Spitting Feathers

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The Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering are hopping mad, spitting feathers and almost foaming at the mouth (or in diplomatic terms ‘disappointed’ ) at the UK government’s failure to act on their 2004 report “Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties.”

While the 2004 report was a highpoint in unpicking some of the confusion surrounding nanotechnologies and developing some coherent thought on both the benefits and risks, it is the lack of any kind of follow up that has annoyed the two learned societies, and prompted them to issue a “Two-year review of progress on Government actions

The two-year review takes the government to task in a number of areas but the overall conclusion is “what on earth is the point of all of these important and learned experts spending eighteen months conducting this review if it is just going to be ignored?

The Department of Trade and Industry has further enraged the societies by rejecting their opinions, with a spokesman attempting to duck every issue simultaneously by saying

“While there is obviously still much work to be done, these and other initiatives provide us with a sound basis for moving forward. There is strong support across government for the responsible development of nanotechnologies and this will continue to be a priority.”

It’s a shame that UK nanotechnology policy has come to this, with a government commissioned report being ignored and then rejected. Back in 2004 the future looked bright with the UK at the forefront of international thinking, with both the Royal Society report and the establishment of the MNT Network. Two years later UK policy appears to be paralyzed.

Given the UKs past record of reactivity rather than proactivity, it does make one wonder whether a few more newspaper headlines might get the government moving again. Perhaps it is time for Prince Charles to launch another of his spectacular interventions, the last of which led directly to the Royal Society report being commissioned.

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