Currently, normal incremental changes bring sizes down to 100 nanometers and, therefore, qualify research as nanoscience. However, simply making particles smaller for cosmetics or reinforcing plastics with carbon nanofibers is not breakthrough science, although these advances are turning out to be lucrative.
Business leaders view nanotechnology with cautious optimism. Most investment aims to improve existing products by creating smaller components or smaller products with less interest in new materials or products. Investors are wary of a nanotechnology boom turning into a dot.com-like bust.
Government and quasi-official organizations find nanotechnology important. The U.S. established an Interagency Working Group on Nanotechnology in 1996 and in 2000 the National Nanotechnology Initiative began coordinating efforts in nanotechnology. The National Science Foundation conducted a workshop on the societal impacts of nanotechnology in 2000 and concluded that, while there were technological and economic benefits to come, the societal impacts down the road were unknown. They recommended including social scientists in the NNI.
Among social scientists, little work on nanotechnology exists. While some have begun to study the area, there is little published. Reports from government agencies, scientists and business interests form the basis of the little that does exist. Some social scientists find nanotechnology interesting and beneficial, but others equate nanotech with areas they found frightening such as genetic engineering or cloning. Currently no nanotechnology law exists and legal experts believe that current law is sufficient to handle future needs with modification.