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Limited transparency in federal nanotech research may hamper development
Date:4/16/2008

Washington, DC Without clear leadership and more transparency in federal risk research investment, the emergence of safe nanotechnologies will be a happy accident, rather than a foregone conclusion, says Dr. Andrew Maynard, the Chief Science Advisor for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN). This sentiment was voiced today by Dr. Maynard in testimony at the House Science & Technology Committees hearing on the National Nanotechnology Initiative Amendments Act of 2008.

Activities to date within the federal nanotechnology initiative have been less than transparent, to the detriment of an effective strategy for nanotechnology development and use, Dr. Maynard says in written testimony submitted to the committee. There is a yawning knowledge-gap between nanomaterials entering commerce now and what we know about their safety. This uncertainty over how to develop nanotechnologies safely is hamstringing regulators, impeding nano businesses, and confusing consumers. In short, moving towards the nanotechnology future without a clear understanding of the possible risks, and how to manage them, is like driving blindfolded.

A PEN assessment of purported nanotechnology risk-relevant research published by the federal governments National Nanotechnology Initiative reveals that spending on environment, health and safety-focused research projects in 2006 was substantially lower than that claimed by U.S. officials.

Research projects with the primary aim of understanding and managing the risks of nanotechnology accounted for only $13 million in funding for 2006, according to Dr. Maynard. Over the same period, European Union nations invested nearly $24 million in similar nanotech risk-focused projectsalmost twice as much as the U.S. There is undoubtedly potentially-relevant research buried in other U.S. government funded projects. But without transparency, it is impossible to assess the true value of this research, or ensure it is used to en
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Contact: Colin Finan
colin.finan@wilsoncenter.org
202-691-4321
Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies
Source:Eurekalert

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