The outcomes needed from the research and knowledge infrastructure include making characterized nanomaterials widely available, refining analytic methods continuously to define the structures of the materials throughout their life span, defining methods and protocols to assess effects, and increasing the rate of generation and the quality of the data and models available. Stakeholders should be engaged in developing best practices, in sharing information, and in collaborating in developing methods and models. Informatics should be fostered through the joining (“federating”) of existing databases, the encouraging and sustaining of curation and annotation of the data, and the assigning of credit to those who share datasets and models. Joined knowledge bases need to be interoperable and provide for mapping or translation of related ontologies (descriptions of the concepts and relationships among a set of agents or elements; Gruber 2011) to allow for searching similar concepts to identify appropriate data.
Because the knowledge infrastructure will integrate the research agenda, it comprises activities that connect the other research categories. Each activity described below is an integral part of the infrastructure and has both short-term and long-term components. The relative emphasis placed on each activity will change as the foundational components of the infrastructure are established; however, to ensure coordination of the infrastructure, some emphasis on each activity is needed from the outset. The activities are binned into three areas, in descending order of their importance in the short term.
Short-term priority requiring immediate emphasis followed by a sustained effort:
• Produce and make available material libraries (characterized nanomaterials in commerce, reference materials, and standard materials) that have the structural definition and systematic variation needed for advancing key research (see Chapter 4).
Building these capabilities in the short term and ramping them up to a sustained effort in the longer term:
• Develop and validate the analytic tools and methods needed to relate nanomaterial properties to system responses, including methods for detecting, characterizing, and tracking nanomaterials in relevant media and for monitoring transformations (including surface modifications) in complex media and on the timescale of experiments. A multi-tiered approach will be needed to develop methods so that the fate of ENMs in all relevant media can be understood.
• Refine and validate methods needed to characterize and quantify the effects of ENMs in experimental systems, considering the identity and dose of a nanomaterial at the target or in the system. Develop and validate methods, including high-throughput screening, to examine the sensitivity of effects to structural motifs and descriptors.