BOX 4-1

Questions that Structured the Committee’s Analysis

  • Is the list of research needs appropriate?

  • Is the gap analysis complete and accurate?

  • Was the priority-setting of needs correct?

  • Does the research support environmental, health, and safety risk assessment and risk management?

might have been an excellent approach to informing the development of a research strategy from the outset. The committee recognizes that the 2006 NNI report identified VOI as one of the principles for identifying and setting priorities for EHS research.

A VOI approach would help assess what information would be most valuable in improving understanding of the EHS risks of engineered nanomaterials. Its application relies on assessment of both the quality and the relevance of information, and it necessarily weights efforts in favor of the most pressing research needs.

One fundamental rule of thumb emerging from this approach is that information that cannot change one’s (or one’s agency’s) decision has no additional value for decision-making. New knowledge could have other favorable social effects and advance our understanding of the natural world and still not have a place in a nanotechnology EHS research strategy. Application of quantitative VOI approaches clearly is premature, but qualitative concepts could be used in the development of an effective EHS research strategy.

In the review of Section II of the 2008 NNI document, it was apparent that a number of issues cut across most or all of the research priority topics. They are highlighted in the next section of this chapter and are followed by an in-depth technical evaluation of each of the high-priority research topics in Section II that reflects issues specific to the five research categories (Box 4-2). The last section of the chapter discusses the committee’s assessment of the current distribution of federal investment in nanotechnology-related EHS research; it became clear to the committee when it evaluated the NNI document that its perception of the balance of relevant research among the five research categories differed substantially from the NNI’s perception (see p. 44, NEHI 2008).


The NNI strategy document organizes EHS research into five overarching topical categories (see Box 4-2), with five research needs in each category. Each category addresses research important to EHS risk assessment. The committee

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