Thursday, 6 September 2012

Nanoeducation 3.0

When the standard answer to this common question would become "what I want to be when I grow up? An astronaut? No! I want to be a nanoscientist. This is more cool!", then, on that day, much of what I proposed in this article already materialized.


Following the alignment of my article "The Roots of Nano-Fear Decoded", I have pointed briefly which are the main roots of nano-fear (or at least some of them). Some of them have already been addressed in subsequent articles published by me in NanoMedRev Blog:

Therefore, as I referred above, this article is dedicated to nanoeducation. I'll try to make here a brief diagnosis of the current state of nanoeducation, identify what is right and what needs improvement and propose solutions.


Only with the aim of illustrate how the world in general perceives what is nanoeducation, I present here a definition or description of 
Nanotechnology education.

Nanoeducation 1.0

Nanoeducation started to be something very close to the definition or description I presented above. 
It is common practice perceiving nanoeducation as a set of academic  programmes (e.g. courses, degrees, masters, PhDs, post docs, e-learning programmes, summer schools) oriented to nanoscientists or scientists and engineers from various fields of science and technology who are interested in advancing their personal career and to enrich their personal curriculum vitae for future professional challenges. Generally, these academic programmes aim to provide the most complete and reliable information on current developments in nanoscience and nanotechnology.

This is in fact nanoeducation. More precisely, this is just a tiny part of education (according to my personal opinion, I might add).

The definition or description of Nanotechnology education I presented illustrates my point.

This concept of nanoeducation is what I denominate "Nanoeducation 1.0".

Nanoeducation 2.0

Having been established what I termed "Nanoeducation 1.0", some organizations have begun to make additional serious efforts towards diversification, coverage of a wider range of target audiences and to go further.

In the meantime, the academic programmes (as I referred in Nanoeducation 1.0) multiplied, grew in quality, specificity and degree of specialization. Today we have a wide range of very good offers in the field of academic programmes, many of them with a level of excellence. Target audiences: nanoscientists or scientists and engineers from various fields of science and technology who are interested in developing their personal career, improving this way their personal curriculum vitae to become suitable for future professional challenges.

Therefore, nanoe
ducation moved up a level: it moved up from what I termed "Nanoeducation 1.0" to what I call "Nanoeducation 2.0"nanoeducation programmes more mature, complemented by initiatives and actions aiming diversification (coverage of a wider range of target audiences).

Follow some examples (among many):
  • Organization of open days (for society), promoted by Universities and research institutions. Public in general and children, adolescents and young students from schools that organize study visits have opportunity to interact directly with nanoscientists and actively participate in simple and didactic experiments, handle some equipment, etc. Target audiences:
      • General public;
      • Pre-teens;
      • Teens;
      • Youth;
  • Promotion of other programmes (not academic), initiatives and activities aiming to reach other segments of target audiences. Examples: partnerships with science museums and schools. Target audiences:
      • Citizens who visit science museums;
      • Children, adolescents and young students from schools that organize study visits to science museums;
  • Setting up nanoeducation networks, working in a commitment to boost local partnerships between R&D and science education organizations in order to teach the general public, pre-teens, teens and youth about nanoscience, potential applications and impacts and additionally to get them to think about these subjects. Target audiences:
    • General public;
    • Pre-teens;
    • Teens;
    • Youth;
  • Organization of educational events dedicated to children, with the aim of familiarizing them with the basic principles of nanoscience and nanotechnology. As an example, during these events are presented to children basic concepts and made available to them buckyball toys, Lego® bricks to build models of nanosized structures, etc. target audience: children;
  • Creation of portals in the World Wide Web and other web platforms (e.g. social networks) with the aim of releases, on an educational context, the basic concepts of nanoscience and nanotechnology and some important aspects, such as the various applications, benefits and risks. Target audiences (note: these target audiences depend strongly on the Search Engine Optimization and/or the management of the presence in social networks):
    • General public;
    • Public who is enthusiastic in matters of science and technology;

In my personal opinion and according to the concepts that I presented and will present in this article, the current nanoeducation is on the level of what I call Nanoeducation 2.0.

Nanoeducation 3.0

Nanoeducation 3.0 is a concept that I propose here. In other words, Nanoeducation 3.0 is a model of reinvention of nanoeducation proposed here.

Nanoeducation reinvented.

Really? And why nanoeducation needs to be reinvented?

Because nanoeducation has been undervalued. I would say highly undervalued. Today the perception of nanoeducation is wrong, distorted, disjointed and dysfunctional.

Despite the academic programs of high quality available all over the world (nanoeducation 1.0 and nanoeducation 2.0), despite the highly meritorious and professional efforts to diversify and reach other target audiences (Nanoeducation 2.0), there is still much to do and much target audience to reach.

As I pointed in my article "The Roots of Nano-Fear Decoded", finally, what we have now?
  1. We have on the one hand, a remarkable progress in nanoscience and nanotechnology, which has been welcome, or at least reasonably recognized by the scientific community, industry and other players;
  2. On the other hand, we have citizens who adopt an attitude of distrust, suspicion, scepticism and fear, in the face of communication of advances in nanoscience and nanotechnology;
  3. And we also have a third group of individuals who have not yet formed a consolidated opinion.

The second and third groups are highly diversified in terms of target audiences. The third group includes individuals who never heard absolutely nothing related to "nano".

These target audiences are as diverse as one can imagine or even more:
  • Different age groups:
    • Pre-adolescent;
    • Adolescent;
    • Young people;
    • Adults;
    • Aged people;
  • Different types of professions (or unemployment), such as (just to mention a few):
    • Regulators;
    • Professionals in the field of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology transfer;
    • Patent attorneys;
    • Lawyers and jurists;
    • Stakeholders and investors;
    • Financial managers, economists, key account managers, accountants;
    • Environmentalists;
    • Psychologists and psychoanalysts;
    • Geographers;
    • Meteorologists;
    • Historians;
    • Translators;
    • Writers; novelists; poets;
    • Journalists; communication professionals and media professionals in general;
    • Professional athletes;
    • Military professionals; police professionals; security professionals;
    • Politicians;
  • Different positions in the hierarchy of leadership within organizations, such as (just to mention a few):
    • Top managers;
    • Chiefs interim;
    • Staff;
  • Different types of unemployed individuals:
    • Short term, medium-term; long-term  unemployed individuals and unemployed individuals with early retirement;
    • Young, adult and older unemployed individuals;
    • Unemployed individuals without responsibilities of sustenance of their Family; unemployed individuals with responsibilities of sustenance of their Family;
    • Unemployed individuals with large financial resources;  unemployed individuals living in extreme poverty;
    • Unemployed individuals with academic education; unemployed individuals without academic education;
    • Unemployed individuals living in rich countries, unemployed individuals living in poor countries;
    • Unemployed individuals living in countries in peace; unemployed individuals living in countries at war;
  • Different academic backgrounds;
  • Different levels of literacy (high, medium and low level of literacy);
  • Different permeabilities of the tabloid press of dubious quality;
  • Different cultures and religions;
  • Different countries (each with their own realities that distinguish them from others).

Nanoeducation must also be perceived as a vehicle to communicate with the entire world. It is necessary to take the entire world as the biggest audience and divide it in several segments, sub-segments and niches of target-audiences.

There is an urgent need of implementing several nanoeducation programmes, each customized to a specific target audience (just a few examples described above), using the right and appropriate language to each target audience.

It is required an entire apparel of communication operating according with the following guidelines:
  • Communication must be absolutely transparent. Hiding sensitive topics purposely never worked. The same way it will not result in nanoeducation: always the truth, transparency and credibility;
  • Different target audiences must meet different and appropriate (a) approaches, (b) different ​​and appropriate contextual languages and (c) different and appropriate educational content. However, in all or in most cases, the benefits and risks must always be addressed. In all cases the truth and transparency ​​must be considered sacred values;
  • Communication must be organized by countries. For countries with a diverse culture, it must be organized by regions and sub-regions within the same country. Particular care should be taken regarding:
    • The local dialects;
    • Religious values;
  • The local infrastructure and should be prepared in accordance with the auxiliary means of communication and educational to be used.

Since these target audiences are scattered all over the world, the cultural and language barriers (among many other barriers) are a fact. Therefore, trainers/educators must include the following features on their profile:
  • Must be local professionals;
  • Must be accredited professionals
  • Must speak the right and proper approach directed to the target audience;
  • Must speak the same local idiom/language;
  • Must use presentation methods and auxiliary educational tools (slide shares, videos, electronic guides, printed guides, books, brochures, etc.) correctly translated into the idiom/language spoken locally;
  • Must be prepared for the most unexpected questions that may arise and know how to respond properly, in a transparent, honest and credible way.

Nanoeducation 3.0 Concept versus Reinventing Nanoeducation

At this point it is important to highlight the following. I defend (as well as I can) the reinvention of nanoeducation according to a model that I propose (in this case, what I call Nanoeducation 3.0). Below, I present benefits of the adoption of my concept, followed by risks inherent to the not adoption my concept. However, if the reinvention of nanoeducation is implemented, not following my concept, but somehow close to it (even if the designation and some aspects are ignored or modified), the result is very positive for me. What I really consider important is the (good) reinvention on nanoeducation. It is that all that matters.

The Benefits of Implementing The Nanoeducation 3.0 Concept

Nanoeducation should never ever be undervalued. Neither the concept of Nanoeducation 3.0 should ever be underestimated.

The benefits of a Nanoeducation 3.0, as I propose here, with a level of excellence as a whole and its various parts are immense, vast, broad and crucial:

  • The Nanoeducation 3.0 concept will fill a wide range of gaps in the framework of the entire nanotechnology and its acceptance in society;
  • The Nanoeducation 3.0 concept will play a complementary role that is tremendously important. This complementary role is tremendously important to help establishing and consolidating a balance of harmony so necessary within the framework of various aspects of nanotechnology: R&D, nanoregulation, risk assessment, risk management, implementation a culture and mindset of best practices, the combat and prevention of nanopollution and nanotoxicity;
  • And finally, I have kept to the end what I personally consider the greatest benefit of implementing the Nanoeducation 3.0 concept: the Great Spiral of Sustainability. The Great Spiral of Sustainability will be strengthened tremendously and gain greater momentum. Many steps, initiatives and actions have been put into practice with regard to nanoeducation, improving it, its strengthening, increasing the offer (both in quality and quantity), increasing the range of new and more diversified target audiences. This is an undeniable fact. But ... much more is needed. There is still much hard work to be done. And this is also an irrefutable fact. There is here a highly important aspect that I consider never be too much to highlight. As I explained in my articles "A World Without Nanotoxicity" and "Fighting & Preventing Nanopollution", there is a whole vast and diversified chain of players, individuals and organizations related to nanoscience, nanotechnology, nanomedicine, life science, physics, chemistry - just to name a few - and science in general. I don’t mean the academia, the industry and the scientific community only. It is a complex and intricate chain of players. The implementation of a culture of best practice has already been triggered in some link somewhere within this complex and intricate chain of players, individuals and organizations. I have already observed this several times. It is extremely important that this culture of best practices (who still lives in his childhood) is strategically maintained and enhanced in order to have a strong impact on our society. Once this culture of best practices earns social impact, it will generate a kind of chain reaction along the entire whole, vast and diversified chain of actors, individuals and organizations. This chain reaction will generate a highly positive effect that will gradually increase awareness in all subjects and actors in this chain. In the case of this concept of nanoeducation 3.0. is implemented sometime in the future (and I admit the possibility of being in the near future), this concept will mix throughout the referred chain reaction. We will see players competing against each other to see who implements the "best of the best practices" even at level of nanoeducation. This unstoppable and dynamic competition will be and highly beneficial to strengthen and implement a range of best practices, ranging from nanoeducation reinvented to an effective combat and prevention of nanopollution and nanotoxicity. Our civilization will benefit greatly from this great spiral of sustainability.

The benefits of implementing the concept of Nanoeducation 3.0 seem to be below the expectations? Well, wait till you read the risks of not implementing this concept.

The Risks of Not Implemen
ting The Nanoeducation 3.0 Concept

In my opinion, however, this is far from happening. A world population with a wrong, distorted or dysfunctional perception of nanotechnology and of the benefits and risks that nanotechnology can bring to our society (in the present, in the near future and in the medium and long term) may simply result in the decline of the entire nanotechnology.

If nanotechnology declines, the consequence is simply a disaster. Just a sample (negligibly small) of elucidative examples:
  • No truly effective solutions to water desalination, and as a consequence, to obtain purified drinking water available at a cheap price for the entire world population;
  • No significant progress in medical, biomedical, pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical sciences;
  • No truly effective solutions for obtaining clean energy sources, environmentally friendly, renewable, available at cheap prices for the entire world population (the world will remain dependent on fossil fuels with all the consequences that we know);
  • Decline in the fight to improve the environment of our planet (decline of environmental remediation applications);
  • No quantum computing and the immense and diversified solutions it can provide to our world as we know it;
  • Decline of big data management;
  • Decline of the mobile communications industry;
  • Decline of the semiconductors and semiconductor devices industry;
  • Decline of the electronics industry;
  • Decline of the displays industry;
  • Decline of the aerospace industry;
  • Decline of the automotive industry;
  • Decline of transportation applications;
  • Decline of the steel industry;
  • Decline of the glass industry;
  • Decline of the coatings industry;
  • Decline of the construction industry;
  • Decline of the disinfectants industry;
  • Decline of security industry;
  • Decline of fire protection and detection;
  • Decline of household appliances;
  • Decline of printing industry;
  • End of intelligent and functional clothing.

The crisis the world is currently experiencing will be nothing when compared to the crisis caused by a decline of nanotechnology (if it happens).

Final Comments

In case of this concept or something similar became implemented, what indicators do the experts have available to monitor the ongoing process of implementation? Well, there are many metrics.

However, there will be a qualitative signal that tells everything or at least almost everything.

It is common to ask pre-teens something like "What would you like to be when you grow up? An astronaut?"

When the standard answer to this common question would become "what I want to be when I grow up? An astronaut? No! I want to be a nanoscientist. This is more cool!", then, on that day, much of what I proposed in this article already materialized.

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