Nanotechnology Budget Cuts!!!

The front page of the newspapers carries this headline, "Nanotechnology Budget Cuts!" Newscasters all over the country are leading with the news. Due to an economic downturn Congress has decided to slash the current funding levels for nanotechnology research. All eyes are on the Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council's Committee on Technology. The NSET subcommittee is the interagency body responsible for coordination of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) which is the program established to coordinate Federal nanotechnology research and development.

You are a member of a concerned citizen group, and you want your voice to be heard in the matter! You and other interested community groups are given the opportunity to present your case to the NSET subcommittee to defend current research projects and funding. How you present your case can have a great impact on where these research dollars are spent and, thus, the future of nanotechnology in our country, the scientific community, and the world.

The upcoming meeting is scheduled soon. You plan to present your data supporting past funding in your nanotechnology area of interest and give the committee members your reasoning for why funding should be continued. Heck, your nanotechnology area is so important that you want to recommend an even greater percentage of the funding for your area!

This is your chance! You'll need to present your case, defending past nanotechnology research and future development in your area of interest during the meeting and debate. This information will be used by the committee to determine the budgetary allocations for the research areas vying for funding. How much of the $1.5 billion dollar budget will go toward your research area? Good luck!


You were assigned an area of nanotechnology research to support. Starting research materials for each research area can be found in the drop-down menu labeled "Choices" on the Small Science, Big Decisions website. In the drop-down menu, you will find overview presentations and some video resources to help you with your research. Use these materials and any other credible sources to identify three benefits of research in nanotechnology toward your area of interest and up to three potential risks you perceive in your area of interest. Fill out the worksheet found on page 3 of the linked handout before attending the activity: Handout

During the activity, you and your partner (another person assigned the same research area) will be given 10 minutes to come up with a 1-2 minute talk to share with the group. You can be as creative as you like during your talk, but it MUST BE LESS THAN 2 MINUTES (you will be timed), and it should include at least 3 benefits and at least 3 potential risks of research in your assigned area of interest.

We will come together as a group and share the results of our research (i.e., your 2 minute talks). Then everyone, as a group, will act as NSET subcommittee to decide the distribution of funds in each area of nanotechnology research. Be prepared to discuss the pros and cons of each area of research.

Things to keep in mind during your preparation for this activity:

  1. You need only spend 30 minutes to research your assigned area of interest. During that time consider the positive and negative impact these developments have on people, society, and the world. Identify three benefits of research in nanotechnology toward your area of interest and up to three potential risks (fill out worksheet on page 3 of the handout).
  2. During the activity, you and your partner will have 10 minutes to come up with a 2-minute talk where you share the risks and benefits with the larger group. You will be timed.
  3. After everyone has shared their findings the group will discuss the distribution of funds. Argue based on your own opinion of how the money should be distributed. In other words, even though you were assigned a certain area to support, you need not continue to support that area during the deliberation period.

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