Education has long been recognized as an important factor for growing the fields of nanoscience and nanotechnology and solidifying and expanding their roles in the global economy. Leading researchers from the field discuss innovative learning models that are being applied at the undergraduate level in order to train future leaders at the interface of engineering and management. They have a set of five recommendations to improve the current situation.
The European Commission has published a compendium 'Nanotechnologies: Principles, Applications, Implications and Hands-on Activities' that has been specifically developed to provide the educational communities with relevant, accurate and updated materials to inform, motivate and inspire young people to know more about nanosciences and nanotechnologies concepts and applications. This resource has been developed within the context of the European research project Nanoyou, and it has been enriched with numerous and multifaceted inputs, reflections and insights on societal issues, also provided by the European project TimeforNano.
With missing data about the large scale impact of nanotechnology, life cycle assessments of potential nanoproducts should form an integral part of nanotechnology research at early stages of decision making as it can help in the screening of different process alternatives. So far, however, life cycle studies of emerging nanotechnologies have been susceptible to huge uncertainties due to issues of data quality and the rapidly evolving nature of the production processes. A recent paper investigates the suitability of the U.S. regulatory system as a comprehensive package addressing multiple types and uses of engineered nanomaterials over their life cycle.
In the past few years, dialogues have become increasingly important for politics and science as well as scientific communication. More and more, they serve as an important feature for the responsible handling of nanotechnology at the national and European level. German speaking states have therefore laid emphasis on dialogues as a tool for communication and information in their nanotechnology action plans. The projects described in the following were largely initiated by the respective authorities as implementation measures of the national nanotechnology action plans.
In order to regulate nanomaterials and to determine mandatory product labelling a generally accepted agreement what the term 'nanomaterial' means has to be reached beforehand. The EU Parliament requires that a definition shallbe science-based and comprehensive. Furthermore, for regulatory measures in individual sectors, it shall be unambiguous, flexible, easy and practical to handle. During the past few years various institutions came up with suggestions for a definition, leading to a recommendation of the EU commission, which finally is being accepted into new and existing EU legislation. Some provisions in this proposal are controversial and the implementation into specific sectoral legislation constitutes a major challenge.
The European Commission acknowledges that nanomaterials are revolutionary materials and that important challenges exist in regard to hazard and exposure assessments. Yet, they conclude that current risk-assessment methods are applicable to nanomaterials. Scientists argue that significant changes to REACH and the accompanying annexes are required to answer the call made by the public, downstream users and progressive businesses for clearer and more definite regulatory rules specific to nanomaterials.
The first part of this survey, which we posted yesterday in our Nanowerk Spotlight, introduces nanotechnology policy making and the reasons for its complexity, and offers a panorama of the set of mandatory tools that are currently available to regulate nanotechnologies. The second part, today, provides an outlook of the set of voluntary tools that coexist with the mandatory ones. For the voluntary environmental programs that are in place for nanomaterials, governments are urging companies to submit health and safety information on the nanomaterials they produce or commercialize.
Complicating things, science is quite divided on how to assess nanotechnology materials and applications. Consequently, as the public discussion about the regulation of nanotechnology in general, and nanomaterials in particular, heats up, emerging opinions on the applicability of existing regulation differ substantially and so do views on which regulatory options best address the current lack of information about environment, health and safety risks of nanomaterials, as well as the regulatory uncertainty and concerns expressed by the politicians, members of the public and industry, and investors. A new, two-part survey outlines the different frameworks policy makers have developed.