We need a really tiny plan
The U.S. House of Representatives has a bill under consideration to create an advisory panel to create an investment strategy for nanotechnology. Sponsored by Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), the bill would require the creation of short-, medium, and long-term plans.
The IEEE Times reports: "The federal government's nanotechnology strategy must have clear goals and metrics to assess our country's progress," said Honda, whose district includes San Jose, Calif.
Honda's press release says: The National Research Council recently assessed the effectiveness of NNI and issued a report titled Small Wonders, Endless Frontiers: An Assessment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The report concluded that with the current structure of the NNI there is "no advice from the outside" or straightforward way "to seek opinions from the community at-large," and that there is considerable need for an overarching strategic plan. This legislation would create an advisory board of experts who would help articulate short-term (1-5 years), medium-range (6-10 years), and long-range (10+ years) goals and objectives and establish performance metrics. The board would also submit an annual report to the President and Congress regarding nanotechnology progress, and a review on funding levels for nanotechnology activities for each federal agency.
"It will take many years of sustained federal investment for the nanotechnology industry to achieve maturity, and it is critical that the President has structures in place to ensure that the U.S. leads the world in its development," said Rep. Honda.
It's a good thing that the government is trying to think through the path to establishing a nanotechnology industry, but it also sounds like it could become a rathole down which the industry could go in a race to get funding. Think National Superconducing Supercollider, which ended up choking on the the money it had before the suppy was cut off because it was "behind schedule and over-budget." Sure it was, because nothing like it had been built before -- the whole point is that progress cannot be dictated in situations like the evolution of nanotech.
If the plans are for goals that will be rewarded rather than specific steps that need to be taken, it is a good idea. But we should not expect a committee to succeed at setting out a plan that must be followed, because no one knows how the industry will actually take shape.Posted by Mitch Ratcliffe at October 21, 2002 07:04 AM | TrackBack