Tag Archives: US National Nanotechnology Initiative

US and Nano4EARTH

After such a long time (a couple of years at least), it was nice to come across this update on the US government’s national nanotechnology efforts. From a October 7, 2022 (US) White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) news release (h/t JD Supra October 17, 2022 legal news update),

Today [October 7, 2022], to mark National Nanotechnology Day, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) are making key announcements that aim to advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to leverage the promise of science and technology to benefit all Americans. They also complement the Administration’s ongoing CHIPS and Science Act implementation efforts that will ensure the United States remains a world leader in the industries of tomorrow.

“National Nanotechnology Day is an opportunity to celebrate the NNCO’s – and Biden-Harris Administration’s – efforts to advance research breakthroughs on the nanoscale that impact nearly every scientific discipline and lay the foundation for emerging fields and technologies,” said newly announced National Nanotechnology Coordination Office Director Dr. Branden Brough. “As evidenced by this week’s Nobel Prize announcements highlighting work in quantum information science and click chemistry, the nanotechnology community is leveraging the Nation’s investments in research at the level of atoms and molecules to find solutions to address today’s most pressing challenges, including climate change, pandemic preparedness, and domestic microelectronics manufacturing.”

Biden-⁠Harris Administration’s National Nanotechnology Challenge, Nano4EARTH

The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office is announcing the inaugural National Nanotechnology Challenge, Nano4EARTH. Nano4EARTH will leverage recent investments in understanding and controlling matter at the nanoscale to develop technologies and industries that address climate change. Nano4EARTH recognizes the role nanotechnology plays in: Evaluating, monitoring, and detecting climate change status and trends; Averting future greenhouse gas emissions; Removing existing greenhouse gasses; Training and educating a highly skilled workforce to harness nanotechnology solutions; and developing Higher resilience to – and mitigation of – climate change-induced pressures for improved societal/economic resilience.

The NNCO supports the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), a White House-led initiative that coordinates the nanotechnology R&D activities of 20 federal government agencies. Identified in the 2021 NNI Strategic Plan, National Nanotechnology Challenges are a new mechanism to mobilize and connect the NNI community so it can help to address global societal challenges.

Members of the NNI community – the scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and government leaders developing solutions at the nanoscale – are invited to participate in Nano4EARTH! By doing so, they can support the United States’ goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and inspire and build the STEM workforce capacity that will help develop and implement climate change mitigation and resilience solutions. Links to relevant agency programs, information about the public kick-off workshop, and a link to join a mailing list to get involved can be found on the Nano4EARTH webpage. The Nano4EARTH kick-off workshop (to be held in early 2023) will serve as an information-gathering exercise to identify key feasible outputs of the challenge and effective ways to measure success.

National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) Leadership

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office are announcing Dr. Branden Brough as the new Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) and Dr. Quinn Spadola as its Deputy Director.

Dr. Brough joins the NNCO from the Molecular Foundry, a U.S. Department of Energy-funded nanoscale science research center that provides users from around the world with access to cutting-edge expertise and instrumentation. He will also serve as OSTP’s Assistant Director for Nanotechnology. As the Molecular Foundry’s Deputy Director, Dr. Brough was responsible for helping guide the organization’s scientific plans and initiatives, while also managing the center’s operations. Before joining the Molecular Foundry, Dr. Brough worked at the NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, where he led strategic policy and planning activities, as well as Congressional and public outreach efforts. Dr. Brough received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering – focusing on the integration of synthetic motor molecules and natural self-assembling proteins into micro/nanotechnologies – from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Dr. Spadola was the Associate Director of Education for the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI), a network of open nanotechnology laboratory user facilities supported by the National Science Foundation, and the Director of Education and Outreach for the Southeastern Nanotechnology Infrastructure Corridor NNCI site at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Prior to joining the Georgia Institute of Technology, Dr. Spadola was the Education and Outreach Coordinator and a Technical Advisor to the Director at NNCO. She received her Ph.D. in physics from Arizona State University and her MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking from Montana State University.

Once again, the Climate Change National Nanotechnology Challenge (Nano4EARTH) webpage is here and apparently they aren’t quite ready yet but,

The NNI is planning a Nano4EARTH kick-off workshop! Join our mailing list to get all future updates!

Happy (belated) US National Nanotechnology Day (October 9, 2022)

H/t to Lynn L. Bergeson’s and Carla N. Hutton’s October 8, 2022 posting on The National Law Review website for the news about the US National Nanotechnology Day on October 9, 2022.

Here’s more from the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) October 6, 2022 posting by Adrienne Eastlake, Gary Roth, and Nicole Neu-Baker on the NIOSH Science blog (Note: Links and footnotes have been removed),

Every year on October 9th we celebrate National Nanotechnology Day. The date 10-9 pays homage to the nanometer scale: 10–9 (one billionth of a meter). Anything that can be measured in nanometers is extremely small! For instance, the width of a strand of human hair is about 90,000 nanometers, bacteria are between 300–5,000 nanometers, viruses are 5–300 nanometers, the diameter of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is 2.5 nanometers, and a single atom is 0.1–0.5 nanometers. A healthy young adult’s fingernail grows an average of just over 1 nanometer per second (3.47 millimeters per month on average)!1 National Nanotechnology Day was created to help raise awareness of nanotechnology, to show how it is currently used in products that enrich our daily lives and to consider future challenges and opportunities.

Engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) are materials intentionally produced to have particle sizes between 1 and 100 nanometers in at least one dimension. These materials can be nanoparticles, nanotubes, or nanoplates, depending on their shape. ENMs typically have new or unique properties different from those of larger forms of the same material, making them desirable for specific product applications. These properties can contribute to increased elasticity, tensile strength, electrical conduction, and reactivity. Increasingly, they are added into existing materials to give these properties to bulk materials (such as plastics or metals). Consumer products using ENMs include cosmetics, sunscreen, food storage products, appliances, clothing, electronics, computers, sporting goods, and coatings. ENMs are also used in state-of-the-art sensors and biomedical technologies. COVID-19 research and the development of vaccines depend heavily on nanotechnology, and many vaccines use nanotechnology to improve their effectiveness. You probably are interacting with nanotechnology-enabled products every day!

Since the early 2000s, NIOSH has been at the forefront of efforts to characterize potential workplace hazards for those working with ENMs and to ensure safe and healthy workplaces, including the creation of the NIOSH Nanotechnology Research Center in 2004. Since then, NIOSH has published a quantitative risk assessment and an elemental mass-based recommended exposure limit (REL) for each of the following: carbon nanotubes/nanofibers,4 nanoscale titanium dioxide, 5 and silver nanomaterials.6 In addition, the poster Controlling Health Hazards When Working With Nanomaterials: Questions to Ask Before You Start is a helpful and easy-to-use visual resource for the workplace.

In collaboration with RTI International, NIOSH administered a survey developed by the RAND Corporation to North American companies working with nanomaterials to assess health and safety practices and the impact of efforts made by NIOSH to protect worker health and safety.9 Forty-five companies in the United States and Canada that fabricate, manufacture, handle, dispose, or otherwise use nanomaterials completed the online survey in 2019. The survey included research questions about nanomaterials in use and the overall occupational health and safety culture at the companies. Additionally, other questions asked about whether the companies interacted with NIOSH or used NIOSH resources to inform their health and safety practices and policies. More than a third (37.8%) of the 45 respondents reported using at least one NIOSH resource for information about safe handling of nanomaterials. Larger companies were more likely to report using NIOSH resources than companies employing fewer than 50 employees. While the survey was limited by the small sample size, it provided valuable insight, including that future NIOSH outreach should specifically target small businesses that use or handle nanomaterials.

We hope you find a way to celebrate National Nanotechnology Day! The National Nanotechnology Initiative (nano.gov) suggests running a 100 Billion Nanometer Dash. Sounds like quite a distance, but it is just 100 meters (328 feet) or 6.2% of a mile. As we continue to provide guidance and recommendations to keep workers safe when working with ENMs, we will be right there with you until you cross the finish line… one nanometer at a time. Good luck!

You can find other activities to celebrate the day (even belatedly) at nano.gov here on their National Nanotechnology Day webpage.

Documentary “NNI Retrospective Video: Creating a National Initiative” celebrates the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) and a lipid nanoparticle question

i stumbled across an August 4, 2022 tvworldwide.com news release about a video celbrating the US National Nanotechnology Initiative’s (NNI) over 20 years of operation, (Note: A link has been removed),

TV Worldwide, since 1999, a pioneering web-based global TV network, announced that it was releasing a video trailer highlighting a previously released documentary on NNI over the past 20 years, entitled, ‘NNI Retrospective Video: Creating a National Initiative’.

The video and its trailer were produced in cooperation with the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), the National Science Foundation and the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

Video Documentary Synopsis

Nanotechnology is a megatrend in science and technology at the beginning of the 21 Century. The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) has played a key role in advancing the field after it was announced by President Clinton in January 2000. Neil Lane was Presidential Science Advisor. Mike Roco proposed the initiative at the White House in March 1999 on behalf of the Interagency Working Group on Nanotechnology and was named the founding Chair of NSET to implement NNI beginning with Oct. 2000. NSF led the preparation of this initiative together with other agencies including NIH, DoD, DOE, NASA, and EPA. Jim Murday was named the first Director of NNCO to support NSET. The scientific and societal success of NNI has been recognized in the professional communities, National Academies, PCAST, and Congress. Nanoscale science, engineering and technology are strongly connected and collectively called Nanotechnology.

This video documentary was made after the 20th NNI grantees conference at NSF. It is focused on creating and implementing NNI, through video interviews. The interviews focused on three questions: (a) Motivation and how NNI started; (b) The process and reason for the success in creating NNI; (c) Outcomes of NNI after 20 years, and how the initial vision has been realized.

About the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)

The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is a U.S. Government research and development (R&D) initiative. Over thirty Federal departments, independent agencies, and commissions work together toward the shared vision of a future in which the ability to understand and control matter at the nanoscale leads to ongoing revolutions in technology and industry that benefit society. The NNI enhances interagency coordination of nanotechnology R&D, supports a shared infrastructure, enables leveraging of resources while avoiding duplication, and establishes shared goals, priorities, and strategies that complement agency-specific missions and activities.

The NNI participating agencies work together to advance discovery and innovation across the nanotechnology R&D enterprise. The NNI portfolio encompasses efforts along the entire technology development pathway, from early-stage fundamental science through applications-driven activities. Nanoscience and nanotechnology are prevalent across the R&D landscape, with an ever-growing list of applications that includes nanomedicine, nanoelectronics, water treatment, precision agriculture, transportation, and energy generation and storage. The NNI brings together representatives from multiple agencies to leverage knowledge and resources and to collaborate with academia and the private sector, as appropriate, to promote technology transfer and facilitate commercialization. The breadth of NNI-supported infrastructure enables not only the nanotechnology community but also researchers from related disciplines.

In addition to R&D efforts, the NNI is helping to build the nanotechnology workforce of the future, with focused efforts from K–12 through postgraduate research training. The responsible development of nanotechnology has been an integral pillar of the NNI since its inception, and the initiative proactively considers potential implications and technology applications at the same time. Collectively, these activities ensure that the United States remains not only the place where nanoscience discoveries are made, but also where these discoveries are translated and manufactured into products to benefit society.

I’m embedding the trailer here and a lipid nanoparticle question follows (The origin story told in Vancouver [Canada] is that the work was started at the University of British Columbia by Pieter Quilty.),

I was curious about what involvement the US NNI had with the development of lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) and found a possible answer to that question on Wikipedia The LNP Wikipedia entry certainly gives the bulk of the credit to Quilty but there was work done prior to his involvement (Note: Links have been removed),

A significant obstacle to using LNPs as a delivery vehicle for nucleic acids is that in nature, lipids and nucleic acids both carry a negative electric charge—meaning they do not easily mix with each other.[19] While working at Syntex in the mid-1980s,[20] Philip Felgner [emphasis mine] pioneered the use of artificially-created cationic lipids (positively-charged lipids) to bind lipids to nucleic acids in order to transfect the latter into cells.[21] However, by the late 1990s, it was known from in vitro experiments that this use of cationic lipids had undesired side effects on cell membranes.[22]

During the late 1990s and 2000s, Pieter Cullis of the University of British Columbia [emphasis mine] developed ionizable cationic lipids which are “positively charged at an acidic pH but neutral in the blood.”[8] Cullis also led the development of a technique involving careful adjustments to pH during the process of mixing ingredients in order to create LNPs which could safely pass through the cell membranes of living organisms.[19][23] As of 2021, the current understanding of LNPs formulated with such ionizable cationic lipids is that they enter cells through receptor-mediated endocytosis and end up inside endosomes.[8] The acidity inside the endosomes causes LNPs’ ionizable cationic lipids to acquire a positive charge, and this is thought to allow LNPs to escape from endosomes and release their RNA payloads.[8]

From 2005 into the early 2010s, LNPs were investigated as a drug delivery system for small interfering RNA (siRNA) drugs.[8] In 2009, Cullis co-founded a company called Acuitas Therapeutics to commercialize his LNP research [emphasis mine]; Acuitas worked on developing LNPs for Alnylam Pharmaceuticals’s siRNA drugs.[24] In 2018, the FDA approved Alnylam’s siRNA drug Onpattro (patisiran), the first drug to use LNPs as the drug delivery system.[3][8]

By that point in time, siRNA drug developers like Alnylam were already looking at other options for future drugs like chemical conjugate systems, but during the 2010s, the earlier research into using LNPs for siRNA became a foundation for new research into using LNPs for mRNA.[8] Lipids intended for short siRNA strands did not work well for much longer mRNA strands, which led to extensive research during the mid-2010s into the creation of novel ionizable cationic lipids appropriate for mRNA.[8] As of late 2020, several mRNA vaccines for SARS-CoV-2 use LNPs as their drug delivery system, including both the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines.[3] Moderna uses its own proprietary ionizable cationic lipid called SM-102, while Pfizer and BioNTech licensed an ionizable cationic lipid called ALC-0315 from Acuitas.[8] [emphases mine]

You can find out more about Philip Felgner here on his University of California at Irvine (UCI) profile page.

I wish they had been a little more careful about some of the claims that Thomas Kalil made about lipid nanoparticles in both the trailer and video but, getting back to the trailer (approx. 3 mins.) and the full video (approx. 25 mins.), either provides insight into a quite extraordinary effort.

Bravo to the US NNI!

US National Nanotechnology Initiative publishes 2018 US President’s 2018 budget request

The US National Nanotechnology Initiative has made its budget request for 2018 according to a Dec. 5, 2017 anouncement by Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla Hutton at the Nano and Other Emerging Chemical Technologies blog on the JD Supra website (Note: A link has been removed),

On November 30, 2017, the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) published a supplement to the President’s 2018 budget.  The supplement also serves as NNI’s annual report and summarizes the progress made in achieving NNI’s goals, the research and development (R&D) activities and plans of the participating agencies, and the agency investments in each program component area.  The President’s 2018 Budget requests $1.2 billion for the NNI, “a continued investment in support of innovation promoting America’s competitiveness, economic growth, and national security.”  The NNI investments proposed for 2018 reflect an emphasis on broad, fundamental research in nanoscience to provide a continuing pipeline of new discoveries that will enable future transformative commercial products and services.  …

The November 30, 2017 NNI Supplement to the President’s 2018 Budget can be found here. Click on the download button (or go here) for the full supplement which includes explanations for the initialisms, e.g., PCA, STIR, etc. and sections such as this about key points,

Key Points about the 2016–2018 NNI Investments

• Reductions in overall NNI investments for 2018 relative to 2016–2017 and previous years are consistent with the goal of the President’s 2018 Budget to prioritize Federal resources on areas that industry is not likely to support, over later-stage applied research and development that the private sector is better equipped to pursue.

• The actual NNI investments reported by the participating agencies for 2016 ($1.56 billion) are significantly larger than 2016 estimated investments published in the 2017 Budget ($1.43 billion) and 2016 requested investments published in the 2016 Budget ($1.50 billion). This change is due largely to the fact that an increasing proportion of agencies’ nanotechnology investments are coming from “core” R&D programs, where the high success rate of nanotechnology-related proposals cannot be anticipated in advance.

• Total funding for PCA 1, Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives and Grand Challenges, for 2018 (nearly $200 million, representing over 16% of the NNI total) reflects the emphasis on focused investments in R&D that advances interagency cooperation and public/private partnerships in support of national priorities, as a key part of the overall NNI funding strategy.

• The NNI’s Nanotechnology-Inspired Grand Challenge for Future Computing is a new investment category in the President’s 2018 Budget, included for the first time under PCA 1. This challenge helps to address renewed international competition for U.S. leadership in semiconductor manufacturing and downstream information technology industries. For 2016, agencies are reporting over $140 million in investments under the NNI budget crosscut (including related research under the Nanoelectronics NSI) in this sector, which is critical for both national security and economic competitiveness.

• The increase in the percentage of total NNI investments in PCA 2, Foundational Research (from 36% in 2016 to nearly 40% in the 2018 Budget) reflects the Budget’s focus on supporting early-stage R&D, and is consistent with calls by NNI advisory bodies to maintain a pipeline of basic research that will lead to the innovations of the future.

• Proportional NNI investments in PCA 3 (Nanotechnology-Enabled Applications, Devices, and Systems) hold steady at about 24% of the total NNI investments for 2016–2018, down slightly from 25% in 2015.

• NNI agencies continue to provide consistent, proportional funding for PCA 4 (Research Infrastructure and Instrumentation) for 2016–2018, at 15–16% of the NNI total. The 2018 request ($179 million, representing about 15% of the NNI total investment) includes sustained support for NSF’s National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure network of university-based nanotechnology user facilities. The President’s 2018 Budget for DOE requests continued support for three of the original five Nanoscale Science Research Centers. PCA 4 also includes research to develop novel or improvedinstrumentation, which is critical to continued progress in nanotechnology and to maintain U.S. competitiveness internationally.

• PCA 5 (Environment, Health, and Safety—EHS) investments are a key element of the NNI’s strategy to ensure responsible development of nanotechnology. For 2016–2018, the proportional research investments reported under PCA 5 (see Appendix A for definitions) are approximately 6% of the NNI total for 2016 and 2017, and 5.5% in the 2018 Budget. In addition to the PCA 5 investments, some research reported under other PCAs (e.g., PCA 1 and PCA 4) also contributes to the overall EHS research portfolio.

• The return of the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to the NNI budget crosscut in the 2018 President’s Budget is another example of where nanotechnology innovations initially funded by basic research agencies are now coming to fruition in R&D programs focused on applications, devices, and systems that directly contribute to national priorities.

• Investments in SBIR and STTR funding by the participating agencies, reported outside of the formal NNI funding crosscut tabulated in the budget tables shown above, play a critical role in transitioning nanotechnology innovations into products for commercial and public benefit (NNI Goal 2), as discussed below. [pp. 14-17 (print) pp. 22-25 [PDF)]

Happy reading!

The Center for Nanotechnology in Society at the University of California at Santa Barbara offers a ‘swan song’ in three parts

I gather the University of California at Santa Barbara’s (UCSB) Center for Nanotechnology in Society is ‘sunsetting’ as its funding runs out. A Nov. 9, 2016 UCSB news release by Brandon Fastman describes the center’s ‘swan song’,

After more than a decade, the UCSB Center for Nanotechnology in Society research has provided new and deep knowledge of how technological innovation and social change impact one another. Now, as the national center reaches the end of its term, its three primary research groups have published synthesis reports that bring together important findings from their 11 years of activity.

The reports, which include policy recommendations, are available for free download at the CNS web site at

http://www.cns.ucsb.edu/irg-synthesis-reports.

The ever-increasing ability of scientists to manipulate matter on the molecular level brings with it the potential for science fiction-like technologies such as nanoelectronic sensors that would entail “merging tissue with electronics in a way that it becomes difficult to determine where the tissue ends and the electronics begin,” according to a Harvard chemist in a recent CQ Researcher report. While the life-altering ramifications of such technologies are clear, it is less clear how they might impact the larger society to which they are introduced.

CNS research, as detailed the reports, addresses such gaps in knowledge. For instance, when anthropologist Barbara Herr Harthorn and her collaborators at the UCSB Center for Nanotechnology in Society (CNS-UCSB), convened public deliberations to discuss the promises and perils of health and human enhancement nanotechnologies, they thought that participants might be concerned about medical risks. However, that is not exactly what they found.

Participants were less worried about medical or technological mishaps than about the equitable distribution of the risks and benefits of new technologies and fair procedures for addressing potential problems. That is, they were unconvinced that citizens across the socioeconomic spectrum would share equal access to the benefits of therapies or equal exposure to their pitfalls.

In describing her work, Harthorn explained, “Intuitive assumptions of experts and practitioners about public perceptions and concerns are insufficient to understanding the societal contexts of technologies. Relying on intuition often leads to misunderstandings of social and institutional realities. CNS-UCSB has attempted to fill in the knowledge gaps through methodologically sophisticated empirical and theoretical research.”

In her role as Director of CNS-UCSB, Harthorn has overseen a larger effort to promote the responsible development of sophisticated materials and technologies seen as central to the nation’s economic future. By pursuing this goal, researchers at CNS-UCSB, which closed its doors at the end of the summer, have advanced the role for the social, economic, and behavioral sciences in understanding technological innovation.

Harthorn has spent the past 11 years trying to understand public expectations, values, beliefs, and perceptions regarding nanotechnologies. Along with conducting deliberations, she has worked with toxicologists and engineers to examine the environmental and occupational risks of nanotechnologies, determine gaps in the U.S. regulatory system, and survey nanotechnology experts. Work has also expanded to comparative studies of other emerging technologies such as shale oil and gas extraction (fracking).

Along with Harthorn’s research group on risk perception and social response, CNS-UCSB housed two other main research groups. One, led by sociologist Richard Appelbaum, studied the impacts of nanotechnology on the global economy. The other, led by historian Patrick McCray, studied the technologies, communities, and individuals that have shaped the direction of nanotechnology research.

Appelbaum’s research program included studying how state policies regarding nanotechnology – especially in China and Latin America – has impacted commercialization. Research trips to China elicited a great understanding of that nation’s research culture and its capacity to produce original intellectual property. He also studied the role of international collaboration in spurring technological innovation. As part of this research, his collaborators surveyed and interviewed international STEM graduate students in the United States in order to understand the factors that influence their choice whether to remain abroad or return home.

In examining the history of nanotechnology, McCray’s group explained how the microelectronics industry provided a template for what became known as nanotechnology, examined educational policies aimed at training a nano-workforce, and produced a history of the scanning tunneling microscope. They also penned award-winning monographs including McCray’s book, The Visioneers: How a Group of Elite Scientists Pursued Space Colonies, Nanotechnologies, and Limitless Future.

Reaching the Real World

Funded as a National Center by the US National Science Foundation in 2005, CNS-UCSB was explicitly intended to enhance the understanding of the relationship between new technologies and their societal context. After more than a decade of funding, CNS-UCSB research has provided a deep understanding of the relationship between technological innovation and social change.

New developments in nanotechnology, an area of research that has garnered $24 billion in funding from the U.S. federal government since 2001, impact sectors as far ranging as agriculture, medicine, energy, defense, and construction, posing great challenges for policymakers and regulators who must consider questions of equity, sustainability, occupational and environmental health and safety, economic and educational policy, disruptions to privacy, security and even what it means to be human. (A nanometer is roughly 10,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.)  Nanoscale materials are already integrated into food packaging, electronics, solar cells, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals. They are far in development for drugs that can target specific cells, microscopic spying devices, and quantum computers.

Given such real-world applications, it was important to CNS researchers that the results of their work not remain confined within the halls of academia. Therefore, they have delivered testimony to Congress, federal and state agencies (including the National Academies of Science, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the U.S. Presidential Bioethics Commission and the National Nanotechnology Initiative), policy outfits (including the Washington Center for Equitable Growth), and international agencies (including the World Bank, European Commission, and World Economic Forum). They’ve collaborated with nongovernmental organizations. They’ve composed policy briefs and op eds, and their work has been covered by numerous news organizations including, recently, NPR, The New Yorker, and Forbes. They have also given many hundreds of lectures to audiences in community groups, schools, and museums.

Policy Options

Most notably, in their final act before the center closed, each of the three primary research groups published synthesis reports that bring together important findings from their 11 years of activity. Their titles are:

Exploring Nanotechnology’s Origins, Institutions, and Communities: A Ten Year Experiment in Large Scale Collaborative STS Research

Globalization and Nanotechnology: The Role of State Policy and International Collaboration

Understanding Nanotechnologies’ Risks and Benefits: Emergence, Expertise and Upstream Participation.

A sampling of key policy recommendations follows:

1.     Public acceptability of nanotechnologies is driven by: benefit perception, the type of application, and the risk messages transmitted from trusted sources and their stability over time; therefore transparent and responsible risk communication is a critical aspect of acceptability.

2.     Social risks, particularly issues of equity and politics, are primary, not secondary, drivers of perception and need to be fully addressed in any new technology development. We have devoted particular attention to studying how gender and race/ethnicity affect both public and expert risk judgments.

3.     State policies aimed at fostering science and technology development should clearly continue to emphasize basic research, but not to the exclusion of supporting promising innovative payoffs. The National Nanotechnology Initiative, with its overwhelming emphasis on basic research, would likely achieve greater success in spawning thriving businesses and commercialization by investing more in capital programs such as the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, self-described as “America’s seed fund.”

4.     While nearly half of all international STEM graduate students would like to stay in the U.S. upon graduation, fully 40 percent are undecided — and a main barrier is current U.S. immigration policy.

5.     Although representatives from the nanomaterials industry demonstrate relatively high perceived risk regarding engineered nanomaterials, they likewise demonstrate low sensitivity to variance in risks across type of engineered nanomaterials, and a strong disinclination to regulation. This situation puts workers at significant risk and probably requires regulatory action now (beyond the currently favored voluntary or ‘soft law’ approaches).

6.     The complex nature of technological ecosystems translates into a variety of actors essential for successful innovation. One species is the Visioneer, a person who blends engineering experience with a transformative vision of the technological future and a willingness to promote this vision to the public and policy makers.

Leaving a Legacy

Along with successful outreach efforts, CNS-UCSB also flourished when measured by typical academic metrics, including nearly 400 publications and 1,200 talks.

In addition to producing groundbreaking interdisciplinary research, CNS-UCSB also produced innovative educational programs, reaching 200 professionals-in-training from the undergraduate to postdoctoral levels. The Center’s educational centerpiece was a graduate fellowship program, referred to as “magical” by an NSF reviewer, that integrated doctoral students from disciplines across the UCSB campus into ongoing social science research projects.

For social scientists, working side-by-side with science and engineering students gave them an appreciation for the methods, culture, and ethics of their colleagues in different disciplines. It also led to methodological innovation. For their part, scientists and engineers were able to understand the larger context of their work at the bench.

UCSB graduates who participated in CNS’s educational programs have gone on to work as postdocs and professors at universities (including MIT, Stanford, U Penn), policy experts (at organizations like the Science Technology and Policy Institute and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research), researchers at government agencies (like the National Institute for Standards and Technology), nonprofits (like the Kauffman Foundation), and NGOs. Others work in industry, and some have become entrepreneurs, starting their own businesses.

CNS has spawned lines of research that will continue at UCSB and the institutions of collaborators around the world, but its most enduring legacy will be the students it trained. They bring a true understanding of the complex interconnections between technology and society — along with an intellectual toolkit for examining them — to every sector of the economy, and they will continue to pursue a world that is as just as it technologically advanced.

I found the policy recommendations interesting especially this one:

5.     Although representatives from the nanomaterials industry demonstrate relatively high perceived risk regarding engineered nanomaterials, they likewise demonstrate low sensitivity to variance in risks across type of engineered nanomaterials, and a strong disinclination to regulation. This situation puts workers at significant risk and probably requires regulatory action now (beyond the currently favored voluntary or ‘soft law’ approaches).

Without having read the documents, I’m not sure how to respond but I do have a question.  Just how much regulation are they suggesting?

I offer all of the people associated with the center my thanks for all their hard work and my gratitude for the support I received from the center when I presented at the Society for the Study of Nanotechnologies and Other Emerging Technology (S.Net) in 2012. I’m glad to see they’re going out with a bang.

US government’s 2016 National Nanotechnology Initiative strategic plan released

Another year, another US National Nanotechnology Initiative Strategic Plan, from a Nov. 8, 2016 news item on Nanowerk,

The [US] National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) is pleased to announce the release of the new [US 2016] National Nanotechnology Initiative Strategic Plan. Under the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2003, NNI agencies are required to develop an updated NNI Strategic Plan every three years.

The NNI, a collaboration of twenty Federal agencies and departments, has enabled groundbreaking discoveries that have revolutionized science; established world-class facilities for the characterization of nanoscale materials and their fabrication into nanoscale devices; educated tens of thousands of individuals from undergraduate students to postdoctoral researchers; and fostered the responsible incorporation of nanotechnology into commercial products.

A Nov. 1, 2016 NNCO news release, which originated the news item, provides more information,

NNI investments together with those of industry have transitioned nanotechnology discoveries into a variety of commercial products including apparel, consumer electronics, sporting goods, and automobiles. Nanotechnology is poised to revolutionize the way we diagnose and treat disease, improve our health and fitness, and enable human exploration of Mars. Looking toward the future, nanotechnology is moving from a fundamental research area to an enabling technology that can lead to new materials, devices, and systems that will profoundly impact our quality of life, economy, and national security. The strong collaborations built under the NNI will be critical in sustaining an ecosystem that invests in the next breakthroughs in nanoscale materials and devices but also promotes the effective and responsible transition of nanotechnology discoveries from lab to market.

This strategic plan builds upon the collaborations and prior accomplishments of the NNI to develop and nurture that ecosystem and to move the NNI into its next phase. This document represents a consensus among NNI agencies on the high-level goals and priorities of the initiative and on specific objectives to be pursued over at least the next three years. The plan provides the framework under which individual agencies conduct their own mission-specific nanotechnology programs, coordinate these activities with those of other NNI agencies, and collaborate.

You can find the report and other related materials on the 2016 Strategic NNI Plan webpage (on the NNI website) or you can to directly to the 2016 Strategic NNI Plan (PDF 66pp.).

Nanotechnology and water sustainability webinar, Oct. 19, 2016

An upcoming (Oct. 19, 2016) webinar from the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is the first of a new series (from an Oct. 7, 2016 news item on Nanowerk),

“Water Sustainability through Nanotechnology: A Federal Perspective” – This webinar is the first in a series exploring the confluence of nanotechnology and water. This event will introduce the Nanotechnology Signature Initiative (NSI): Water Sustainability through Nanotechnology and highlight the activities of several participating Federal agencies. …

The NNI event page for the Water Sustainability through Nanotechnology webinar provides more detail,

Panelists include Nora Savage (National Science Foundation), Daniel Barta (National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration), Paul Shapiro (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), Jim Dobrowolski (USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture), and Hongda Chen (USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture).

Webinar viewers will be able to submit questions for the panelists to answer during the Q&A period. Submitted questions will be considered in the order received and may be posted on the NNI website. A moderator will identify relevant questions and pose them to the speakers. Due to time constraints, not all questions may be addressed during the webinar. The moderator reserves the right to group similar questions and to skip questions, as appropriate.

There will be more in this series according to the webinar event page,

  • Increase water availability.
  • Improve the efficiency of water delivery and use.
  • Enable next-generation water monitoring systems.

You can register here to participate.

The NNI has a webpage dedicated to Water Sustainability through Nanotechnology: Nanoscale solutions for a Global-Scale Challenge, which explains their perspective on the matter,

Water is essential to all life, and its significance bridges many critical areas for society: food, energy, security, and the environment. Projected population growth in the coming decades and associated increases in demands for water exacerbate the mounting pressure to address water sustainability. Yet, only 2.5% of the world’s water is fresh water, and some of the most severe impacts of climate change are on our country’s water resources. For example, in 2012, droughts affected about two-thirds of the continental United States, impacting water supplies, tourism, transportation, energy, and fisheries – costing the agricultural sector alone $30 billion. In addition, the ground water in many of the Nation’s aquifers is being depleted at unsustainable rates, which necessitates drilling ever deeper to tap groundwater resources. Finally, water infrastructure is a critically important but sometimes overlooked aspect of water treatment and distribution. Both technological and sociopolitical solutions are required to address these problems.

The text also goes on to describe how nanotechnology could  assist with this challenge.