Research and the 2010 Canadian federal budget; nanotechnology, hype, markets, and medicine; Visionaries in Banagalore; materials science and PBS offer a grant opportunity; To Think To Write To Publish for emerging science writers

It’s time for quiet appreciation as Rob Annan (Don’t leave Canada behind blog) points out in his breakdown of the 2010 Canadian federal budget’s allocation for research.  From the posting (Budget 2010 – A Qualified Success),

Last year’s cuts to the research granting councils, though relatively small, were magnified by their inclusion in a so-called “stimulus budget” full of spending increases in other areas.

This year, the opposite is true. Funding increases, though relatively small, are made more significant by the context of spending restraint evidenced elsewhere in the budget.

Rob goes through the budget allocations for each of the research funding agencies and provides a comparison with previous funding amounts. As he points out, it’s not time to pop the champagne corks as this is a modest success albeit at a time when many were expecting deep cuts. One comment from me, this increase is not a good reason to get complacent and run back to the research facilities effectively disappearing from the public discourse. After all, there’s another budget next year.

Pallab Chatterjee of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) recently made some comments (on EDN [Electronics Design, Strategy, News] about nanotechnology and commercialization focusing (somewhat) on nanomedicine. It caught my eye because Andrew Maynard (2020 Science blog) has written a piece on cancer and nanomedicine which poses some questions about nanomedicine hype. First, the comments from Chatterjee,

The Nanosys announcement heralds the arrival of nanotechnology products from other companies that will soon be entering the market and shows that the typical eight- to 10-year gestation period for breakthrough technologies to reach commercialization is now reaching an end. For example, nanomedicine is now emerging as a major topic of investigation. To help solidify the topics in this area and to determine the best direction for commercialization, the ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) held the First Global Congress on NEMB (nanoengineering for medicine and biology), a three-day event that took place last month in Houston.

As nanomedicine products hit the commercial marketplace, you can expect hype. According to Andrew (Nanotechnology and cancer treatment: Do we need a reality check?), government agencies have already been on a ‘hype’ trail of sorts (from 2020 Science),

Cancer treatment has been a poster-child for nanotechnology for almost as long as I’ve been involved with the field. As far back as in 1999, a brochure on nanotechnology published by the US government described future “synthetic anti-body-like nanoscale drugs or devices that might seek out and destroy malignant cells wherever they might be in the body.” Over the intervening decade, nanotechnology has become a cornerstone of the National Cancer Institute’s fight against cancer, and has featured prominently in the US government’s support for nanotechnology research and development.

Andrew goes on to quote various experts in the field discussing what they believe can be accomplished. These comments are hopeful and measured and stand in stark contrast to what I imagine will occur once nanomedicine products seriously enter the marketplace. Take for example, Michael Berger’s (Nanowerk) comments about the wildly overhyped nanotechnology market valuations. From Berger’s 2007 article (Debunking the trillion dollar nanotechnology market size hype),

There seems to be an arms race going on among nanotechnology investment and consulting firms as to who can come up with the highest figure for the size of the “nanotechnology market”. The current record stands at $2.95 trillion by 2015. The granddaddy of the trillion-dollar forecasts of course is the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) “$1 trillion by 2015”, which inevitably gets quoted in many articles, business plans and funding applications.

The problem with these forecasts is that they are based on a highly inflationary data collection and compilation methodology. The result is that the headline figures – $1 trillion!, $2 trillion!, $3 trillion! – are more reminiscent of supermarket tabloids than serious market research. Some would call it pure hype. This type of market size forecast leads to misguided expectations because few people read the entire report and in the end only the misleading trillion-dollar headline figure gets quoted out of context, even by people who should now better, and finally achieves a life by itself.

The comments and the figures that Berger cites are still being used ensuring commentary is still relevant. In fact, if you apply the psychology of how these claims become embedded, these comments can be applied to nanomedicine as well.

On a not entirely unrelated note, MIT’s (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Technology Review Journal has organised a meeting in Bangalore which starts on Monday, March 8, 2010. From the news item on Business Standard,

Nearly a hundred of the world’s leading business and tech visionaries will discuss next generation technologies that are ready for the market in the annual Emerging Technologies Conference (Emtech) in Bangalore next week.

The two-day conference begining March 8 is being held in India for the second year in succession in association with CyberMedia.

The conference, organised by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review journal, will cover a variety of cutting edge topics ranging from green computing techniques, clean transport alternatives and smarter energy grid to the role that wireless can play in connecting India.

Special sessions on innovative diagnostics and neglected diseases will draw attention towards unheralded health care fields. A session on the future of nanotechnology will touch on new capabilities, giving people new ways to make things and heal bodies.

Finally, I got my monthly NISENet (Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network) newsletter and found a couple of opportunities (from the newsletter), one for materials scientists,

Making Stuff Grant Opportunity
The Materials Research Society and WGBH will be premiering Making Stuff, a four-part PBS series about materials science, in fall 2010 and are looking for outreach partners to organize and host events, demos, workshops, and science cafes in connection with the premiere.  They’ll provide outreach partners with a stipend as well as a resource toolkit.  One of the four episodes is focused on nanotechnology, and nano will be a common thread throughout the episodes. You can find lots more information, as well as the application form, here.  Applications are due April 1st.

and one for emerging science writers,

Calling all “next generation” science and tech writers!

Our partners at ASU asked us to pass along this writing and publishing fellowship opportunity to all of you. They’re now accepting applications for To Think-To Write-To Publish, an intensive two-day workshop followed by a three-day conference in Arizona for early career writers of any genre with an interest in science and technology. The deadline is March 15th, click here to download the flier.

If you are interested in NISENet or want to submit a haiku about nanotechnology (sadly the newsletter doesn’t feature one this month), their website is here.

1 thought on “Research and the 2010 Canadian federal budget; nanotechnology, hype, markets, and medicine; Visionaries in Banagalore; materials science and PBS offer a grant opportunity; To Think To Write To Publish for emerging science writers

  1. Pingback: EmTech México 2013 « FrogHeart

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