I thought I might use my first blog to to bounce a few ideas around on the UK government’s Nano Stakeholder Forum. It is a good idea which has gone off the boil a bit recently, but is still an important Forum for stakeholders to engage with government and is worth giving it the kiss of life. Below are some ideas on how it might evolve. Give us your comments below and I will send them on the DEFRA and DBIS.
The Nano Stakeholder Forum was invented as a Forum for stakeholders to help influencegovernment thinking on nano. Here’s the Terms of Reference.
But, to quote an email I got from an attendee at last week’s 13th Stakeholder Forum meeting,“by now one might expect things to be getting a bit stale but this meeting was not only stale it was positively moribund”!
The general feeling of inertia was compounded by IT disasters leaving many presenting without slides and the ‘live’ consultation on our Nano&me website presented from a mock up drawing, rigged up by Andrew Maynard, while everyone stood around drinking their very belated coffee!
As always the outside content was strong, a highlight for me was Prof Bob Lee from Cardiff BRASS presenting their excellent paper on Corporate Responsibility and Nano.
But it seemed to me to be a huge wasted opportunity not to get the input of 30 or so key stakeholders to the Nano Strategy. These were important and active stakeholders and could have made a significant contribution to its development. Some of these issues require nuanced debate and are not well served by input into their website. A golden opportunity to do what a stakeholder forum should do was missed.
Following that the government’s response to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution was given similar perfunctory treatment. Whilst I do recall now that I read when it was circulated by email in June, ( Read it again here) there is an accountability issue here to communicate with stakeholders about such an important response. Last stakeholder meeting it wasn’t ready, this was our first and only opportunity for the government to present this document and to elicit ‘live’ stakeholder feedback on its content.
So what’s to be done? “If the Forum is to maintain the confidence and respect of the stakeholder community it is essential that it recovers the seriousness and professionalism that it had in its earlier days.”
I agree with that statement from my email correspondent. Here are a few thoughts from me on what could be done. Let me know what you think below or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
This should be chaired either by Katy Berry representing the cross-departmental Ministerial Committee perspective or by an independent chair like the Chemical Stakeholder Forum.
Whilst this started as a DEFRA project, probably appropriately when it started in 2005, it may now be time to broaden it out. Perhaps it could have a more formal role to contribute to the deliberations of the Ministerial Group on nano, which meets every six months I understand. It could ask for our views on specific issues to help inform decision-making and we could raise issues where we think there may be important gaps or areas under-resourced. A popular one at the moment I know is how to do a better job at tech transfer and focus on commercialising nano products for societal benefit.
Perhaps there could be strategic themed areas identified where a short update is given each meeting, though one or more may be discussed in more depth? Eg Regulation and Governance, Research, Commercialisation and Societal Benefit, Responsible Development (eg safety, testing, csr), Public Involvement and International Cooperation?
The UK Strategy deliberation at the next meeting
The next meeting, for example, could be mostly devoted to an interim discussion of the UK strategy to help inform the final report. This will allow for a more rounded discussion and debate among stakeholders where different or conflicting views may usefully explored.
If that’s not possible for some reason, what about a debate on developing Nano for Societal Benefit? There was a report done on Nano for Environmental Benefit, but the debate is much broader than that. This also would help to feed into the strategy and into an area which has received little attention in recent times.
Do you agree or disagree with these ideas? Do you have any more?
Please add your comments and I will compile them and circulate them to DEFRA and DBIS.