As you may know Científica Ltd publishes the Nanotechnology Opportunity Report, the new edition was released last month, which has already addressed issues such as:
This is generally regarded as the most authoritative and scientifically correct publication covering the field, and to ensure this we draw on an advisory board of leaders in science, business and finance from around the world, see www.cientifica.com for more details. We would be happy to place a copy of the latest edition at the disposal of the society at no cost.
We have also kept a close eye on the environmental and health issues that started to raise their head last year, and we have written many pages of commentary on the subject. We have discussed the issue widely with many whose opinion is relevant, from scientists, to the activist groups themselves, to businesses and industry organisations that have experience of similar issues in biotech.
Cientifica has long been involved in communicating technical subject matter clearly to a non-technical audience. As can be seen from recent events, this is now a major issue as people confuse science fiction with science fact. Our feeling is that this confusion could, if not rectified, have serious negative implications for business, the research community and the public as a whole. Thus we would consider it essential to include communication with public and business in the scope of the study, starting perhaps with the question: is it important that the public understands nanotechnology, and why?
Moving on from that, there are a number of questions that can be asked. How do we best educate the public? Part of this must involve painting an accurate picture of molecular manufacturing, as proposed by Eric Drexler and the Foresight Institute, and contrasting that with the huge amount of nanotechnology that is already in daily use in mobile phone batteries, automotive components and almost any sunscreen above SPF 15.
Other topics may be areas of interaction between nanotechnologies that might have particularly large impacts, e.g. in the area of energy and possible independence from fossil fuels or the impact on the undeveloped world of cheap solar energy. Given the enormous benefits that may be seen in such areas, and the worrying problems they might tackle (e.g. greenhouse gases), is there a case for having concerted national and international programs looking at specific areas such as this where a number of nanotechnologies have influence and where an Apollo-like drive could really change the world drastically, as currently being proposed by Richard Smalley? Given that almost a quarter of the venture capital funding that went into nanotechnology companies in 2002 was related to solar energy, this is becoming a major issue and certainly feeds into your bullet point on ethical and social issues.
Finally, through our network of contacts with nanotechnology companies, researchers and end users around the world, we would be happy to render any assistance that the society may require.
Científica Ltd, London