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Nanotech News


December 11, 2006

Report Highlights Need for Research Framework to Assess Nanotechnology Safety

A new analysis of the Federal government’s efforts to study the environmental, health, and safety (EHS) implications of nanotechnology concludes that sound management will play as important a role as good science when it comes to addressing these concerns. This analysis, conducted by ICF International, based in Fairfax, VA, highlights the urgent need to develop an integrated research framework that will fund not only good science, but science designed to support sound risk management decisions.

Given the ongoing concerns about the safety of some nanotechnology research and nanoscale materials, it is no surprise that the report joins the call for a substantial increase in Federal funding on EHS research. But more importantly, this report focuses on the role that management and an integrated research framework must play in this effort in order to maximize the return from Federal funding.

The report also posed four questions that Federal policymakers should explicitly address for every project funded. These include:

  • Does the research inform priority risk management decisions?
  • Is research completed in a timely, policy-relevant, and cost-effective manner?
  • Is the research disseminated broadly and used to enhance the quality of risk management decisions?
  • Is ongoing feedback about the quality and utility of the research used to enhance a sustained nanotechnology EHS research function?

Only programs that receive “yes” answers to each question will contribute to the success of a national EHS initiative.

In addition to 14 specific recommendations, the report also offered one final suggestion: “Significant progress in the coming months requires prompt initiation and management of building a plan for a larger and better-integrated EHS research program. This is not the same as launching the revamped research program itself; instead, the need is for a roadmap that gets the community to the point where such a program can be launched.”

According to Peter Linquiti, one of the study’s authors, “At first, the challenge appears to be only a scientific one, focused on traditional risk assessment topics like hazard, exposure, dose-response, and environmental impacts. But it’s also a management issue. Without a sound strategic research plan and the right underlying business processes, it will be difficult to ensure that federal research reliably yields answers to questions being asked by a wide variety of stakeholders.”

This report is titled, “Characterizing the Environmental, Health, and Safety Implications of Nanotechnology: Where Should the Federal Government Go From Here?” A copy of this report is available at no charge at ICF’s website.
View report.