agencies to do, as by definition risky investments may not produce the desired results. However, such risk is clearly appropriate for many of the involved agencies, such as NSF, DARPA, NASA, and NIH. Further data are needed for the committee to determine whether the proportion of high-risk proposals being funded is appropriate.

  • Long-term planning. Most advances in nanoscale research will require patient, long-term funding, but because agency planning is often driven by annual budget cycles, NNI managers face challenges in developing long-term research plans. The committee has concerns about the implications of short-term budget cycles for the long-term success of the NNI, and it will be seeking further information from NNI managers on the budgeting and prioritization process for the initiative.

  • Short-term success. The committee believes that nanoscale research is only beginning to be recognized for its full potential and that it will give researchers scientific and engineering challenges for decades to come. However, short- term success will be valuable for encouraging continued support for the NNI and continued private sector involvement in the research. The committee urges agencies not to overlook the need for some short-term projects, particularly in their interactions with industry, and it will be examining the balance between short- and long-term goals in the NNI portfolio.

  • Grand challenges. The criteria for choosing NNI grand challenges have not yet been discussed but are clearly important. Future discussions will consider long- and short-term goals and potential payoffs in relation to the funding of grand challenges, especially whether the challenges are appropriate given the base of current scientific knowledge.


  • International program comparisons. To ensure the appropriateness of the NNI portfolio, it is important that program managers have reasonably complete knowledge of foreign nanotechnology funding levels and portfolios, as well as other countries’ efforts to educate future scientists and engineers for nanoscale work. The 1999 report Nanostructure Science and Technology: A Worldwide Study6 provided a baseline understanding of international efforts before the announcement of the NNI in February 2000, in the Clinton administration’s budget request. The committee understands that such international comparisons are often difficult to make: First, there is the problem both in the United States and abroad of defining which research funding should be considered funding for nanoscience or nanotechnology and, second, this definition varies from country to country. Differences in how national bureaucracies are organized compound the difficulty.

  • State and local nanotechnology initiatives. A number of state and local governments have established nano-related initiatives. NNI program managers need to track such efforts in order to have a comprehensive picture of current U.S. nanotechnology activities.


National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology, Interagency Working Group on NanoScience, Engineering, and Technology. 1999. Nanostructure Science and Technology: A Worldwide Study, September. Available online at <>.

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