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Stimulating Upstream Engagement: An Experimental Study of Nanotechnology Information Seeking


  • Michael A. Xenos will provide all data and coding information to anyone wishing to replicate this study. This material is based on work supported by grants from the National Science Foundation to the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University (Grant SES-0531194) and the UW–Madison Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center in Templated Synthesis and Assembly at the Nanoscale (Grant SES-DMR-0832760). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Direct correspondence to Michael A. Xenos, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin–Madison, 6152 Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave., Madison, WI 53706 〈〉.



The current study examines upstream engagement initiatives using the issue of nanotechnology as a case study.


A series of logistic and OLS regression analyses explore data from a laboratory experiment on information-seeking behavior, knowledge, and willingness to engage with the issue of nanotechnology in the future.


Our results fail to offer evidence of positive relationships between anticipated discussion and learning and the willingness to engage with the issue of nanotechnology in the future. In addition, our results show that anticipated discussion with opposing others actually encourages individuals to seek out an editorial or opinion piece first as opposed to a news item.


Our findings point toward important variations in the kinds of information-seeking behaviors likely to emerge from different conditions under which individuals may be motivated to learn more about emerging science issues, and provide practical insights into which kinds of information-seeking behaviors are most conducive to knowledge gain and issue engagement.