Discussion

1. The text discusses "formal" and "informal" processes for rulemaking in the United States. However, it is worth recognizing that there are a number of exceptions to the rulemaking process in which agencies are able to promulgate new rules with no public input whatsoever. These excepted cases include rules related to military or foreign affairs; rules related to certain proprietary matters such as loans, grants, and benefits; and rules where obtaining public input is impracticable or contrary to the public interest.14 This last provision has been found to apply when the purpose of a rule would be frustrated by the delay needed to obtain public input or where the rule is so administratively trivial that public input would be valueless.

Construct several hypothetical examples of rules involving nano-technology that would be exempt from public participation. Do any of your examples strike you as inconsistent with the fundamental structure of a participatory government? What changes, if any, would you make to the exemption requirements so that they are more consistent with your personal philosophy of representative government? Do you think any specific changes targeted at nano-technology are desirable or warranted? Or can issues you identify with your examples be accommodated with more general changes to the structure?

2. Investigate the results of at least three challenges to information dissemination by regulatory agencies under the Data Quality Act. Try to find challenges initiated by both industry groups and public-interest groups to include in your sample. Do these results support the view that the act is interfering with legitimate regulatory activity? How difficult is it for you to separate your own political bias regarding the issues underlying the challenges from how you judge these results?

3. Nanotechnology researchers who are funded by an agency may find themselves subject to the Data Quality Act when the funding agency either requires publication of the results as part of the funding grant or has the authority to review and approve it before publication. Such dissemination is referred to as "sponsored distribution" and triggers the quality standards of the act. How might this affect the manner in which such researchers conduct their research? How might it affect the nature of funding grants?

4. In a study reported in March 2004, researchers at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, exposed nine juvenile largemouth bass to water-soluble buckyballs C60 at a dose of 500 ppb. Within forty-eight hours, a seventeenfold increase in cellular damage was observed in the brains of the fish in the form of lipid peroxidation when compared with nine unexposed fish.15 Suppose this study is disseminated by the Environmental Protection Agency with other evidence to support a proposal to restrict the release of fullerenes into the environment. Investigate research subsequent to this study and use it to formulate the outlines of a challenge to the proposal under the Data Quality Act.

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