US Agencies & Interagency Bodies

Other US Bodies

Last updated: October 23, 2015



The National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is a US government interagency effort focused on nanotechnology-related research and development activities. There are 20 participating agencies that work with NNI under the auspices of the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC).

The objective of NNI is to expedite the “discovery, development, and deployment of nanoscale science, engineering, and technology to serve the public good through a program of coordinated research and development aligned with the missions of the participating agencies.”

NNI agencies are working collectively toward four goals:

  • Advance a world-class nanotechnology research and development program
  • Foster the transfer of new technologies into products for commercial and public benefit
  • Develop and sustain educational resources, a skilled workforce, and a dynamic infrastructure and toolset to advance nanotechnology
  • Support responsible development of nanotechnology

Issues related to the environmental and health safety of nanomaterials are covered under the fourth goal to “support responsible development of nanotechnology” with the following four objectives:

  • Support the creation of a comprehensive knowledge base for evaluation of the potential risks and benefits of nanotechnology to the environment and to human health and safety
  • Create and employ means for timely dissemination, evaluation, and incorporation of relevant environmental, health, and safety knowledge and best practices
  • Develop the national capacity to identify, define, and responsibly address concepts and challenges specific to the ethical, legal, and societal implications of nanotechnology
  • Incorporate sustainability in the responsible development of nanotechnology.

The background, goals, and accomplishments of NNI are explained in detail in The National Nanotechnology Initiative Supplement to the President’s 2016 Budget.


“The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) was established by Executive Order on November 23, 1993.” The Executive Branch uses NSTC as a means of coordinating science and technology policy across the many Federal research entities. NSTC is chaired by the President, and members include the Vice President, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, relevant Cabinet Secretaries and Agency Heads, and some White House officials.

A primary objective of NSTC is “the establishment of clear national goals for Federal science and technology investments in a broad array of areas….aimed at accomplishing multiple national goals.”

NSTC is organized as five primary committees, each having various subcommittees and working groups:

  • Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability
  • Homeland and National Security
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Education
  • Science
  • Technology


The Commissioned Corps of the US Public Health Service (US PHS) consists of over 6500 health professionals with the mission to Protect, Promote, and Advance the health and safety of the nation. PHS commissioned officers serve various public health roles within more than 20 Federal government departments and agencies.


The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) was established by Congress in 1976. The mission of OSTP is threefold:

  • to provide the President and his senior staff with accurate, relevant, and timely scientific and technical advice on all matters of consequence
  • to ensure that the policies of the Executive Branch are informed by sound science
  • to ensure that the scientific and technical work of the Executive Branch is properly coordinated so as to provide the greatest benefit to society

OSTP is also authorized “to lead interagency efforts to develop and implement sound science and technology policies and budgets, and to work with the private sector, state and local governments, the science and higher education communities, and other nations toward this end.”

OSTP works to advance a wide range of initiatives, programs, projects, and activities that unleash the power of science, technology, and innovation for the benefit of Americans and people around the world.” Examples of these initiatives are: advancing basic and applied science, improving STEM education, combating climate change, and spurring innovation.

The BRAIN Initiative is one of the Grand Challenges (see below) and part of OSTP’s Advancing Basic and Applied Science initiative.

The BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) is a bold research initiative designed to revolutionize our understanding of the human brain. Launched with approximately $100 million in the President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 Budget, the BRAIN Initiative ultimately aims to help researchers find new ways to treat, cure, and even prevent brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury. The BRAIN Initiative will accelerate the development and application of new technologies that will enable researchers to produce dynamic pictures of the brain that show how individual brain cells and complex neural circuits interact at the speed of thought. These technologies will open new doors to explore how the brain records, processes, uses, stores, and retrieves vast quantities of information, and shed light on the complex links between brain function and behavior.

  • BRAIN Initiative Challenges Researchers to Unlock Mysteries of Human Mind
  • White House Fact Sheet: BRAIN Initiative

21st Century Grand Challenges
Grand Challenges are “ambitious but achievable goals that harness science, technology, and innovation to solve important national or global problems and that have the potential to capture the public’s imagination…. On April 2, 2013, President Obama called on companies, research universities, foundations, and philanthropists to join him in identifying and pursuing the Grand Challenges of the 21st century.”

Current Grand Challenges:

  • NIH, DARPA, and NSF’s BRAIN Initiative
  • DOE’s SunShot Grand Challenge
  • NASA’s Asteroid Grand Challenge
  • USAID’s Grand Challenges for Development, including Saving Lives at Birth

Scientific Integrity
The President issued a Memorandum in March 2009 on scientific integrity that assigned responsibility for its implementation to the Director of OSTP. Part of that Memorandum is shown here:

SUBJECT: Scientific Integrity

Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health, protection of the environment, increased efficiency in the use of energy and other resources, mitigation of the threat of climate change, and protection of national security.

The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions. Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions. If scientific and technological information is developed and used by the Federal Government, it should ordinarily be made available to the public. To the extent permitted by law, there should be transparency in the preparation, identification, and use of scientific and technological information in policymaking. The selection of scientists and technology professionals for positions in the executive branch should be based on their scientific and technological knowledge, credentials, experience, and integrity.

By this memorandum, I assign to the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (Director) the responsibility for ensuring the highest level of integrity in all aspects of the executive branch’s involvement with scientific and technological processes. The Director shall confer, as appropriate, with the heads of executive departments and agencies, including the Office of Management and Budget and offices and agencies within the Executive Office of the President (collectively, the “agencies”), and recommend a plan to achieve that goal throughout the executive branch.

Specifically, I direct the following:

1. Within 120 days from the date of this memorandum, the Director shall develop recommendations for Presidential action designed to guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch, based on the following principles:

(a) The selection and retention of candidates for science and technology positions in the executive branch should be based on the candidate’s knowledge, credentials, experience, and integrity;

(b) Each agency should have appropriate rules and procedures to ensure the integrity of the scientific process within the agency;

(c) When scientific or technological information is considered in policy decisions, the information should be subject to well-established scientific processes, including peer review where appropriate, and each agency should appropriately and accurately reflect that information in complying with and applying relevant statutory standards;

(d) Except for information that is properly restricted from disclosure under procedures established in accordance with statute, regulation, Executive Order, or Presidential Memorandum, each agency should make available to the public the scientific or technological findings or conclusions considered or relied on in policy decisions;

(e) Each agency should have in place procedures to identify and address instances in which the scientific process or the integrity of scientific and technological information may be compromised; and


The Director of OSTP issued a Director’s Memorandum explaining the responses of Federal departments and agencies to the President’s Memorandum to cover four major areas of scientific integrity: Foundations of Scientific Integrity, Public Communications, Use of Federal Advisory Committees, and Professional Development of Government Scientists and Engineers.

The responses/policies of the departments and agencies, available on the OSTP website, include the following:

International S&T Cooperation

The President has also ramped up “participation in—and our commitment to—international science and technology cooperation across the many areas where it is clearly in our interest to do so.”