agencies that reduced or eliminated their commitment to addressing societal implications in order to protect funding for other thrust areas after receiving cuts in their NNI budget request, the fact that only two agencies, NSF and DOD, appear to have committed support to activities in this area, although six requested funds, seems consistent with such speculation.
On a more positive note, NSF and DOD should be commended for committing the time and resources to some nano-focused educational and training activities. In contrast, the lack of any educational activity within NIH, which—like NSF—has a significant educational mission, is particularly disappointing. NSF should also be recognized for using a variety of new and existing funding modes to support a diverse collection of educational and outreach strategies targeted at different populations. These efforts are the one bright spot in this theme and show that motivated agencies can respond to the societal challenges posed by the development of nanoscale science and technology. On a more cautious note, it is worth noting that it is premature to evaluate the balance and effectiveness of these educational, outreach, and training efforts.
NSF also appears to have taken some positive steps to increase the quantity and quality of the nano-focused social science proposals it receives by sponsoring workshops on this topic and being more proactive in soliciting proposals.13 However, it is not clear whether NSF is addressing the root causes of the shortfall—namely, the decision to not allocate funds directly to the directorate that traditionally develops and supports these kinds of activities and shortcomings in its proposal solicitation strategy.
In spite of indications of significant progress in developing educational initiatives, the information provided to this committee suggests that NSET agencies have generally not given sufficient consideration to the societal impact of developments in nanoscale science and technology. Since funding for this theme is supposed to reach $35 million for FY 2003, NSET clearly needs to rethink the way it funds and implements activities for this activity.