World Federation of Science Journalists

Nano: The Newest Technology

The Kavli Science Journalism Workshop
June 15-18, 2009

Are we ready?
  • For virus-sized machines that construct themselves?
  • For new materials that may be toxic?
  • For artificial living things?
  • For invisible machines with a $2 trillion new market?

More than 75 percent of the public has heard little or nothing about nanotechnology, yet companies and nations have put nanotechnology number one on their lists of new research spending. There are already 600 products on the market that have used it, with a market of more than $100 billion a year, and analysts predict a market of more than $2 trillion in nano-products is expected in five years. Those on all sides agree that significant risks will come with the use of this technology—and those hazards need to be debated publicly now.

How can journalists cover this fast-moving new technology? How can they separate the value from the hype, the risks from the scare stories?

Nanotechnology is not one technology, but an accumulation of tools and skills that for the first time allow humans to work with materials, tissues and organisms at the atomic level. The result is an all-purpose set of tools—like communication and computing technology over recent decades— that will have a strong impact on virtually all fields. The new administration in Washington is already putting new energy to these issues, and new policies and possibly regulation, will be coming soon.

The Boot Camp will teach the basics of the issues, and consider the underlying science and the overarching political and economic factors involved. This will be an intensive course—all day, every day, for a week—devoted primarily to discussions and lectures.

Some of the most knowledgeable researchers and leaders from science, policy and business will teach in the workshop. You’ll also hear where to find the best sources of information and analysis. At the end, we’ll talk among ourselves about the journalistic issues, especially in light of the changes in journalism itself.


Applicants may be reporters, writers, editors or producers, and must have at least three years of experience in journalism. Applicants may be from any country. If selected we will reimburse you for up to $750 of your travel expenses to Cambridge, and pay for your hotel room and most meals. The workshop begins with a dinner on the evening of June 15 and runs through June 18. Participants are required to attend all sessions. Application materials must be received no later than April 20. Selections will be announced May 15.

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