Societal evaluation of new technologies, specifically nanotechnology and genetically engineered organisms (GEOs), challenges current practices of governance and science. Employing environmental risk assessment (ERA) for governance and oversight assumes we have a reasonable ability to understand consequences and predict adverse effects. However, traditional ERA has come under considerable criticism for its many shortcomings and current governance institutions have demonstrated limitations in transparency, public input, and capacity. Problem Formulation and Options Assessment (PFOA) is a methodology founded on three key concepts in risk assessment (science-based consideration, deliberation, and multi-criteria analysis) and three in governance (participation, transparency, and accountability). Developed through a series of international workshops, the PFOA process emphasizes engagement with stakeholders in iterative stages, from identification of the problem(s) through comparison of multiple technology solutions that could be used in the future with their relative benefits, harms, and risk. It provides "upstream public engagement" in a deliberation informed by science that identifies values for improved decision making.