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June 30, 2006

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White House Memo on R&D Budget Priorities Stresses Competitiveness
Federal Computer Week (06/29/06) Sternstein, Aliya

A memo detailing the Bush administration's budget priorities for fiscal 2008 identifies competitiveness as the top priority of research and development spending, ranking ahead of cybersecurity, energy, and other areas. The memo cites the American Competitiveness Initiative, the policy program that Bush introduced in the State of the Union address. The plan would double basic research funding for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy's Office of Science over the next 10 years. The memo states that those agencies will need annual budget increases of 7 percent to meet that goal. "Specific allocations will be based on research priorities and opportunities," the document states. The memo identifies supercomputing and nanotechnology as research priorities, as well as efforts to ease the United States' reliance on foreign energy. In addition to cybersecurity research, the memo calls for agencies to develop sophisticated networking technologies for the rapid transmission of large datasets. "There seems to be strong support for high-end computing and networking work, including an encouragement to focus efforts to build large-scale testbeds for networking research--which aligns nicely with the computing community's interest in moving ahead with the programs like the Global Environment for Networking Investigations," said Peter Harsha of the Computing Research Association, referring to a project funded by the NSF to develop a new Internet.
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New Method Better Predicts Software Vulnerabilities
Colorado State University (06/28/06)

Researchers at Colorado State University are studying the process of discovering vulnerabilities in operating systems and major software applications in an effort to better predict the number and severity of vulnerabilities that are likely to arise in the near future. The complementary method employed by Yashwant K. Malaiya, a professor in CSU's Computer Science Department, and doctoral student Omar Alhazmi consists of modeling the vulnerability detection rate with the Alhazmi-Malaiya Logistic model and based on the developer, predicting the number of vulnerabilities per 1,000 lines of code. The approach would help give developers and companies a better indication of when and how many patches they will need to develop for applications and systems by a certain time, and before hackers have an opportunity to exploit them. For example, the Alhazmi-Malaiya Logistic model predicted last year that Windows XP would have a rapid growth in vulnerabilities, which have now risen to 173 from 88 in January 2005, and it was just as accurate in determining that there would be few new vulnerabilities for Red Hat Linux 6.2, which has been unchanged at 117. "The hope is that a vulnerability gets patched before it gets exploited," says Malaiya.
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Next Generation of Computer Geniuses Vie for Microsoft Prize
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (06/29/06) Bishop, Todd

Finalists in the software-design category of Microsoft's annual Image Cup contest had a chance to show off their projects to Chairman Bill Gates this week as the seven teams vied for the top prize of $25,000. The projects all related to improving global health care, and included a technology that emits noise as a cursor moves across a screen to help the sight-impaired use a computer, as well as a 3D viewer designed to help doctors treat patients. Other projects included prototype technologies to improve exercise habits and to help the disabled negotiate streets. The U.S. team, from Virginia Commonwealth University, developed a system called Pocketdoc that enables doctors to transmit reminders to take medicine, instructions, and survey questions to a patient's portable device via a Tablet PC, and they plan to develop a new version for the forthcoming Windows Vista. "On the doctor's side, they can really develop any sort of alert or task that they want--that's what's so powerful about Pocketdoc," said Joanne Cunningham, a graduate student at VCU. The Image Cup competition, now in its fourth year, is partially aimed at getting students to work with Microsoft's .NET language. The competition, which includes other categories such as a programming challenge and a short-film contest, drew more than 65,000 entries this year. A team from the University of Hull in the United Kingdom developed a technology that enables friends and relatives to upload audio, photos, and video to a patient's bedside computer. The winner of the contest will be announced in August.
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Disney Exec to Keynote SIGGRAPH
Animation Magazine (06/27/06) Ball, Ryan

Joe Rohde, executive designer and vice president with Walt Disney Imagineering, will give the keynote address at ACM's 33rd annual SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference and expo in Boston. Before Rohde delivers his speech, ACM SIGGRAPH will present its ACM SIGGRAPH Outstanding Service Award to John M. Fujii of Hewlett Packard, its Computer Graphics Achievement Award to Thomas W. Sederberg of Brigham Young University, and its Significant New Researcher Award to Takeo Igarashi of the University of Tokyo. Rohde's address is titled "From Myth to Mountain: Insights Into Virtual Placemaking," and focuses on his efforts to oversee conceptualization, design, and production for the Animal Kingdom amusement park. Rohde led the development and production of the amusement park's new attraction Expedition Everest, a project that took him to the Himalayas in an effort to incorporate the authentic environment and the myth of the Yeti into the ride. Scheduled for July 30 through Aug. 3, SIGGRAPH 2006 is expected to bring together some 25,000 computer graphics and interactive technology professionals from around the world for technical and creative programs on research, science, art, animation, gaming, interactivity, and education, as well as an exhibition of products and services from more than 250 companies. For more on SIGGRAPH 2006, or to register, visit http://www.siggraph.org/s2006/
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The Image of Computing
USACM Technology Policy Weblog (06/27/06)

Speaking at the opening session of the Computing Research Association's Snowbird conference, Ed Lazowska gave an overview of the key funding issues facing computer science. Lazowska argued that computer scientists must demonstrate why their discipline deserves to be considered a high-profile science. In a speech on the image of computer science, Microsoft Research head Rick Rashid contrasted the boundless optimism about "convergence" and the so-called "superhighway" that characterized the field in the early 1990s with the gloomy media proclamations that the field was in its death throes in 2002. The three main perceptions that keep students from pursuing computer science as a major are the image of the friendless programmer toiling in isolation, the fear that offshoring is taking away all the good jobs, and the gender issues that keep women from entering the field. Rashid noted how important these issues are to Microsoft, which is already having a difficult time finding qualified workers. If the trend continues, technology companies will have no choice but to pursue foreign workers and move operations overseas. Rashid noted studies from the Dice IT job Web site that highlight the strength of the job market, supporting the conclusions of ACM's recent study on outsourcing and globalization. Rashid cited a report by Money Magazine that ranked software engineering as the top job in the United States. To overcome the image issue, Rashid argues that the romance needs to return to computing, and that students need to understand that it is a field with limitless opportunities. To restore the sense of wonder and create an emotional appeal, Rashid touted the potential of technologies to convert any surface into a computing interface, store the entire constellation of an individual human's experience, and develop detailed astronomical maps due to terascale computing.
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Working the 80/20 Rule Is the Theme for the 11th Annual Workshop for Women in Design Automation
Business Wire (06/26/06)

The 11th annual Workshop for Women in Design Automation (WWINDA) will get underway on the first day of the 43rd Design Automation Conference (DAC), which will take place at the Moscone Center in San Francisco from July 24-28, 2006. The workshop, "Working the 80/20 Rule for Success--Focusing in on What Matters," will be held Monday, and Reynette Au, vice president of business licensing for nVidia, will give the keynote address. "This year's WWINDA focuses on a topic that is a constant struggle for everyone," says Daya Nadamuni, WWINDA chairperson and Gartner Dataquest chief analyst and research vice president. "Whatever your struggles in terms of time management or meeting the expectations of others, this panel will have messages that reach everybody who attends." Sabina Burns, senior director of corporate marketing and communications at Virage Logic will moderate the panel discussion on the 80/20 rule, and other participants will include Denise Brouillette, founder and president of The Innovative Edge; Kathy Papermaster, director of the Sony/Toshiba/IBM (STI) Design Center; and Soha Hassoun, associate professor in Tuft University's Department of Computer Science. WWINDA will present its Marie R. Pistilli Women in EDA Achievement Award to Dr. Ellen J. Yoffa, director of Next Generation Web at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center. ACM's Special Interest Group on Design Automation (ACM/SIGDA) is a sponsor of DAC, and registration for WWINDA is $50 for ACM members. For more on DAC, or to register, visit http://www.dac.com/43rd/index.html
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Transparent Chips Could Usher in New Era, But Outlook Is a Bit Blurry
Wall Street Journal (06/29/06) P. B5; Sechler, Bob

A team of researchers has developed a transparent chip made of indium gallium oxide that could lead to a host of see-through electronic devices. "You could look at a window as a new way of having electronic functionality," said Oregon State University professor John Wager, who led the research. The development could lead to transparent computers that could be operated by touch, or windows that also function as solar cells. Though Wager acknowledges that the technology is at least five years away, Hewlett-Packard has already licensed the research for commercial development with an eye toward printable circuits. The technology could also lead to inexpensive flexible circuits created by industrial printing devices rather than being manufactured in expensive fabrication plants. Though they would not compare to the speed and power of silicon chips, the cost advantage of the transparent chips could make them ideal for smart product packaging or other disposable applications. Some industry observers remain skeptical about the market potential for transparent chips, however. Chips have already scaled down to a size where they are hardly even noticeable, and could scale even further with the help of nanotechnology, according to Daniel Morgan of Synovus Investment Advisors. Morgan also noted the continued scaling of the devices that use those chips, such as cell phones and mobile gaming devices. Researchers have been exploring inorganic conductive materials for decades, using them for applications such as transparent wiring for laptop displays, though they lack the ability to control the current running through them. Wager has been tinkering with his transparent chips in an attempt to control the current electronically, inviting the possibility that the materials could be used to fashion inexpensive printable circuits.
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Media Distribution Rights: Here Come the Judges (and Congress)
InformationWeek (06/29/06) LaPlante, Alice

Several bills pending in Congress could severely cramp entertainment device manufacturers' ability to meet consumer demands and evolving technology. A preview of what the industry could face came from last year's Supreme Court decision against Grokster that held the peer-to-peer download facilitator liable for illegal downloads taking place using its technology. The ruling ran counter to a decision made more than two decades ago in favor of Sony, who was then being attacked by Universal City Studios and Walt Disney Productions for its Betamax video recorder that allowed consumers to record television content. The Supreme Court in that case ruled that Sony could not be held liable for the use of its technology for illicit purposes. The ruling upheld a consumer's right to copy content for his or her own use. The recent decision could change all that, depending on which way the legal win blows. Three bills now moving through Congress could have a huge impact on devices such as DVRs, video capture cards, and other technology that converts analog signals into digital data. The Audio Broadcast Flag Licensing Act would require every device able to receive digital television broadcasts to be integrated with technology that prevent redistribution of content. The Platform Equity and Remedies for Rights Holders in Music Act would ban consumers from breaking up music downloaded from broadcasts unless they pay for individual songs. The Digital Transition Content Security Act, meanwhile, would force analog video input device manufacturers to impose restrictions on the conversion of content into a digital format.
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Coding Da Vinci
PC World Canada (06/27/06) Lombardi, Rosie

Modern movies are increasingly relying on sophisticated software applications to create realistic special effects and complex animation. "Movies aren't about creating reality. With computer-generated graphics, you can create the hyper-real. You can take what's in the real world and take it to the next level," said Maurice Patel of Autodesk, the Montreal-based company whose animation software was used to create special effects for "The Da Vinci Code." While animated monsters and impossible camera angles are obvious uses of computer-generated graphics, production companies are using software to enhance more realistic shots, such as the airplane scenes in "The Da Vinci Code." In those scenes, computer-generated images were intended to make the shots seem real, rather than creating an illusion. Animation software can also help with scenes that may be difficult to control, such as a car exploding, where the pieces might not fly where the director wants. Shots of scenes such as buildings blowing up shot in real time with no graphical enhancement often look slow and unimpressive when they translate to film. "With today's MTV audience, explosions have to happen 10 times faster than real time. They have to be a lot more impressive than they could ever really be, faster, more flame, more red," said Patel. Audiences are more likely to accept computer-generated monsters and dinosaurs, but when the same tricks are used to create realistic humans, the results are often unsettling to viewers, Patel says. He makes the comparison to artificial intelligence, where realistically simulating human behavior has stymied scientists for years. One of the most difficult parts of the human body to simulate is hair due to the intensive calculations required to make it look realistic, according to Steve Garrad of Double Negative studios.
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UCLA Engineering Announces Breakthrough in Silicon Photonics Devices
UCLA News (06/28/06)

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have developed an optical-amplification technique in silicon that consumes no power, and actually produces energy by combining Raman light amplification with a photovoltaic effect. "After dominating the electronics industry for decades, silicon is now on the verge of becoming the material of choice for the photonics industry, the traditional stronghold of today's semiconductors," said UCLA engineering professor Bahram Jalali. The intensity of the light dictates the volume of information that can be sent through an optical wire. Illuminating silicon with intense light is the only way to take advantage of its nonlinear properties, such as the Raman effect, which has led to several recent discoveries in silicon photonics, including the first silicon optical amplifiers and lasers. Silicon loses its ability to carry light and data as light intensifies, an effect that also increases heat. Losing its light-carrying capacity makes it essentially impossible to develop continuously operational optical amplifiers and lasers, Jalali said. Previous efforts to resolve this problem led to sharp increases in power consumption. "In the past, two-photon absorption in silicon has resulted in significant loss for high-power Raman amplifiers and lasers, reducing efficiency and necessitating complex mitigation schemes," said Northop Grumman's Robert Rice. "In space and military laser systems, the impact of device efficiency on electrical power and thermal management is a prime consideration." The convergence of photonics and electronics could lead to a host of new inexpensive photonic components, make optical computing a reality, and breathe new life into Moore's Law.
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Critic: Paper Vote Records Vital
Miami Herald (06/28/06) Benn, Evan S.

Stanford University computer science professor David Dill told two Florida groups that their state is behind the curve in having a system of paper records to verify electronic votes during a lecture in Coral Gables. Dill, an e-voting expert, told members of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition and the Human Services Coalition that 27 states have passed laws that require votes from e-voting machines to be verified by paper records. Dill helped create the Verified Voting Foundation, which has found flaws in Diebold touch-screen voting machines that would enable a hacker to manipulate election results. Touch-screen voting machines must allow for independent verification of votes to ensure accuracy of results, said Dill, who added that his group is working with government officials to improve the voting process so that counties use "the best practices for running elections." Dill said more citizens need to get involved in monitoring the e-voting process. "You can have the most transparent system in the world, but unless you have people looking into that transparent system, you're not going to have the trust of the voter," he said. After the lecture, Dill took questions from the audience, including one about the possibility of Internet voting, but he said it was unlikely unless there are a number of breakthroughs that could ensure votes were trustworthy. For information on ACM's e-voting activities, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm
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Cluster Computing: ISC 2006 Innovation Awards
HPC Wire (06/28/06) Lazou, Christopher

A panel of academic and industry experts picked the winners of this year's International Supercomputing Conference (ISC), which concentrated on two research segments: Life sciences and application scalability on very large systems. Shantenu Jha, Peter Coveney, and Matt Harvey of University College London's Center for Computational Science were chosen as winners for the first segment with their paper "SPICE: Simulated Pore Interactive Computing Environment--Using Federated Grids for 'Grand Challenge' Bio-molecular Simulations." Uni Erlangen's B. Bergen, F. Huelsemann, and U. Ruede won for the second segment with their paper " Hierarchical Hybrid Grids: Achieving TERAFLOP Performance on Large Scale Finite Element Simulations." The first group of winners offered an example of how federated grids can be effectively applied to important large-scale problems, with a particular emphasis on qualitative and quantitative benefits of steering large biomolecular system simulations. The second group of winners detailed how the desire to squeeze high performance out of large-scale, parallel, finite element supercomputer simulations drives the design of the Hierarchical Hybrid Grids (HHG) architecture, while stressing the need to carefully analyze computationally intensive low-level algorithms used in the HHG library's deployment. The researchers presented a pair of performance metrics (the Balance metric and the Loads Per Miss metric) that can anticipate and interpret measured results of various deployments of the standard lexicographic Gauss-Seidel algorithm. Bergen, et al concluded that "In any scientific endeavor it is important not only to produce great results, but also to be able to explain them...The use of metrics to try and model the underlying interactions that take place during the execution of complex scientific codes has proved to be quite useful."
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I Robot, Your Companion
IST Results (06/29/06)

Researchers working under the IST-funded COGNIRON project are attempting to develop cognitive robotic companions that could help people in everyday tasks and eventually serve as assistants for the elderly or disabled. The principal challenge to the transition from single-function robots to full-fledged companions is intelligence. The COGNIRON project addresses robotic intelligence on seven fronts: multimodal dialogues, awareness and comprehension of human activity, social behavior, skill and task learning, spatial cognition, intentionality, and initiative. Regardless of what a robot is tasked to do, the ability to make decisions and understand its environment are key to its success. "Getting a robot to move around a human, without hurting them, and while making them feel comfortable, is a vital task," said Raja Chatila, coordinator of the COGNIRON project. That requires robots to pick up non-verbal environmental clues, such as the meaning behind a subtle movement or gesture. In an effort to give robots the ability to learn in a similar manner as humans, the researchers are developing a topological model by which a robot could learn the functions of objects such as a door or a corridor, rather than the more quantitative model common to machines that might define objects by their dimensions or geometric properties. To measure their success, the researchers will conduct three trials, showcasing the ability of a robot to build a model of its environment, infer that a human wants something to be done, and learn through repetition and imitation.
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Computers and Art Meld in Virtual Reality Underworld
Duke University News & Communications (06/28/06)

Duke University researchers have developed a virtual-reality world where "travelers" can experience a host of activities in an evolving, immersive setting. The Duke Immersive Virtual Environment, or DiVE, is powered by six computers that create and coordinate images that are projected on the ceiling, walls, and floor of a six-sided chamber. Wearing stereoscopic glasses, users control their experience with a joystick. Rachel Brady, an adjunct associate professor of computer science, oversaw the development of the DiVE project. Brady had previously led the development of the CAVE virtual-reality chamber at the University of Chicago. DiVE has become a magnet for scientists and engineers of a host of disciplines looking to conduct research in a virtual environment. Biomedical engineers intend to use the chamber to create giant simulations of hearts that they can crawl through; biochemists are studying the spatial relationships between simulations of complex proteins; and cognitive neuroscientists are studying the way that humans sense that objects have been moved by creating a virtual room and manipulating its contents. The chamber is simple enough to use that students without technical backgrounds can create simulations. Brady intentionally took a multidisciplinary approach to the DiVE project. "What's missing in a lot of engineering education is at the brainstorming level. I'm trying to teach students how to think more divergently--more as art students are taught," she said. "I've been communicating with art professors, reading about art, and teaching my students to draw. I'm teaching them how to communicate visually."
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Net Neutrality Battle Shifts to Full Senate
TechWeb (06/29/06) Gonsalves, Antone

The Senate appears split on the issue of whether telephone and cable companies can charge other companies for delivering high-bandwidth services over the Internet as the Senate Commerce Committee reached a deadlock on the issue. The committee vote is a strong indication to some that the Senate might actually be divided on a telecom reform bill approved by the committee without the Net neutrality amendment. "There will be an epic battle in the Senate over Net neutrality," says Adam Green with MoveOn.org Civic Action. The issue of Net neutrality is not going away quietly. MoveOn.org Civic Action recently emailed constituents who voted against the amendment requesting that they telephone their senator's office to voice their opinion on their opposition to the vote. There is speculation if a Net neutrality amendment does not make it in the telecom bill, Democrats will try getting a filibuster. Yahoo! and Google support the amendment because they say the Internet should be open to smaller companies that may not be able to afford fees for faster service, while opponents say there is no evidence companies would discriminate against other companies that do not pay for high-speed bandwidth. Rep. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he is against the Senate considering the telecom bill without the amendment included. "I believe these changes are so important, mean so much to our country, it ought to be possible for the Senate to slow this down and take the time to really consider what the implications are of a badly flawed piece of legislation with respect to its treatment of the Internet," said Wyden.
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The R&D Funding Crisis
Network World (06/26/06) Vol. 23, No. 25, P. 37; Johnson, Johna Till

The National Science Foundation is one of the few organizations fighting hard to reverse recent decreases in U.S. R&D funding, writes Johna Till Johnson. The NSF's budget will be increased by 7.8 percent to $6 billion in fiscal 2007. About $16 million of the increase will go toward the professional development of teachers. About $803 million of the budget is earmarked for the multi-agency Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) effort that seeks to retain U.S. leadership in networking and information technologies by investing in long-term research. Although Johnson applauds the government's new willingness to fund research, she notes that it is in part a response to a growing lack of research investment on the part of private enterprise. According to the NSF, private-sector funding for R&D in the U.S. dropped by 18 percent from 2001 to 2003. And although about 70 percent of yearly R&D spending in the U.S. comes from the private sector, Johnson argues that "single-digit increases in federal R&D investment...can't make up for double-digit decreases in private-sector R&D investment."
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Human Trails in Cyberspace
Chronicle of Higher Education (06/30/06) Vol. 52, No. 43, P. A18; Young, Jeffrey R.

Techniques for mapping online activity and the challenge of drawing insightful conclusions from this information were detailed by a panel of academic and industry experts at a University of Pennsylvania conference titled "The Hyperlinked Society." University of Michigan professor Lada Adamic demonstrated a map of connections between political bloggers at the start of the 2004 U.S. presidential election, which was used to determine whether blogging activity corresponded to preconceived notions about conservatives and liberals' offline behavior. Adamic says conservatives were more interlinked than liberals, but not by a wide margin, while both sides were virtually tied in terms of blogging activity. The distribution of political blogs in visual space is a reflection of the frequency of their links, which also holds true for a map of over 1,000 popular blogs created by Matthew Hurst of Nielsen BuzzMetrics. Hurst's map indicates the number of links to the blogs, the type of blog software in use, and what type of server hosts the sites; according to the map, the blogs with the most links cover technology and social-political commentary, which helps Nielsen BuzzMetrics give clients advice on tapping the Internet. The goal of Microsoft Research's Netscan project is to make online community dynamics more comprehensible through the analysis of behavior on the Usenet online discussion forum. "What we're trying to do is show patterns of contribution to threaded conversation communities," explains Marc Smith, who helms Microsoft Research's Community Technologies group. Smith and colleagues have invented a method to outline a user profile by studying data maps of their posting behavior rather than the content of their messages.
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Too Small to Grasp
Government Executive (06/15/06) Vol. 38, No. 10, P. 46; Dickey, Beth

The U.S. government's attempts to regulate the manufacture and sale of nanotechnology products as well as devote more resources to the assessment of nanotech's health and environmental risks are being overtaken by the speed of nanotech innovation. "Something is going right--products are being commercialized--but clearly, things can go wrong if we fail to provide the adequate oversight," declared director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies David Rejeski before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in May. The National Science Foundation sponsored several studies demonstrating that the meaning of nanotech and much of its potential is unknown to a large portion of the public, while many people who doubt the government can effectively manage nanotech's risks are nevertheless averse to the idea that new products should be outlawed pending further evaluation. Agencies participating in the National Nanotechnology Initiative have been given a budget for research into nanotech's impact on health, safety, and the environment of below $40 million, an amount that equals less than 4 percent of their combined annual outlays for nanotech research and development. Both industrialists and environmentalists would like the risk assessment budget to be doubled or even quadrupled. E. Clayton Teague with the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office claims the administration's 2007 budget request is sufficient, using the high marks the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology gave the National Nanotechnology Initiative as evidence. Rejeski is less sanguine, arguing that the government cannot understand and manage nanotech's questionable aspects more efficiently and effectively without additional resources and funding. The Woodrow Wilson Center reported back in January that the federal regulatory structure is weak due to statutory gaps, a lack of resources, and misalignment between regulatory programs and the nature of nanotech.
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