“to provide national and world leadership for research into the application of nanoparticles and nanomaterials in occupational safety and health and the implications of nanoparticles and nanomaterials for work-related injury and illness.” In 2005, NIOSH published a Strategic Plan for nanotechnology research. The goals are to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses caused by nanoparticles and nanomaterials; apply nanotechnology products to prevent such injuries and illnesses; promote healthy workplaces through intervention, recommendations, and capacity building; and enhance global workplace safety through national and international collaborations.
In August 2003, NNI formed the Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications (NEHI) Working Group to coordinate federal programs and efforts among research and regulatory agencies. This group, which meets regularly, is fostering standards for nanotechnology and advancing the understanding of environmental implications and the impact on workers’ health. The group is also documenting practices recommended by NIOSH and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for working with such materials. NNI is further identifying specific R&D needed to improve regulatory decision making on nanotechnology, and helping regulatory agencies develop websites and position statements on the responsible use of these technologies. NNI also formed a Nanotechnology Public Engagement Group to develop approaches for communicating more effectively with the public.
NNI is also trying to promote multidisciplinary education related to nanoscale science and engineering, and to ensure that the nation’s labor force has the skills and knowledge to work with nanotechnology. NNI has also worked to ensure that all stakeholders can participate in public debate and decision making regarding nanotechnology. Toward this end, NNI not only maintains its own website but has also created websites and outreach activities at federally funded nanotechnology centers and Department of Energy user facilities.
NSF’s Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network was announced in October 2005. This award will support a national network of science museums, providing informal educational activities for schoolchildren as well as adults. NSF funding is also creating two Centers for Nanotechnology in Society, one at Arizona Statue University, and the other at University of California at Santa Barbara. Through a network of social scientists, economists, and nanotechnology researchers, each Center will address key issues regarding the societal implications of nanoscience and nanotechnology. The Centers will also formulate a long-term vision for addressing EHS concerns; collaborate with partners or affiliates on the responsible use of nanotechnology; involve a wide range of stakeholders; develop a clearinghouse for information on communicating about nanoscience and nanotechnology, and engage the public in meaningful dialogue.