Nanotechnology Roadmap Links Academia, Industry and Government
Imagine hearing every day about useful health- and labor-saving devices invented in nearby towns, but knowing no highway or road to reach them. A map would help dramatically, in much the same way a recently published "Nanoinformatics 2020 Roadmap" is expected to enable and enhance connections among nanotechnology science and engineering researchers, manufacturers and interested government agencies.
"It’s no accident that we use the roadmap imagery," says Mark Tuominen, director of National Nanomanufacturing Network (NNN), part of the Center for Hierarchical Manufacturing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. "We played a leading role alongside several groups who felt that this needed to be done. We felt scientists, government and industry in the United States in particular should benefit from discussing needs, opportunities and directions for the future."
"We strategized so this roadmapping would be steered by and for the nanoinformatics community and no single institution or government agency would dominate. The roadmap is a handbook for ourselves, the broader community and federal agencies," he adds.
The Nanoinformatics 2020 Roadmap is the first broad-based nanotech community effort to attempt to comprehensively meet the needs and goals of nanoinformatics, which is the intersection of nanotechnology, computer science and data management, according to Jessica Adamick, digital librarian and manager of the NNN’s website, InterNano.
Nanoinformatics is the science and practice of determining which information is relevant to the nanoscale science and engineering community, then developing and implementing mechanisms for collecting, validating, storing, sharing, analyzing, modeling and applying that information. So results of environmental health and safety studies in nanotech will be accessible to device manufacturers, for example.
Much of the roadmap coordination was led by Rebecca Reznik-Zellen, recently appointed as digital strategies coordinator for the UMass Libraries, and Jeffrey Morse, managing director of the NNN. It is based in part on "Nanoinformatics 2010: A Collaborative Roadmapping Workshop," that brought about 80 experts together in November 2010. The 63-page guide provides information about ongoing research and development and is intended to stimulate contributions from experts in either nanotechnology or informatics regarding possibilities not foreseen by the initial members of the community of practice, its authors state.
"There are literally thousands of groups doing independent investigations, producing data and a great deal of valuable information, but unable to fully access and use each other’s developments," Tuominen says. "In our analogy, if one town makes glassware, another makes forks and another spoons, but they’ve never met and shared, they need a way to get together. We’re helping to launch that roadmap, so everyone in nanotechnology across the country can share expertise and new technology can happen."
Plans outlined in the Roadmap bring together a decade-long vision and pathway, providing a realistic time frame to establish an effective system of nanoinformatics data, tools and infrastructure. Such a program will enable the community to improve and "travel" on the road to understanding, development and beneficial application of nanotechnology.
"We’ll see examples of the concrete inventions and innovations in nanotechnology coming in future years from many different disciplines, but right now the chemistry is in communication," Tuominen predicts. "We know that what people are most interested in is their own projects, but there’s value to all in sharing." He adds that at present, there are a lot of nanotech materials inside products that improve performance, serve as drug delivery systems or as catalysts in chemical processing, for example, but not a lot of stand-alone nanotech products.
The NNN and partner organizations plan a second community-wide nanoinformatics for fall 2012. To review and download the Roadmap, visit the Nanoinformatics community wiki.
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