Nanotechnology? Synthetic Biology? Hey, What's That?

Date: September 30, 2008

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20004


Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies on

Nanotechnology and synthetic biology are two of the most exciting fields in science. They are the focus of venture capitalists, government and university laboratories, major corporations, and startup companies.

But how much have Americans heard about these two fields that promise to change virtually every aspect of their lives—from sources of energy, to drugs and health care, and even weapons? Does the public think the potential benefits of these emerging technologies will outweigh the possible risks?

These questions were part of a representative national telephone survey of adults conducted in August 2008. This latest poll repeats questions about nanotechnology asked in a similar survey carried out in 2007—which found that only 6 percent of Americans said they had “heard a lot” about nanotechnology despite the fact that the technology was incorporated into more than $147 billion in manufactured goods last year.

The poll also marks the first time Americans have been asked in a phone survey about synthetic biology. This is an emerging area of research that uses advanced science and engineering to make or redesign living organisms, such as bacteria, so that they can carry out specific functions.

Results from the poll—as well as from two complementary focus group discussions conducted among adult men and women about synthetic biology—will be released by the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies on Tuesday, September 30th at 12:30 p.m. at a program and live webcast at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Geoffrey Garin, president of Peter D. Hart Research Associates, which conducted the phone survey and focus groups, will present the findings.

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Results of Nanotechnology & Synthetic Biology Public Opinion Poll

Tuesday, September 30, 2008, 12:30 – 1:30 PM (Light lunch available at 12:00 noon)


  • Geoffrey Garin, President, Peter D. Hart Research Associates
  • Abigail Davenport, Vice President, Peter D. Hart Research Associates
  • David Rejeski, Director, Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

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Media planning to cover the event should contact Colin Finan at (202) 691‐4321 or at

Read the related press release Nanotech and Synbio: Americans Don’t Know What’s Coming on the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies Web site.

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