comprises also the PlayDecide game adapted for this project.

Pre- and post-questionnaires were distributed to a minimum of 50 students aged 14 to 19 during Nanodays by project partners. A total of 586 questionnaires were filled in by participants in the Nanodays. We consider in our analysis 530 valid participants to the Nanoday between 8 and 21 years old. Although the sample is not representative of the whole population of young Europeans, it can still be used in an explorative way to get a first insight on some young people's knowledge and attitudes towards nanotechnologies.

Before beginning the Nanoday, the majority of respondents state that they are interested in scientific issues (69.2%) or, more specifically, in the area of N&N research (16.9%). The majority of participants expect to learn something on N&N (34.0%) or on scientific research in general (31.9%).

Before the Nanoday, the majority of participants say they know a little about issues related to N&N (55.7%). The number of who say do not know anything about N&N participants has decreased, passing from 41.7% in 2010 to 27.5% in 2011. After the visit, the largest group states they have learnt something about N&N.

Before beginning the visit, half the participants tend to agree that science and technology can sort out any problem (49.6%), whereas 50.4 % tend to disagree. The majority of participants express trust in science and technology improving quality of life. Furthermore, 82% of participants agreed that issues of health and disease can expect to benefit most from nanotechnology, especially the diagnosis and treatment of spinal cord injuries, diabetes, heart disease and Parkinson's.

After taking part in the Nanoday, more than 80% agreed that they had learnt about the consequences of N&N on everyday life. These data show that there has been a significant learning output in terms of raising awareness about the implications of nanotechnology: the activities performed during the Nanoday allowed participants to learn more about N&N and its effects.

The activities at the science centre were shown to be successful for participants' awareness on N&N. After taking part in the Nanoday, having tried the activities/objects of the Nanokit, most students consider N&N technologies as a topic that is not too difficult to understand: only 8.6% agree that N&N is a subject too difficult for them to understand, while 43.7% rather disagree and 20.5% totally disagree.

Furthermore, 37.2% rather disagree and 27.8% totally disagree with the proposition that 'because N&N are invisible, scientists should focus on topics with more practical implications.' This confirms that the Nanoday had a cognitive impact on participants, despite the complexity of the topic treated and that N&N are perceived as a scientific area capable of having an impact on everyday life.

After the visit, more than half participants agree that the study of N&N will be finally able to solve the mystery of our origin (totally agree 20.3%, quite agree 39.5%). This shows not only a general optimistic attitude towards N&N research, but also show positive expectations and trust concerning nanotechnologies when it comes to stronger statements that depict futuristic scenarios like those aforementioned. As for the statement 'nanotechnologies are dangerous for mankind,' participants again feel confident on N&N about the future.

In relation to the interest raised by the experiments during the Nanoday, it needs to be highlighted that the majority of young people do not have the chance to use a scientific laboratory at school (45.7%) or if so only two or three times in the school year (15.1%). On the other hand, there is a reliable number of participants who affirm to have attended a scientific laboratory several times (33%).This trend increased significantly and it means that teachers chose to organise some labs or scientific activities even though nanotechnology is not on the school curriculum.

Visiting the science centre and taking part in the Nanoday motivated young people to visit the science centre's website (53.9%), to visit science centres or science museums (57.6%) and to get more interested in science lessons at school (60.8%). The visit seems to be less successful when it comes to motivating visitors to read materials about the science centre they visited (43.7%), to read materials about science centres (43.7%) and to read popular books/magazines on science (44.1%).

Almost half of visitors (48.2%) are motivated to discuss the impact of N&N studies on everyday life and are motivated to visit a scientific laboratory (50.6%). This means that there is a strong interest and curiosity on nanotechnology issues: Nanodays have increased awareness of nanotechnologies, as confirmed in the discussion groups' observations reported by each science centre.

Conclusions on the Nanokit

The Nanokit was designed and created for the project TIME FOR NANO in order to be used as a tool for the Nanodays and increase the involvement of young people in the online video contest. The PlayDecide game for TIME FOR NANO is also part of the Nanokit and has been created in two versions: Senior and Junior for young people and children, respectively. The Nanokit includes several hands-on activities that will introduce nanotechnologies and potential applications. All products/activities were tested by project partners before the Nanodays. These products are:

1. How tall are you in nanometres? How big is your hand in nanometres?
2. Dilution
3. Magnetic probe
4. Make your own buckyball
5. Ferrofluid
6. Magic sand
7. Hydrophobic textile
8. Anti fog
9. Memory metal.

The exit questionnaires shed light on how the Nanokit was a great source of information on N&N and engagement with this topic for those who took part in the Nanoday. More than 80% of participants found the visit pleasant and interesting. For some of the participants in the web contest, the Nanokit offered the chance to see and try first-hand some applications of N&N and to get inspired for their own creative practice.

However, more than 60% of participants (rather, or totally) disagree that the Nanokit inspired them to participate in the web contest. Participants to the Nanoday would have liked more experiments to help them better understand the scientific principles of N&N. During the visit, 39% asked the guide some questions, 22.5% asked the teachers some questions.

Conclusions on PlayDecide

In total, about 120 students were engaged in the PlayDecide game organised by each project partner. PlayDecide takes about 50 to 80 minutes to play. PlayDecide was useful for fostering discussion and debate around the impact of N&N and for discussing the nanodilemmas. However, the game was less successful for engaging some young people because of their lack of initial knowledge. The objects/activities proposed with the Nanokit were used by the majority of participants to the Nanoday.

On the whole, there was an agreement to refuse consent to use nanotechnology in order to allow people to live longer, while there was a positive attitude to extending nanotechnological materials concerning health cure for instance to destroy cancer cells. On the other hand, some participants stressed that many of the potential risks remain uninvestigated, due to a severe lack of knowledge about nanotechnology. This group rejected the medical applications of nanotechnology.

Participants in the game considered regulations on nanotechnology and took political positions during the game about government directives. Participants questioned the role of political guidelines as to whether and how we give people the choice to make use of nanotechnologies. These considerations also address related ethical issues: according to some students, the use of N&N will increase the gap between rich and poor in the world.

On the whole, interaction between participants took place in a positive atmosphere despite moments when some parts of the game were too difficult and the explainer had to interrupt play to clarify concepts. PlayDecide fosters interaction among participants as stated by the project partners' reports, especially when it comes to discussing content rather than knowledge. Thanks to PlayDecide, most students were fully engaged in the topic of nanotechnology and the constructive discussion produced a clear emotional engagement.

For players it is crucial to be more informed about the science of nanotechnology: it seems that people will be empowered and able to take positions and decisions only by acquiring knowledge on the topic. The socio-ethical dilemmas remain a motivating topic but cannot be easily solved by participants.

Conclusions from the discussion group

The evaluation tool used for the discussion group aimed at observing the way discussion and interaction among participants started, proceeded and ended. In total, 833 students were engaged in the discussion groups organised by each project partner.

The main areas of discussion were environment, health, privacy and human enhancements.

Overall, participants seemed impressed by the opportunity to find connection to their own everyday lives. They were keen to explore some of the complex social and ethical issues related to the practical innovations on N&Ns, with such questions as: what are the necessary compromises to adopt to save human lives? Or, what kind of nanoparticles can be used and who is responsible for regulation on this matter?

In several cases, the discussion and/or the activities ended in advance because of time limitations: the participants were very engaged throughout the discussion and were reluctant to end the talk at the planned time. They are likely to have continued to consider the issues after the debate.

Nanodilemmas are the hottest topics discussed and, in particular, the dilemmas related to environment, health, privacy and human enhancements, with a discussion relating to familiar cases. It must be noted that in some cases the most debated nanodilemma was the one that directly concerns one's own body (health nanodilemma), whereas in other cases it is the environment or security.

Young people are eager to get more information on N&N, as if only by being thoroughly informed they could express opinions and take positions. Sometimes, a lack of participation is not motivated by boredom or by disinterest, rather by the feeling of not being competent enough to lead a discussion on such challenging issues.

One of the recommendations put forth by project partners is that the discussion on the Nanodilemmas needs to be enriched by using additional informative materials on N&N and on the outcomes of nano applications. In this respect, additional materials have already been used by IDIS.

Conclusions on the multipliers' training

The aims of the training sessions were to provide trainees with a basic knowledge on nanoscale and applications; to introduce discussion on the dilemmas around N&N; to allocate resources for fostering debate among young people; to assist teachers willing to implement nano in their school curriculum.

With the data obtained from the survey, we provide feedback on this year's training sessions through the 252 questionnaires filled out by explainers and teachers. Below, we briefly summarise the main questions included in the questionnaires.

Most participants teach at upper level of secondary education (70.6%), while a few participants teach at lower level of secondary education (21.6%) and at primary school (7.7%). All kinds of activities proposed at science centres appear to have some effects on teachers' attitudes towards methodologies of teaching. Respondents were particularly satisfied with the use of the Nanokit: most teachers agree to a very large extent (40.3%) and to a large extent (36.1%) that the Nanokit activities have changed the teaching method in their science class.

The responses to the questionnaire show a general enthusiasm for using the Nanokit. Results indicate that most participants are willing to propose Nanokit object/activities at school or at science centres.

Despite the interest towards training sessions expressed by participants, data collected reveal that N&N still remains difficult to grasp because it is not present in the majority of school curricula: only just under 20% of respondents say they teach a nanotechnology subject as part of their science curriculum.

The training sessions play a crucial role in implementing N&N in school curricula by teachers and schools and in increasing interest in science and technology among students. Furthermore, the training sessions organised by each project partner secure a bottom-up approach to N&N, capable of fostering a continuing debate and exchange among the different stakeholders as recommended by the European Commission (EC).

Conclusions on nanotechnology and the perception of risk

As the intense debate about new technologies in Europe and elsewhere shows, the public has become increasingly wary of new technologies that could create new risks. Usually, citizens are not willing to accept some applications of new technologies without previous and thorough debate on their implications and potential risks. Although some of the earlier resistance has not appeared in the case of nanotechnology, there are some doubts regarding possible risks as shown in the figure below, based on the data collected during the evaluation phase. There are two opposite themes: utility perceived and control power. In the figure below, we see that if the perceived utility and the level of control decrease, the risk perception increases.

'Silver' actions

The Nanodays implemented by the project were diverse in their formats. The activities ranged from week-long festivals to thematic days; from nano picnics to nano experiments in shopping centres. The way the project was structured positively encouraged this diversity, allowing project partners to use their existing expertise in adapting activities to their public, while simultaneously giving them the chance to make the most of the existing best practice within the consortium and try out new activities.

This was achieved by maximising the opportunities for partners to document their Nanoday events and share their experiences with the consortium. Certain partners had very specialised areas of expertise which were particularly valuable to the group - for example, Ciência Viva have a strong focus on accessibility and as such were able to share ideas with the group on how to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities.

As a result, many partners had a lot of success with new and innovative activities that they tried out. Warsaw University, for example, made the most of the Nanodays in order to foster an intense collaboration with their local science museum, Copernicus Science Centre. They carried out activities in shopping centres, invited young children into the university for Nanoday activities and were involved in a Polish TV programme on nanotechnology, with great success. In Grenoble the CCSTI made a national partnership with other nanotech research centres across Toulouse, Grenoble and Paris, coorganising training sessions, creating café scientifiques in schools with philosophers and the Nanokit was a very popular tool with the other members of the partnership.

The project therefore does not provide a fixed model for future Nanoday events to be organised. On the contrary - the project points to the fact that this type of event should remain organic and open, adapting itself to the context and expertise of the organisers, while maximising collaboration and cooperation among local networks.

The multipliers' training was the key to ensuring the project's lasting impact. These training courses shared best practice in public engagement activities on the topic of nanotechnology and nanosciences. They ensured that teachers and science communication professionals knew how to work with the Nanokit itself, but more importantly how to address controversial ethical, legal and social aspects like the five nanodilemmas.

The result is a European network of nano communicators, in contact with each other both on a local level and a European level. The multiplying effect of this type of activity is difficult to measure, since by its nature it fosters the development of collaboration between professionals in an organic and spontaneous way. What is certain is that each of these professionals will come into contact with many hundreds of young people, using the expertise from the training course to engage them in nanotechnology and nanosciences.

'Gold' actions

The Nanokit was clearly one of the project's great successes. The feedback on the kit, from project partners, from users of the kit, from teachers and other professionals being trained and from the young people taking part in the Nanokit was virtually universal acclaim for the quality and innovative nature of the kit. Many more Nanokits were requested than it was possible to produce within the limitations of the project; a testimony to the usefulness of this tool.

It was apparent from this feedback that the kit allowed schools to conduct experiments which would not otherwise have been possible and as such served as a good incentive for schools to engage with the topic. Each kit acted as a stimulus - upon receiving a kit, the teachers felt committed and engaged in the project. This sense of commitment led to schools collaborating more closely with the school's local science centre. In this way, the Nanokit as an object fostered long-term collaboration and strengthened local networks.

The online video contest was an innovative and creative means by which to engage young people in nanotechnology and nanosciences. The impact of the video contest is felt not just in the significant number of entries into the contest Europewide, but also in the numbers of views the videos have received on YouTube and in the positive feedback the contest received from schools and young people.

The consortium rose to the challenge of how to engage young people in the contest. The choice to focus on five key areas, or 'nanodilemmas', ensured that young people engaged directly with five topics which are particularly relevant to their daily lives and which raise interesting ethical, legal and social questions. In the second year, the decision to use video interviews with nano researchers allowed young people to put a face to nanoscience and nanotechnology and to go into greater depth with each of the five issues. For many of the science centres and museums involved in the project, video production was a new medium with which to engage young people. BridA worked closely with project partners on the video production and the result was therefore a new skillset for science communication professionals. Collaboration with an artistic collective like BridA imbued the public engagement activity with a creative edge which can only be achieved with this type of close cooperation. Many of the science museums made links with local artists and filmmakers in order to feed into the video contest. In schools, the contest even encouraged collaboration between art teachers and science teachers. In museums, it gave education staff a chance to think differently about how they develop their activities.

The result of the video contest is not just the deep engagement and dialogue that took place during the project. This WP has also produced a set of resources that can be used by educators and science communicators on the long term. The videos produced by BridA are of a particularly high quality and serve as excellent, thought-provoking catalysts with which to engage young people in N&N. And many of the competition entries are of an extremely high quality as well, often humorous, or touching on social fears, showing the imagination and creativity that the topic of nanotechnology can inspire in young people.

Recommendations

As part of the Evaluation WP, TIME FOR NANO identified the following four key recommendations for engaging young people on nanotechnologies:

1. there is an urgent need to engage young people on the ethical, legal and social aspects of N&N. We must train or recruit study support personnel with sensitivity to prudence, precaution and system of application. There is a particularly compelling need regarding issues of energy and environment, in particular.
2. it is important to show the practical uses of nano innovations: water, surgical devices, textiles and cosmetics, for example. The public must be reassured on medical applications of N&N, in particular.
3. the communication of N&N needs new 'languages' with which to engage the public: media, arts and games, expecially when the target is young people. The nanotechnology sector should be proactive in collecting suggestions for nanotech development from the public.
4. there is a need for more popular experiments on nanotech, in order to strengthen connections with schools and the development of public engagement activities, exhibitions and other products. There is a compelling need for public debate on particular case studies. The role of media is essential in order to define the agenda about nanotech innovations.

List of Websites:

Name of the scientific representative of the project's coordinator, title and organisation:

Alessandra Drioli, Art and Science Programs, Fondazione IDIS-Città della Scienza, Naples, Italy

Telephone: +39-081-7352268

Fax: +39-081-7352267

E-mail: drioli@cittadellascienza.it

Project website address: http://www.timefornano.eu

Verwandte Dokumente