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The Meridian Institute, an NGO supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), has closed its daily newswire covering nanotechnology advances and their implications for developing nations, disappointing some in the development sector.
The news service has been running for ten years and was made possible through generous support from USAID, Todd Barker, a senior partner at the institute, tells SciDev.Net.

In a statement, Saharah Moon Chapotin, a division chief at USAID, said the funding stream her organisation had used to finance the news service was "no longer able to support activities outside of the food security and agriculture sector". This was due to funds being "reprioritised" to President Barack Obama's Feed the Future initiative to tackle global hunger and food insecurity.

Meridian says it has a long-term interest in nanotechnology and hopes to find replacement funding that will allow it to resume the service. "We are investigating possible options," Barker says.

Recent articles published on the service included news on how nanotechnology could be used to filter water and produce cheaper renewable energy. The service also provides nanotechnology-related policy updates.

“Four or five years ago nanotechnology had a tremendous amount of 'hoopla' around it. Currently, there is fatigue and the funders are starting to dry up.”

Renzo Dalla Via

The wire had approximately 2,000 subscribers from more than 80 different nations when it closed at the end of August, according to Barker.

One of those subscribers was Noela Invernizzi, one of the coordinators of the Latin American Nanotechnology and Society Network, a forum for the exchange of information on nanotechnology and its implications that comprises more than 40 researchers from 12 countries.

Invernizzi tells SciDev.Net that Meridian's service was unique and will be missed. "It was useful for getting a picture of research trends in several industrial sectors,” she says.

Invernizzi was surprised the service closed, but Renzo Dalla Via, a Canadian subscriber who works in environmental health consulting, was not. He has noticed a general decline in interest in nanotechnology.

"I can't speak specifically of Meridian, but four or five years ago nanotechnology had a lot of excitement and a tremendous amount of 'hoopla' around it. Currently, there is fatigue and the funders are starting to dry up," he says.

Invernizzi has also noticed this: "I have indeed observed a deceleration of NGOs' and think-tanks' projects on nanotechnology over the last few years".

She says the lack of regulation and policies to deal with the broader implications of nanotechnology is a worry because commercialisation of this technology is accelerating.

"It's a pity that Meridian discontinued its work on nanotechnology," Invernizzi says. "They organised important meetings and produced wonderful reports on topics of importance for developing countries."

However, Meridian is continuing its other news digests, which include services on food security and agriculture-biotech, published in English and French. These will still be funded by USAID. 

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