There is growing consensus that over the coming decades nanotechnology will transform virtually every aspect of people’s lives.
Numerous nanotechnology products—some estimate over 700—are already on the market and many applications are in the final stage of product development.
With any new technology comes uncertainty. Some of these new nanoproducts or manufacturing techniques may have harmful, unintended consequences. Others suggest great health, environmental and economic improvements over the medical, energy, and industrial applications in use today.
The effort to understand and manage nanotechnology’s benefits and risks will be a long, perhaps never-ending one. And while there is currently little evidence that engineered nanomaterials and nano-enabled products will create undue harm, the funding for research and development of nanoscience and engineering applications far outpaces the research on possible human health, safety, and environmental impacts.
To date, no single inventory of government-funded risk research has existed. To fill this crucial gap, the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is compiling an accessible inventory of government-supported research addressing the environmental, human health, and safety (EH&S) implications of nanotechnology.
This inventory is an essential resource for policymakers, researchers, corporations, and others responsible for ensuring nanotechnologies’ safe, sustainable development. One critical aim is to facilitate and encourage greater public and private-sector risk-research partnerships, and to foster international research collaborations in the vital area of nanotoxicology and environmental effects.
The first generation of this inventory contains basic information on government-funded, risk-related research projects, including summaries, duration, funding sources, budgets, and, if available, results. The research is categorized on multiple levels. The first layer of categorization analyzes each research project by its relevance to the implications of nanotechnology, whether the nanomaterials under investigation are intentionally manufactured, incidental or naturally occurring, and whether the primary focus is on human health, environment, or safety impacts. A second layer of categorization classifies the research according to its focus within a simplified risk analysis framework. Finally, provision is made for a more detailed, third level of classification according to a range of searchable keywords and phrases. Although not comprehensive, the inventory currently provides the most complete overview of current government-funded research into the EH&S implications of nanotechnology to date.
The inventory is meant to be international and expanding. Every effort is being made to include information on research supported by governments throughout the world. Additions to the inventory will be made as new information is received, and researchers and research managers will be able to contribute new or updated information as their work progresses. Users are encouraged to submit new and updated information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies is dedicated to helping ensure that, as nanotechnology research advances, possible risks are minimized, public and consumer engagement remains strong, and the potential benefits of these new technologies are realized.
This inventory is a major initiative to help further and encourage productive private and public-sector EH&S research around the world, and to help create a more complete understanding of how to minimize potential risks posed by emerging nanotechnologies.