The Royal Society report on nanotechnology – Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties – was published in 2004, and the government responded to its recommendations early in 2005. At that time, many people were disappointed by the government response (see my commentary here); now the time has come to judge whether the government is meeting its commitments. The body that is going to make that judgement is the Council for Science and Technology. This is the government’s highest level advisory committee, reporting directly to the Prime Minister. The CST Nanotechnology Review is now underway, with a public call for evidence now open. Yesterday I attended a seminar in London organised by the working party.
I’ve written already of my disappointment with the government response so far, for example here, so you might think that I’d be confident that this review would be rather critical of the government. However, close reading of the call for evidence reveals a fine piece of “Yes Minister” style legerdemain; the review will judge, not whether the government’s response to the Royal Society report was itself adequate, but solely whether the government had met the commitments it made in that response.
One of the main purposes of yesterday’s seminar was to see if there had been any major new developments in nanotechnology since the publication of the Royal Society report. Some people expressed surprise at how rapid the introduction of nanotechnology into consumer products had been, though as ever it is difficult to judge how many of these applications can truly be described as nanotechnology, and equally how many other applications are in the market which do involve nanotechnology, but which don’t advertise the fact. However, one area in which there has been a demonstrable and striking proliferation is in nanotechnology road-maps, of which there are now, apparently, a total of seventy six.