Friday, November 4, 2005

Report on MSU First IFAS Conference

On November 17-20, I was in East Lansing, MI at the Kellogg Convention Center at Michigan State University. This was a NIRT funded conference: “What Can Nano Learn from Bio?” I spent the first two days listening. Overall I was under-impressed.

First, attendance was very weak. On the first day, the weakest performance was given by Margaret Mellon from the Union of Concerned Scientists who demonstrated a substantially deficient understanding of the state of the technology and the issues in human and eco-toxicology. When she applauded the ETC Group for their work, I sat on my hands. Manish Mehta presented from data from a 2005 NCMS (National Center for Manufacturing Sciences) Industry Survey which while interesting was given over lunch and we really didn’t have the time or opportunity to investigate the findings in detail. They are preliminary and we will learn more soon. Phil Macnaughten from Lancaster’s Institute for Environment, Philosophy & Public Policy continued his explications of the upstream participation model which, while interesting on many levels, seems irrelevant to American policy making in science and technology since there are actually no access points built into the process. Please: no more categorization of respondents as London housewives. The second day ended with an introduction to ethics from Jeff Burkhardt from the University of Florida.

The second day began with Sonia Miller of CTBA doing her thing which is always entertaining, but she hadn’t enough time to do much but rush through slides. For me, Paul Thompson stole the show by challenging the analogy between GMOs and nano (maybe, that’s because I couldn’t agree more). Also on the second day, Chris Phoenix did his thing with molecular manufacturing and somehow managed to anger someone in the audience by mis-categorizing what he had said to him in a private discussion.

I stayed for the evening and morning sessions and was much more vocal. While the parties gathered discussed publishing a book involving some of the presentations, I am hesitant to think there is a market for this material. Considering there is no committed publisher, I have my doubts.

Overall, nano is entering the market. I seemed to be the only person there who had done any research in agriculture and forestry applications of nanoscience and had data to discuss on this subject. No one seemed concerned with labeling questions. And I am concerned that we are flogging the metaphor of nano and GMOs to death when it is only a rhetorical device.

The good news is Thompson is very bright and I wish I knew the rest of their team better. I have new Larry Busch and John Stone and am anxious to read some of their materials. I expect MSU will put together something that will be valuable to understanding how nano will impact our world. However, I am unclear what nano can learn from bio still.

1 comment:

10 Best Home Based Business said...

Fine blog. I found your site suitable for another
visit! And when I'm able to surf the web, I look for
blogs as great as your work.
Search for my home based business work at home blog, it will leave you speechless.