Sunday, April 04, 2004

Commerce's call to nano arms

Photo by Howard Lovy
Phil Bond, U.S. commerce undersecretary, tells the crowd at the
National Nanotechnology Initiative conference in Washington to
'aggressively' challenge misinformation about nanotechnology.

Howard Lovy: How do you 'aggressively' counter misinformation without sounding defensive?

Phil Bond: Well, I think you start by acknowledging that people have a right to be concerned about health effects and environmental effects, and absolutely buy into the underlying value that is driving that. But then when you get to the data portion, let's look at the real data.

HL: What do you mean by 'aggressive'?

PB: You may read something that you know is technically inaccurate and you just kind of scoff and say, 'Oh those guys don't get it or they don't understand,' and you don't take action instead of taking the time to fire off a letter to the editor or call whoever's involved. Take that next step of action. That's what we need to do. It's a take-off on 'Think Globally, Act Locally.' You've got to take action at the local level.

HL: What is nano to you? Is it a means of economic development? Or do you see it as something more than that? To me, the fact that the NNI is almost a Commerce Department-directed activity says that what's driving it is commerce. Yet there are those who are involved in the science who believe that, whether it creates jobs or not, it should move forward. Does the government view nano purely as a commerce issue?

PB: Well, I think it's a combination. The pursuit of knowledge in science is a legitimate governmental function. But one of the reasons it's so legitimate is because it connects very directly to jobs and quality of life. And so we want to pursue knowledge for knowledge's sake, but we also want to pursue knowledge because it makes people's lives better in quality of life and jobs and employment opportunities. So, I think they are two sides of the same coin -- at least to me as it's colored by my view of the world from Commerce. I just think they are inseparable.

You go out to NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), for instance, which is part of our purview in Commerce, there's a place where Nobel Prize winners and 3,000 scientists understand that their mission is to unlock manufacturing jobs and so forth. So, they don't think of them as distinct things. They see them as joined. Certainly when you think about policy and politics, having an economic element to it is critical to drive things through.

Related Posts
Bucky rage and 'imaginative commentators'
Bond: Body politic susceptible to fear
Nano and nan at NNI


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