A Policy Framework for Developing a National Nanotechnology Program


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Virginia Tech


Molecular nanotechnology has matured in the last thirty-nine years from the germ of an idea by a Nobel Laureate physicist to a rapidly growing international research site with more than $1 billion dollars in annual investment. Although only recently accepted as "mainstream" by the R&D community, nanotechnology research is now populated by eminent researchers in such fields as physics, chemistry, molecular biology, and computer science. Refereed journal articles appear with increasing frequency.

The National Academy of Sciences, the RAND Corporation, the Department of Defense, and the National Science Foundation have recently issued reports calling for more structure and organization in nanotechnology research to improve synergy and research efficiency. Others insist that centralization would restrict independent approaches, one of which might be the best path to follow. This thesis addresses the following issues for the emerging field of molecular nanotechnology:

• The field is extensive, growing, and in need of policy review. • The parties responsible for strategic science and technology policy in the United States as well as the current infrastructure for R&D funding are identified. • External evaluators have appraised our current policy and found it lacking in some key respects. • There are substantive issues that might be considered by American policymakers in assessing nanotechnology policy strategies. • We need to find a way to reconcile the sometimes conflicting aims of peer review and interdisciplinarity. • A workable framework for a national nanotechnology program is identified.



Science and Technology Policy, Molecular Nanotechnology