I got a notice from the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) the other day about an upcoming (US) President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) event, which will take place tomorrow, June 22.2010 (7 am to 11:30 am PST). Full details,
New technologies are changing our world fast, as is obvious to anyone using the latest smart phone, wearing the latest nano-fiber fabric, or filling a prescription for the latest biotech-derived medicine. Now the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) wants to hear from you about how the Federal government can best use its resources so three of the newest and most promising technologies provide the greatest economic benefits to society.
This information-gathering process is being coordinated by the President’s Innovation and Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC), part of the PCAST. Through PCAST, PITAC advises the President on matters involving science, technology, and innovation policy. As part of its advisory activities, PITAC is soliciting information and ideas from stakeholders–including the research community, the private sector, universities, national laboratories, State and local governments, foundations, and nonprofit organizations–regarding a technological congruence that we have been calling the “Golden Triangle.”
Each side of the Golden Triangle represents one of three areas of research that together are transforming the technology landscape today: information technology, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. Information technology (IT) encompasses all technologies used to create, exchange, store, mine, analyze, and evaluate data in its multiple forms. Biotechnology uses the basic components of life (such as cells and DNA) to create new products and new manufacturing methods. Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating and characterizing matter at the atomic and molecular levels. Each of these research fields has the potential to enable a wealth of innovative advances in medicine, energy production, national security, agriculture, aerospace, manufacturing, and sustainable environments–advances that can in turn help create jobs, increase the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), and enhance quality of life. In combination, through what some have called the nano-bio-info convergence, the potential for these fields to transform society is even greater.
PITAC is interested in gaining a better understanding of how the Federal government can enhance this potential, and would like to gather public information and input as to how to best do so. It is posing the following question:
What are the critical infrastructures that only government can help provide that are needed to enable creation of new biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information technology products and innovations that will lead to new jobs and greater GDP?
We’d like to hear your thoughts regarding unique opportunities at the intersections of these fields; where the basic research is taking us and what knowledge gaps remain; impediments to commercialization and broad use of these technologies; infrastructure required to properly test, prototype, scale, and manufacture breakthrough technologies; where the Federal government should invest and focus; and what Federal policies or programs relating to these technologies are in need of review and whether new programs or policies may be needed in light of recent and anticipated advances in these fields.
There are two ways you can share your thoughts on this topic. First, you can go to the OpenPCAST website, where you can contribute your ideas on this and a few related questions. Second, you can be part of a live Webcast discussion scheduled to take place on Tuesday, June 22 from 10 am to 2:30 pm. You can watch the Webcast on the PCAST website and submit your comments via Facebook or Twitter. See the PCAST site for more details.
The information we gather from these activities will guide PCAST/PITAC as we recommend policies and programs relevant to the Golden Triangle of technologies, and as we continue our work to propose ways to implement the President’s “Strategy for American Innovation.” It will also help us identify studies that might be conducted as part of PCAST/PITAC’s “Creating New Jobs through Science, Technology, and Innovation” initiative.
Dexter Johnson an Nanoclast casts a jaundiced eye on these proceedings with his June 21 2010 posting,
What is odd about this [PCAST event] is that applications for nanotechnology that deliver the greatest economic benefit are not going to be determined by call-in votes like some kind of twist on “American Idol”. They will result from a need being addressed in the marketplace by a company that has found a way to deliver it in a way that provides them with a profit.
Point well made and I do have to confess to my own cynicism with regard to some of the public engagement efforts. Nonetheless, theoretically you could say the marketplace is like American Idol but in that case people vote with their dollars. Also like American Idol, the best singer/product/technology doesn’t necessarily win the popular vote.