tions of this report. Although there clearly are interconnections and overlaps between and among the three categories, the committee believes that this approach allowed the most methodical and comprehensive approach to its task. Ultimately, however, it is necessary to bring the issues back together, to synthesize the findings, in order to come to some useful understanding of how different events and choices in the next decade will influence the science and technology enterprise. Therefore, in the last chapter of the report, “Conclusions,” the committee has attempted to link and encompass the many issues raised by identifying a set of overarching themes that it believes bear consideration in planning the continuance in the decade ahead of the remarkable achievements of science and technology that we have seen in the past.
The committee discusses a number of technology-related trends in this report, but forecasting the future is difficult and rarely completely successful. It is possible to identify the current status of a technology and to discuss the directions in which it seems to be headed, given developments in science and engineering research, but what ends up happening will be shaped by factors in addition to the technical possibilities. This complexity is why the committee has organized the report in a way that highlights these other factors—contextual and demand. It has been useful, the committee believes, to conduct this exercise, because doing so helps focus attention on the variables NIST should consider in deciding on policies and designing programs. The committee also identified some cross-cutting themes, which are discussed in the last chapter, and highlighted the need for policy makers, whether in government, industry, or the nonprofit sector, to develop plans that take into account the appropriate level of uncertainty and that can adapt to a range of alternative futures.