Last month the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a call for suggestions for "nanotechnology-inspired grand challenges". The term "grand challenge" is popular, both within the federal agencies and among science/technology coordinating and policy-making groups. When done well, a list of grand challenges can cleanly, clearly articulate big, overarching goals that a community has identified as aspirational milestones toward which to strive. When done poorly, a list of grand challenges can read like naive fantasy, with the added issue that pointing this out can lead to being labeled "negative" or "lacking in vision". To make up a poor example: "In the next ten years we should develop a computing device smaller than a grain of rice, yet more powerful than an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer, able to operate based on power acquired from the ambient environment, and costing less than $5 to manufacture." Yeah, not too realistic.
It's worth thinking hard about these, though, and trying to contribute good ones. The deadline for this call is this coming Thursday, so get yours in while you can. I put one in that I will discuss later in the week.