ment and implementation of a federal EHS strategy across NNI agencies and to ensure integration of federally supported EHS research with research undertaken by the private sector, the academic community, and international organizations.
There is a concern that the dual and potentially conflicting roles of the NNI— developing and promoting nanotechnology and its applications while identifying and mitigating risks that arise from such applications—impede implementation and evaluation of the EHS risk research. That duality is reflected in the diverse missions of the agencies and departments that make up the NNI. Numerous stakeholders have called for a separation of the two roles in the NNI, and such separation has historical precedent. To implement the research strategy effectively, a clear separation of management and budgetary authority and accountability is needed between the functions of developing and promoting applications of nanotechnology and of understanding and assessing potential health and environmental implications. Such a separation is needed to ensure that progress in implementing an effective nanotechnology-related EHS research strategy is not hampered. The separation of management of applications-targeted from management of implications-targeted research needs to be achieved through means that do not impede the free flow of ideas and results between the two lines of research.
In its second report, the committee will assess progress in understanding the EHS aspects of nanotechnology and the extent to which high-priority research has been initiated or implemented. The timeframe for the completion of the second report is too short to have substantial new research programs, let alone research outcomes, in place. But the committee considers that it is sufficient to see progress in initiating research in each of the four high-priority categories and progress in developing the infrastructure, accountability, and coordination mechanisms needed for implementation of the strategy. Progress in addressing those foundational elements will go a long way toward ensuring effective support and management of the research needed to provide information for identifying, assessing, and managing the potential EHS consequences of ENMs.
Despite the promise of nanotechnology, without strategic research into emergent risks associated with it—and a clear understanding of how to manage and avoid potential risks—the future of safe and sustainable nanotechnology-based materials, products, and processes is uncertain. In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world, a worthwhile economic and social return on government and industry investment in nanotechnology is unlikely to be fully realized without research on risk, including research on translation of knowledge into evidence-informed and socially responsible decision-making.