ing of how technical and social systems affect each other. As the NSET-sponsored workshop on societal implications8 concluded, we currently do not have a comprehensive and well established knowledge base on how social and technical systems affect each other in general, let alone for the specific case of nanoscale science and technology. This state of affairs is a by-product of not having a chance to examine these interactions until the systems are well established and of simply not investing sufficient resources in these activities. However, nanoscale science and technology are still in their infancy. Thus, a relatively small investment now in examining societal implications has the potential for a big payoff.

Societal Implications Activity Within the Initiative

A variety of documents containing budget information on NNI and social implications were made available to the committee. Unfortunately, the documents mixed budget requests with actual expenditures. Moreover, reports of expenditures differed from source to source and sometimes did not reconcile within a source. According to these sources, the funding committed to societal implications for FY 2001 appears to range between $16 million and $28 million. To understand actual funding commitments, the committee contacted agencies and asked them to provide data on resources expended and efforts undertaken in this area for FY 2001. Two agencies, NIST and NIH, reported no activity or expenditures in the area. DOD indicated that it had made 46 awards under a nanofocused fellowship program within the Defense University Research Initiative on Nanotechnology. NSF reported committing roughly $8 million to activities in this area. While it is possible that some agencies are underreporting their efforts in this area, depending on the value of DOD fellowship support, there appears to be a gap of somewhere between $8 million and $20 million in support budgeted and support expended for NNI societal implications activities during FY 2001. NSF appears to be the only agency to have engaged in major efforts to study societal implications during 2001.

NSF was relatively proactive in soliciting nanofocused proposals: It carried out two NSF-wide solicitations (NSF 00-119, FY 2001, and NSF 01-157, FY 2002). These solicitations mentioned all NNI themes, including societal implications, and requested proposals for nanoscale science and engineering centers (NSEC), nanoscale interdisciplinary research teams (NIRT), and nanoscale exploratory research (NER) modes of support. To encourage proposals dealing with societal implications, NSF supported and/or participated in a number of invited and grantee-focused workshops.9 However, it is worth noting that since most of these efforts took place during or after the FY 2001 competition, their impact is unlikely to be seen until FY 2002 proposals have been evaluated.

Education and Training

The education, training, and outreach component of NSF’s societal implications work has been extensive and has involved a diverse collection of funding mechanisms (both existing and new) and a variety of target populations. For example, the NSF supported course and curriculum development at universities around the country and used its combined research and curriculum development (CRCD) and its research experiences for undergradautes (REU) programs to strengthen undergraduate and graduate education in nanoscale science and technology.

A major focus of NSF’s educational efforts in this area involves the integration of research and education. A number of universities have received interdisciplinary graduate education and research and teaching (IGERT) awards that focus on nano-related topics.

Because of the team-based and interdisciplinary approach used in research groups, centers, and networks, these funding mechanisms have also played a central role in NSF’s educational strategy. This kind of training experience has been provided through the national nanotechnology user network (NNUN) and a variety of nano-focused materials research science and engineering centers (MRSECs), engineering research centers (ERCs), and science and technology centers

8  

Societal Implications of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Report of NSET-sponsored workshop of the same name, Mihail C. Roco and William Sims Bainbridge eds., Kluwer Academic Publishers and National Science Foundation, Arlington, Va., March 2001.

9  

These included the NSET-sponsored workshop “Societal Implications of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology,” September 2000, a report published by NSF and Kluwer Academic Publishers based on this workshop (see footnote 10); “Nanotechnology—Revolutionary Opportunities and Societal Implications,” NSF-EC workshop, January 2002; “Converging Technologies (nano-bio-infocogno) for Improving Human Performance,” December 2001, at NSF; and “Partnership in Nanotechnology,” NSF Grantees Conference, January 2001, at NSF.



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