Definitions & Methodology of Data Collection: Nanotechnology Policy Documents



Another Statnano database is the "Policy Documents" section in which nanotechnology policy documents are recorded and their main elements are disseminated. This database is unique in collecting and presenting such documents in a systematic way. Any nanotechnology document published by different states (government or legislative institutions) and their affiliated organizations such as ministries, national science and technology authorities and other public institutions can be recorded in this section. These documents include acts, laws, statements, roadmaps, initiatives, guidelines, instructions, executive document etc. The main requirement is that the keyword of "nano" (or its derivations such as nano-science, nanotechnology and nanomaterials) has been cited clearly in the title of the document.

The database is committed to assure the integrity and honesty in recording documents and dissemination of their crucial information. For every document, information are extracted carefully so that the content and main ideas are redistributed with no distortion or alteration. If any important element is not registered for a document in the database, the corresponding element has not been addressed in the original document. It is assured that no important and crucial point has been deleted or missed in the process of extraction, recording and redistribution.  

Sources and the Method of Data Collection

Policy documents are found by considering websites of different sorts of governing institutions affiliated with states, ministries or legislative organizations which are directly responsible for developing nanotechnology in a country or otherwise have the function of policy-making in the field of science, technology or industry in general. Keywords such a "policy", "plan", "program", "guideline", "guidance", "statement", "initiative" etc. in addition to the prefix "nano" are used for searching via the Internet. Furthermore, responsible and active institutions in different countries has been identified and their publications are monitored periodically. Since such documents has not been already indexed in another database, extended and specified search are done for finding them. The language for search is English and it has been turned out that many countries with different national languages has published a copy of their policy document in English as well. If a policy document has been published in another language, the document will be translated into English and its important elements will be extracted.    

Key Elements in Policy Documents

In order to attain a better understanding of the content of any policy document, it is necessary to a have systematic manner in extracting their key elements. Identifying such elements help the audience to have a sense the aim of the document and its tools for reaching this aim. Though different documents may have diverse structure and approach, they cover more or less similar features and elements. These main elements are as the following:

  • The Vision
  • The Mission
  • Thematic and/or Functional Priorities
  • Date of Publication
  • The Publisher Organization
  • Implementation Duration
  • Link to the Original Document

The vision is comprised of key phrases which state the values, aims and goals of the policy document normally in a long-term and ideal manner. The vision is in fact an image of the future that an organization or a country aims to reach in a given period. In order to the vision to be realized, the mission has to be set in an appropriate and realistic way.

The mission includes the executive aims of the policy document according to the responsible organization's main functions and audiences and may include clarifications about the commitments and responsibilities towards the society in general and specific stakeholders and clients in particular. The mission states that what the main aims of the program or plan are and how these aims will be realized in reality. In other words, the mission provides answers to questions such as "What is our main function?", "What do we want to reach in a specific duration?" and "How do we want to reach our aims?" in a brief but transparent way according to the vision.

Priorities are determined according to the main goals of the policy document which are states in the vision and mission. The priorities are presented very differently in different policy documents. A number of documents identify a set of priorities at a same level; others state priorities in two main class of "thematic" and "functional" ones; and some others present cross-sectional priorities based on the mentioned two main categories. In this database, the priorities are registered according the original way of presentation in the policy document and no further categorization or analysis has been done.  

There are few document which include all the mentioned elements. In fact, some elements have been missed in many documents and it may be the case that a number of the mentioned elements has been presented with overlaps and with no clear differentiation.

The publisher organizations in the recorded documents are highly various. In some cases, two or more organizations have been mentioned in a document as its developer, executor or implementation supervisor. In this database, the publisher organization is the institution which has signed the document and published it officially.

The recorded policy documents in the database are monitored and updated annually. Strategic documents normally have a durability (3 years, 5 years or more). In relatively few cases, a policy document may has not a clear durability. Given the fact that policy documents have been developed for certain periods, their durability is stated evidently and at the time of updating the database, old and new versions of each document are differentiated in a clear way. 

In avoiding any conflict about the copy-right issue, whole document are not republished in the database. Instead, the link to the related page in the publisher organization's website is accessible in the related links section.