Today, a Request for Information published in the Federal Register asks for input to assist the Federal government in the development of the 2010 Strategic Plan for the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). The NNI is a U.S. Government research and development (R&D) program of 25 agencies working together toward the common vision of a future in which the ability to understand and control matter at the nanoscale leads to a revolution in technology and industry that benefits society. The combined, coordinated efforts of these agencies have accelerated discovery, development, and deployment of nanotechnology to help meet the grand challenges now facing the Nation and the world. Established in 2001, the NNI involves nanotechnology-related activities by the 25 member agencies, 15 of which have budgets for nanotechnology R&D for 2011. The proposed NNI budget for Fiscal Year 2011 is $1.76 billion, bringing the cumulative investment since the inception of the NNI in 2001 to nearly $14 billion.
For those not familiar with the field, nanotechnology is the understanding and control of matter at dimensions between approximately 1 and 100 nanometers. (A sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick; a single gold atom is about a third of a nanometer in diameter. ) At that scale, matter behaves in unique ways—exhibiting, for example, unusual biological, electrical or optical properties that enable a range of novel applications. Working at the nanoscale, scientists today are creating new tools, products, and technologies to develop, for example:
At the same time, the novel properties of nanoscale materials that are so attractive for some applications may pose novel risks. Thus it is important that research agendas appropriately address environmental, health, and safety concerns.
Agencies participating in the NNI are working collectively toward the following four goals, which are identified in the NNI 2007 Strategic Plan:
The RFI published today refers to these goals as a starting point for questions covering themes such as research priorities, investment, coordination, partnerships, evaluation, and policy. OSTP welcomes your ideas and invites your help prioritizing important issues in order to improve the NNI 2010 Strategic Plan. Please submit your RFI responses to NNIStrategy@ostp.gov by 11:59 p.m. on August 15. Submissions prior to the July 13-14, 2010 “NNI Strategic Plan Stakeholder Workshop” may also inform dialogues at that event. Visit the workshop website to learn more details and to register to view the webcast.
Heather Evans is a AAAS Fellow and Policy Analyst at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Travis Earles is Assistant Director for Nanotechnology at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy