A 3D image of a buckyball nanoparticle.

Online Collaboration to Speed up Creation of Nanotechnology Standards

Federal government and U.S. industry scientists say they are forging ahead with plans for an international, online collaboration to speed up creation of critically needed nanotechnology standards, including the underpinning reference materials and tests that support development of nanotech products while minimizing potential risks.

Combining efforts of materials scientists and measurement laboratories with those of biological and medical researchers, the new Internet-linked "community of interest" will exploit Web 2.0-style social networking technologies to enable creating and sharing information, as well as deliberating over technical details of in-process standards. The initial focus will be standards for characterizing the structure and properties of engineered nanoscale materials.

The global market for nanotechnology-enabled products is forecast to top $3 trillion by 2015. This anticipated stream of nanotech innovations has spawned a backlog of standards needs.

The idea for the Web-based collaboration was strongly endorsed during a recent international workshop hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). A prototype wiki--or collaborative Web site--was demonstrated by representatives of the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) Advanced Biomedical Computing Center.

Now undergoing further development at NCI, the nanotechnology standards wiki will enable instantaneous dissemination (as well as archival) of drafts, discussions, votes, and supporting materials. Wiki-related tools will help in organizing discussions, and standards developing organizations (SDOs) will be able to tap this resource to expedite drafting and validating protocols before they enter the formal approval process.

SDOs are developing standards in the fast-moving technology area, but scientists at the workshop said the overall response is not as effective or as coherent as the global challenge requires.

For more information, go to www.nist.gov.

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