Posted: October 29, 2007

Is there progress on nanotechnology risk research?

(Nanowerk News) An article in today's Congressional Quarterly (CQ) asks the question "Is There Progress on Nanotechnology Risk Research?"
A House Science subcommittee this week will summon officials from the president’s interagency office on nanotechnology for a third time to discuss progress on establishing a federal nanotechnology risk research strategy — an effort many stakeholders say is not moving quickly enough.
The Oct. 31 hearing is another attempt to speed the process along or else to get recommendations on ways to alter the efforts of the National Nanotechnology Initiative to establish priorities for researching the potential risks of engineering and producing materials at the molecular level, said an aide to Research and Science Education Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird, D-Wash.
Full committee Chairman Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., is being quoted as saying "Prudence suggests the need for urgency in having the science of health and environmental implications catch up to, or even better surpass, the pace of commercialization."
Not only is nanotechnology a complex field of science and an intricate regulatory challenge, even the roles within the federal government are hard to follow. The National Science and Technology Council coordinates science and technology policies across the federal government. The council’s Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology subcommittee oversees the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NNI seeks to coordinate the nanotechnology research and development efforts of 27 federal agencies. The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, or NNCO, provides technical and administrative support to the NSET subcommittee. And the working group producing the document with the input of representatives from 18 federal agencies and NNCO staff is called NEHI.
An interesting and valid point being made is that the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)’s conflicting functions, of promoting nanotechnology and addressing potential risk, should be separated.
Source: CQ
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