Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Businesses see policy agenda building as key to success

"So what are the nanotech community's recommendations to policymakers for maintaining competitive strength?" Scott E. Rickert asked in Industryweek.com this week. His answers read like a manual for shaping public opinion and public policy:

"First, it means you need to be engaged with your legislators on the topic. It's too important to America for any of us to sit idly by. Do you know where you can have the most impact? Get your nano-plans on the front burner -- whether you're a buyer or seller of nano-products. Your government wants and needs you to succeed!"

These ideas, of course, are not new. In 1972, political scientists Roger W. Cobb and Charles D. Elder outlined their concept of agenda building*, i.e., the competing effors by policy makers, interest groups, journalists and other players in the policy arena to shape the dominant issues on the media agenda. And in the area of nanotechnology, some of the agenda building efforts are beginning to pay off. Scott E. Rickert reports:

"Early support of this approach is already evident in Washington. Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts has drafted legislation on a tax credit. With the powerhouse of MIT and other nanotechnology giants in his state, it's no wonder he's among the first to see the potential. Let's hope others -- on both sides of the aisle -- see the advantage."

* Roger W. Cobb and Charles D. Elder, Participation in American Politics The Dynamics of Agenda-Building. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1972.