Tag Archives: OECD

Corporate influence, nanotechnology regulation, and Friends of the Earth (FoE) Australia

The latest issue of the newsletter, Chain Reaction # 121, July 2014, published by Friends of the Earth (FoE) Australia features an article by Louise Sales ‘Corporate influence over nanotechnology regulation‘ that has given me pause. From the Sales article,

I recently attended an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) seminar on the risk assessment and risk management of nanomaterials. This was an eye-opening experience that graphically illustrated the extent of corporate influence over nanotechnology regulation globally. Representatives of the chemical companies DuPont and Evonik; the Nanotechnology Industries Association; and the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC) sat alongside representatives of countries such as Australia, the US and Canada and were given equal speaking time.

BIAC gave a presentation on their work with the Canadian and United States Governments to harmonise nanotechnology regulation between the two countries. [US-Canada Regulatory Cooperative Council] [emphasis mine] Repeated reference to the involvement of ‘stakeholders’ prompted me to ask if any NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] were involved in the process. Only in the earlier stages apparently − ‘stakeholders’ basically meant industry.

A representative of the Nanotechnology Industries Association told us about the European NANoREG project they are leading in collaboration with regulators, industry and scientists. This is intended to ‘develop … new testing strategies adapted to innovation requirements’ and to ‘establish a close collaboration among authorities, industry and science leading to efficient and practically applicable risk management approaches’. In other words industry will be helping write the rules.

Interestingly, when I raised concerns about this profound intertwining of government and industry with one of the other NGO representatives they seemed almost dismissive of my concerns. I got the impression that most of the parties concerned thought that this was just the ‘way things were’. As under-resourced regulators struggle with the regulatory challenges posed by nanotechnology − the offer of industry assistance is probably very appealing. And from the rhetoric at the meeting one could be forgiven for thinking that their objectives are very similar − to ensure that their products are safe. Right? Wrong.

I just published an update about the US-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC; in  my July 14, 2014 posting) where I noted the RCC has completed its work and final reports are due later this summer. Nowhere in any of the notices is there mention of BIAC’s contribution (whatever it might have been) to this endeavour.

Interestingly. BIAC is not an OECD committee but a separate organization as per its About us page,

BIAC is an independent international business association devoted to advising government policymakers at OECD and related fora on the many diversified issues of globalisation and the world economy.

Officially recognised since its founding in 1962 as being representative of the OECD business community, BIAC promotes the interests of business by engaging, understanding and advising policy makers on a broad range of issues with the overarching objectives of:

  • Positively influencing the direction of OECD policy initiatives;

  • Ensuring business and industry needs are adequately addressed in OECD policy decision instruments (policy advocacy), which influence national legislation;

  • Providing members with timely information on OECD policies and their implications for business and industry.

Through its 38 policy groups, which cover the major aspects of OECD work most relevant to business, BIAC members participate in meetings, global forums and consultations with OECD leadership, government delegates, committees and working groups.

I don’t see any mention of safety either in the excerpt or elsewhere on their About us page.

As Sales notes in her article,

Ultimately corporations have one primary driver and that’s increasing their bottom line.

I do wonder why there doesn’t seem to have been any transparency regarding BIAC’s involvement with the RCC and why no NGOs (according to Sales) were included as stakeholders.

While I sometimes find FoE and its fellow civil society groups a bit shrill and over-vehement at times, It never does to get too complacent. For example, who would have thought that General Motors would ignore safety issues (there were car crashes and fatalities as a consequence) over the apparently miniscule cost of changing an ignition switch. From What is the timeline of the GM recall scandal? on Vox.com,

March 2005: A GM project engineering manager closed the investigation into the faulty switches, noting that they were too costly to fix. In his words: “lead time for all solutions is too long” and “the tooling cost and piece price are too high.” Later emails unearthed by Reuters suggested that the fix would have cost GM 90 cents per car. [emphasis mine]

March 2007: Safety regulators inform GM of the death of Amber Rose, who crashed her Chevrolet Cobalt in 2005 after the ignition switch shut down the car’s electrical system and air bags failed to deploy. Neither the company nor regulators open an investigation.

End of 2013: GM determines that the faulty ignition switch is to blame for at least 31 crashes and 13 deaths.

According to a July 17, 2014 news item on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) news online, Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, has testified on the mater before the US Senate for a 2nd time, this year,

A U.S. Senate panel posed questions to a new set of key players Thursday [July 17, 2014] as it delves deeper into General Motors’ delayed recall of millions of small cars.

An internal report found GM attorneys signed settlements with the families of crash victims but didn’t tell engineers or top executives about mounting problems with ignition switches. It also found that GM’s legal staff acted without urgency.

GM says faulty ignition switches were responsible for at least 13 deaths. It took the company 11 years to recall the cars.

Barra will certainly be asked about how she’s changing a corporate culture that allowed a defect with ignition switches to remain hidden from the car-buying public for 11 years. It will be Barra’s second time testifying before the panel.

H/T ICON (International Council on Nanotechnology) July 16, 2014 news item. Following on the topic of transparency, ICON based at Rice University in Texas (US) has a Sponsors webpage.

Deadline extension (travel grants and poster abstracts) for alternate testing strategies (ATS) of nanomaterials workshop

It seems there have been a couple of deadline extensions (to August 1, 2014) for the September 15-16, 2014 ‘Workshop to Explore How a Multiple Models Approach can Advance Risk Analysis of Nanoscale Materials’ in Washington, DC (first mentioned in my July 10, 2014 posting featuring a description of the workshop). You can go here to submit a poster abstract (from any country) and you can go here if you’re a student or young professional (from any country) in search of a $500 travel award.

I managed to speak to one of the organizers, Lorraine Sheremeta, (Assistant Director, Ingenuity Lab, University of Alberta and co-author a July 9, 2014 Nanowerk Spotlight article about the workshop). Lorraine (Lori) kindly spoke to me about the upcoming workshop, which she described as an academic conference,.

As I understand what she told me, the hosts for the September 15-16, 2014 Workshop to Explore How a Multiple Models Approach can Advance Risk Analysis of Nanoscale Materials in Washington, DC want to attract a multidisciplinary group of people to grapple with a few questions. First, they want to establish a framework for establishing which are the best test methods for nanomaterials. Second, they are trying to move away from animal testing and want to establish which methods are equal to or better than animal testing. Thirdly, they want to discuss what they are going to do with the toxicological data  that we have  been collecting on nanomaterials for years now.

Or, as she and her colleague from the Society of Risk Analysis (Jo Anne Shatkin) have put in it in their Nanowerk Spotlight article:

… develop a report on the State of the Science for ATS for nanomaterials, catalogue of existing and emerging ATS [alternate testing strategies] methods in a database; and develop a case study to inform workshop deliberations and expert recommendations

The collaborative team behind this event includes, the University of Alberta’s Ingenuity Lab, the Society for Risk Analysis, Environment Canada, Health Canada, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials (WPMN) .

The speaker lineup isn’t settled at this time although they have confirmed Vicki Stone of Heriot-Watt University in Scotland (from her university bio page),

Vicki Stone, Professor of Toxicology, studies the effects of nanomaterials on humans and environmentally relevant species.  Current research projects investigate the mechanism of toxicity of a range of nanomaterials in cells of the immune system (macrophages and neutrophils), liver (hepatocytes) , gastrointestinal tract, blood vessels (endothelium) and lung.  She is interested in interactions between nanomaterials, proteins and lipids, and how this influences subsequent toxicity.  Current projects also develop in vitro alternatives using microfluidics as well as high resolution imaging of individual nanomaterials in 3D and over time.  In addition Vicki collaborates with ecotoxicologists to investigate the impacts of nanomaterials on aquatic organisms. Vicki coordinated a European project to identify the research priorities to develop an intelligent testing strategy for nanomaterials (www.its-nano.eu).

Vicki is Director of the Nano Safety Research Group at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and Director of Toxicology for SAFENANO (www.safenano.org). She has acted as the Editor-in-chief of the journal Nanotoxicology (http://informahealthcare.com/nan) for 6 years (2006-2011). Vicki has also published over 130 publications pertaining to particle toxicology over the last 16 years and has provided evidence for the government commissioned reports published by the Royal Society (2003) and the on Environmental Pollution (2008).  Vicki was previously a member of the UK Government Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP) and an advisory board member for the Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT; funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency)).

A representative from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) will also be speaking. I believe that will be Amy Clippinger (from the PETA website’s Regulatory Testing webpage; scroll down about 70% of the way),

Science adviser Amy Clippinger has a Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology and genetics and several years of research experience at the University of Pennsylvania.

PETA representatives have been to at least one other conference on the topic of nano, toxicology, and animal testing as per my April 24, 2014 posting about NANOTOX 2014 in Turkey,

Writing about nanotechnology can lead you in many different directions such as the news about PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and its poster presentation at the NanoTox 2014 conference being held in Antalya, Turkey from April 23 – 26, 2014. From the April 22, 2014 PETA news release on EurekAlert,

PETA International Science Consortium Ltd.’s nanotechnology expert will present a poster titled “A tiered-testing strategy for nanomaterial hazard assessment” at the 7th International Nanotoxicology Congress [NanoTox 2014] to be held April 23-26, 2014, in Antalya, Turkey.

Dr. Monita Sharma will outline a strategy consistent with the 2007 report from the US National Academy of Sciences, “Toxicity Testing in the 21st Century: A Vision and a Strategy,” which recommends use of non-animal methods involving human cells and cell lines for mechanistic pathway–based toxicity studies.

There is a lot of interest internationally in improving how we test for toxicity of nanomaterials. As well, the drive to eliminate or minimize as much as possible the use of animals in testing seems to be gaining momentum.

Good luck to everyone submitting a poster abstract and/or an application for a travel grant!

In case you don’t want to scroll up, the SRA nano workshop website is here.

Canada-US joint Regulatory Cooperation Council nanotechnology initiative completed and Canada endorses OECD nanomaterials recommendation

Thanks to Lynn Bergeson’s July 9, 2014 posting on Nanotechnology Now, I learned the Canada-US joint Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) nanotechnology initiative has completed its work and will be filing final reports later this summer (2014).

I have featured the RCC here in at least three postings, a Dec. 3, 2012 posting, a June 26, 2013 posting, and a January 21, 2014 posting. Briefly, the RCC was first announced in 2011 and is intended to harmonize Canadian and US regulatory frameworks in a number of areas including, agriculture and food, transportation, personal care products and pharmaceuticals and more. Significantly, nanotechnology was also part of their portfolio.

The latest information about RCC doings was obtained from the Canadian government’s 2014 summer issue of the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) Progress Report (a second thank you for Bergeson for information about this publication),

The Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council Nanotechnology Initiative is now complete. Canada and the U.S. are implementing the new approaches and lessons learned in risk assessments of nanomaterials. An important outcome of the initiative is the development of consistent policy principles on the regulatory oversight of nanomaterials, which have now been endorsed by the Government of Canada. Watch for the publication of the final reports from the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council Nanotechnology Initiative this summer. The reports will include recommendations about ways in which Canada and the U.S. can align their nanomaterial regulatory work, including the application of consistent risk assessment approaches and methodologies and identifying categories of nanomaterials.

The 2014 CMP summer issue offers a second tidbit of information. This time it’s about Canada and the OECD,

Canada has endorsed a recommendation from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Council on the Safety Testing and Assessment of Manufactured Nanomaterials. The recommendation states that countries “apply the existing international and national chemical regulatory frameworks or other management systems, adapted to take into account the specific properties of manufactured nanomaterials.” The recommendation was based on the work of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials, which is a harmonization effort to inform regulatory programs regarding the environmental and health and safety implications of manufactured nanomaterials.

For enthusiasts, Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan progress report is expected to be published twice/year. There are now two issues available, the first with a Dec. 30, 2013 publication date. Here’s more about the CMP progress reports,

The Chemicals Management Plan Progress Report has been created to keep stakeholders and other interested parties up to date on the activities and programs related to Canada’s Chemicals Management Plan (CMP). The report is produced jointly by Environment Canada and Health Canada and will be published twice a year. It will report on advances in major initiatives and highlight key activities related to the Government of Canada’s recent work under the CMP. It will also inform you about coming events, dates of interest and how to get involved.

We encourage you to share the reports with anyone who may be interested. We also welcome your feedback or suggestions. We can be reached at [email protected]

Anyone interested in more information about the RCC (Regulatory Cooperation Council) and its nanotechnology efforts can find it here.

An upcoming alternate testing strategies (ATS) for nanomaterials workshop and the quest to reduce animal testing

It’s too late to announce a call for poster abstracts or travel awards but that still leaves the possibility of attending a September 15-16, 2014 Workshop to Explore How a Multiple Models Approach can Advance Risk Analysis of Nanoscale Materials in Washington, DC. In a July 9, 2014 Nanowerk Spotlight article,, Jo Anne Shatkin (President, Vireo Advisors) and Lorraine Sheremeta (Assistant Director, Ingenuity Lab, University of Alberta) tout the workshop in the context of describing new approaches to nanotoxicology research (Note: A link has been removed),

Engineered nanoscale materials (ENM or ‘nanomaterials’) offer the potential to create safer and more effective products through the use of smaller quantities of improved performance materials. Currently nanomaterials are used to improve the performance of life-saving drugs and medical technologies, to make renewable energy more efficient, to make value added products from industrial waste streams, to improve food, packaging, to lightweight materials used in transportation systems, and to improve many of the personal care products that we use every day. Nanomaterial manufacture and use is expected to increase over the coming years and despite the widespread use of nanomaterials in a variety of consumer products, we are only beginning to understand the impacts of these emerging materials on our health and the environment. To this end, the University of Alberta’s Ingenuity Lab is collaborating with the Society for Risk Analysis to evaluate the potential to use alternative test strategies (ATS) to improve our ability to assess nanomaterial toxicity and environmental impact.

Shatkin and Sheremeta describe toxicology tests and explain the importance of refining and improving these tests (from the article),

Standard in vivo toxicology test methods that depend heavily on the use of animals have long been used to assess chemical safety. [emphasis mine*] Existing and novel in vitro and in silico test methods provide important alternatives to in vivo animal testing for chemicals and potentially for ENM. Genotoxicity tests, for example, are used to assess the mutagenic potential of chemicals or nanomaterials in the replication of DNA in cells. Driven in part by increasing market and regulatory requirements for safer and more sustainable products, large international infrastructure has developed for creating, testing and validating in vitro test methods, and its use is expanding to chemical and nanomaterial assessment (NSF, 2007). The goals of reducing, refining and replacing animal testing (the commonly cited ‘three Rs’) – resonate with key and diverse stakeholders including animal rights groups, the bioethics community, the pharmaceutical industry, regulatory agencies and the broader public. [emphasis mine*]

Despite nearly a decade of effort in the conduct toxicology and exposure research to inform the assessment of health and environmental risks of nanomaterials, major gaps remain in the ability to understand and quantify risks. While there is now a large body of published data on carbon nanotubes and metal oxide nanoparticles, concern has been raised that speculation about nanomaterial risk has hardened into an assumption that there are ‘as-yet-to-be-discovered risks’ that we must identify and manage (Maynard, 2014) that demands extensive testing.

The authors describe ATS (alternative test strategies) in greater detail,

ATS approaches are regarded by many to have the potential for rapid screening of large numbers and types of materials. They can include a breadth of techniques including high throughput screening methods (HTS), high content screening, computational approaches, toxicogenomics, cell-based methods, in vitro assays and non-mammalian whole animal models. The emergence of ATS raises questions about how the results of these methods may be used for assessing the potential risks of ENM. For instance, ATS could be used in combination in a multiple models approach to evaluate new ENM in a number of rapid assays and compare with well-studied substances using in vivo testing; thereby identifying ENM for additional testing in a more strategic fashion than is possible through conventional testing approaches.

They also describe the current state of affairs with ATS,

In the United States, the U.S. ToxCast program has, as part of their 21st century toxicity screening program (NRC, 2007), tested 29 NMs with 62 in vitro test methods (Wang et al. 2013). Many researchers, including several from the University of Alberta, have proposed and developed ATS to include a variety of methods, some which are standardized for chemicals, and others which take advantage of developments including advanced biological mechanistic understanding, genomics, metabolomics, automation and informatics. However, these existing as well as emerging ATS have a short history with nanomaterials, and have not yet proven to be reliable for quantitative estimation of ENM risk. Still, several international efforts have developed ATS that have potential to be used for screening purposes, and to guide further testing priorities for regulatory decision making. The goal of the September [2014] workshop by the Society for Risk Analysis is to explore ways in which distinct ATS may be used for screening and prioritizing the need for more extensive testing of novel ENM.

The parties (including the authors of the article) involved in developing this risk workshop are listed, also mentioned are members of the international testing scene,

Lori Sheremeta, the Assistant Director of Ingenuity Lab in Edmonton Alberta and past Chair of the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) Emerging Nanoscale Materials Specialty Group (ENMSG), is collaborating with U.S.-based nanomaterials risk expert Jo Anne Shatkin (an SRA Councilor and co-founder of the SRA ENMSG), Environment Canada, Health Canada, the SRA ENMSG and others on a Pilot Project with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials (WPMN) to develop a report on the State of the Science for ATS for nanomaterials, catalogue of existing and emerging ATS methods in a database; and develop a case study to inform workshop deliberations and expert recommendations.

There are many international efforts to develop, as well as to validate and standardize, these methods for chemicals, including organizations such as the US National Toxicology Program Interagency Center for the Evaluation of Alternative Toxicological Methods (ICCVAM), the European Union Reference Laboratory European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (EURL ECVAM), the Japanese Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods (JacVAM), the Korean Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (KoCVAM) and the OECD. There is wide recognition that the diversity of NMs renders it impractical to use traditional animal testing to evaluate safety, hence there is significant interest in assessing the performance of both existing and emerging alternative testing strategies for NMs. Further, the EU directive REACH (Directive 2006/121/EC) requires replacing in vivo testing, and there is widespread popular agreement about the desire to limit animal testing. Finally, there is a need for more biologically informative toxicology methods (Hartung, 2010; Silbergeld et al, 2011; Landsiedel et al, 2009).

A list of the workshop objectives is offered  in the article,

The main objectives of the workshop are to:

assess the state of the science on HTS and ATS from a ‘multiple models’ perspective to identify areas of common findings from differing approaches, areas of greatest uncertainty, and priorities for follow up in applied research toward risk assessment of ENM;
evaluate the ability to use data from ATS/HTS methods for screening purposes – combining suites of assays and comparing well-studied substances to novel ones;

assess the ability to use a suite of ATS methods to amplify the Weight of Evidence;

characterize uncertainty associated with predictive relationships and propose strategies to address uncertainties;

elicit the perspectives of diverse stakeholders about the use of HTS/ATS for screening purposes in risk analysis of ENM; and

develop a set of recommendations for these alternative approaches to become more widely adopted for environmental, health and safety decision making about ENM across the product life cycle. The output of the workshop holds potential for transformation through risk screening approaches that promote safer and more sustainable material and technology development.

You can find more about the September 15-16, 2014 Workshop to Explore How a Multiple Models Approach can Advance Risk Analysis of Nanoscale Materials in Washington, DC here.

The text in the article is a bit rough. Some of the ideas and topics don’t follow each other logically. So, be prepared to spend a little time reading, Happily, there are references included with the article.

I last mentioned Jo Anne Shatkin here in the context of a 2013 paper on alternative test strategies (ATS) in an Aug. 22, 2013 posting. I think the most recent mention of Lorraine Sheremeta here is in a Jan. 11, 2010 posting about Canada, nanotechnology, and food.

Final note, I am hoping to get some more information about the workshop and ATS scene from Lorraine Sheremeta to be published in a subsequent posting.

* I added the emphases at 0830 hours PDT July 10, 2014.

Canadian government spending on science and technology is down for the fourth year in a row

It seems there a steady downward trajectory where Canadian science and technology spending is concerned. Stephen Hui in a May 28, 2014 article for the Georgia Straight, breaks the latest news from Statistics Canada (Note: A link has been removed),

The Canadian government is expected to spend less money on science and technology in 2014-15 compared to the previous fiscal year, continuing a trend that began in 2011-12. [emphasis mine]

According to Statistics Canada, federal departments and agencies are projected to record $10.3 billion (all figures in current dollars) in science and tech expenditures in 2014-15, a decrease of 5.4 percent from 2013-14.

Federal science and tech spending peaked at $12 billion in 2010-11 and has declined every year since then.

In fact, an earlier July 30, 2013 news item in Huffington Post noted a decrease in the 2013-14 budget,

The federal agency says spending for the 2013-14 fiscal year is expected to decrease 3.3 per cent from the previous period, to $10.5 billion.

It adds research and development is expected to account for two-thirds of anticipated science and technology spending.

The finding is contained in Statistics Canada’s annual survey of all federal government departments and agencies believed to be performing or funding science and technology activities.

The survey, released Tuesday [July 2013], covers the period from Sept. 10, 2012 to Jan. 11, 2013.

Statistics Canada says spending on science and technology has been steadily decreasing since 2009-10. [emphasis mine]

According to Hui’s source, the Statistics Canada’s The Daily, May 28,2014: Federal government spending on science and technology, 2014/2015, the trend started in 2011/12. I’m not sure which specific Statistics Canada publication was the source for the Huffington Post’s start date for the decline.

Interestingly, the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2013 dates the decline to 2001. From my Oct. 30, 2013 posting (excerpted from the scorecard),

Canada is among the few OECD countries where R&D expenditure declined between 2000 and 2011 (Figure 1). This decline was mainly due to reduced business spending on R&D. It occurred despite relatively generous public support for business R&D, primarily through tax incentives. In 2011, Canada was amongst the OECD countries with the most generous tax support for R&D and the country with the largest share of government funding for business R&D being accounted for by tax credits (Figure 2). …

If I understand this rightly, Canadian business spending on R&D has been steadily declining for more than a decade and, since 2010 or so, Canadian government spending is also steadily declining. Does anyone else see this as a problem?

The contrast with Brazil is startling. From a June 2, 2014 Institute of Physics news release (also on EurekAlert but dated as June 1, 2014),

As Brazil gets set to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup this month amid concerns about the amount of public money being used to stage the world’s largest sporting event, Physics World‘s editorial team reveals in a new special report how physicists are taking full advantage of the four-fold increase in science funding that the government has invested over the past 10 years.

Since this news comes from the physics community, the news release focuses on physics-related developments,

Negotiations are currently under way to make Brazil an associate member of the CERN particle-physics lab in Geneva, while the country is also taking a leading role in the Pierre Auger Observatory – an international project based in Argentina designed to study ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays. [emphasis mine]

Building is also under way to create a world-leading synchrotron source, Sirius and Brazil is poised to become the first non-European member of the European Southern Observatory.

Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, a physicist at the University of Campinas and scientific director at FAPESP – one of Brazil’s most important funding agencies – told Physics World that the expectation is for Brazilian scientists to take a leadership role in such large research projects “and not just watch as mere participants”.

Considering the first graduate programmes in physics did not emerge in Brazilian universities until 1960, the rise to becoming one of the leading participants in international collaborations has been a rapid one.

The reputation of Brazilian physics has grown in line with a massive increase in science funding, which rose from R$12bn (about £3bn) in 2000 to R$50bn (around £13bn) in 2011.

Brazil’s spending on R&D now accounts for 1.2% of the gross domestic product and 40% of the total funding comes from companies.

The Brazilian Physical Society has around 6000 members comprising almost all research physicists in the country, who wrote around 25 000 research articles in international science journals between 2007 and 2010.

A lack of funding in the past had forced Brazilian scientists to focus on cheaper, theoretical research, but this has now changed and there is an almost even split between theory and experiment at universities.

Yet Brazil still suffers from several long-standing problems, the most significant being the poor standard of science education in high schools. A combination of low pay and lack of recognition makes physics teaching an unpopular choice of occupation despite attempts to tackle the problem.

Even those students who do see physics as a career option end up struggling and under-prepared for the rigours of an undergraduate physics course. Vitor de Souza, an astrophysicist at the Physics Institute at São Carlos, which is part of the University of São Paulo, told Physics World that of the 120 students who start a four-year physics degree at his university, only 10-20 actually graduate.

Another problem in Brazil is a fundamental disconnect between academic research and industrial development, with universities not sure how to handle spin-off firms and companies suspicious of universities.

More broadly, physicists feel that Brazilian society does not recognize the value of science, and that this can only be overcome when the physics community becomes more ambitious and more audacious.

You can find the special issue of Physics World here (it is open access).

As I noted in this May 30, 2014 posting (and elsewhere) featuring the new Agency of Science Communication, Technology and Innovation of Argentina (ACCTINA),,

The PCST [13th International Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference] international conference takes place every two years. The 2014 PCST conference took place in Salvador, Brazil. Conferences like this would seem to confirm the comments I made in a May 20, 2014 posting,

Returning to 2014, the [World Cup {soccer}] kickoff in Brazil (if successful) symbolizes more than an international athletic competition or a technical/medical achievement, this kick-off symbolizes a technological future for Brazil and its place on the world stage (despite the protests and social unrest) .

While the science and technology community in Brazil has its concerns, I imagine most Canadian scientists would thrill to being the recipients of the funding bonanza of 1.2%  of the gross domestic product. According to the Conference Board of Canada, research and development spending in Canada was 0.8% of GDP for 2011 (from the Conference Board of Canada’s Public R&D spending webpage),

[downloaded from http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/details/innovation/publicrandd.aspx]

[downloaded from http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/details/innovation/publicrandd.aspx]

Did you notice, Canada the in 2011 was on the edge of getting a C grade along with the US? Meanwhile, if Brazil was listed, it would get top marks.

The question as to how much money is not enough for research and development (R&D) spending is complex and I don’t think it’s easily answered but it would be nice to see some discussion.

Nanomaterials and safety: Europe’s non-governmental agencies make recommendations; (US) Arizona State University initiative; and Japan’s voluntary carbon nanotube management

I have three news items which have one thing in common, they concern nanomaterials and safety. Two of these of items are fairly recent; the one about Japan has been sitting in my drafts folder for months and I’m including it here because if I don’t do it now, I never will.

First, there’s an April 7, 2014 news item on Nanowerk (h/t) about European non-governmental agencies (CIEL; the Center for International Environmental Law and its partners) and their recommendations regarding nanomaterials and safety. From the CIEL April 2014 news release,

CIEL and European partners* publish position paper on the regulation of nanomaterials at a meeting of EU competent authorities

*ClientEarth, The European Environmental Bureau, European citizen’s Organization for Standardisation, The European consumer voice in Standardisation –ANEC, and Health Care Without Harm, Bureau of European Consumers

… Current EU legislation does not guarantee that all nanomaterials on the market are safe by being assessed separately from the bulk form of the substance. Therefore, we ask the European Commission to come forward with concrete proposals for a comprehensive revision of the existing legal framework addressing the potential risks of nanomaterials.

1. Nanomaterials are different from other substances.

We are concerned that EU law does not take account of the fact that nano forms of a substance are different and have different intrinsic properties from their bulk counterpart. Therefore, we call for this principle to be explicitly established in the REACH, and Classification Labeling and Packaging (CLP) regulations, as well as in all other relevant legislation. To ensure adequate consideration, the submission of comprehensive substance identity and characterization data for all nanomaterials on the market, as defined by the Commission’s proposal for a nanomaterial definition, should be required.

Similarly, we call on the European Commission and EU Member States to ensure that nanomaterials do not benefit from the delays granted under REACH to phase-in substances, on the basis of information collected on their bulk form.

Further, nanomaterials, due to their properties, are generally much more reactive than their bulk counterpart, thereby increasing the risk of harmful impact of nanomaterials compared to an equivalent mass of bulk material. Therefore, the present REACH thresholds for the registration of nanomaterials should be lowered.

Before 2018, all nanomaterials on the market produced in amounts of over 10kg/year must be registered with ECHA on the basis of a full registration dossier specific to the nanoform.

2. Risk from nanomaterials must be assessed

Six years after the entry into force of the REACH registration requirements, only nine substances have been registered as nanomaterials despite the much wider number of substances already on the EU market, as demonstrated by existing inventories. Furthermore, the poor quality of those few nano registration dossiers does not enable their risks to be properly assessed. To confirm the conclusions of the Commission’s nano regulatory review assuming that not all nanomaterials are toxic, relevant EU legislation should be amended to ensure that all nanomaterials are adequately assessed for their hazardous properties.

Given the concerns about novel properties of nanomaterials, under REACH, all registration dossiers of nanomaterials must include a chemical safety assessment and must comply with the same information submission requirements currently required for substances classified as Carcinogenic, Mutagenic or Reprotoxic (CMRs).

3. Nanomaterials should be thoroughly evaluated

Pending the thorough risk assessment of nanomaterials demonstrated by comprehensive and up-to-date registration dossiers for all nanoforms on the market, we call on ECHA to systematically check compliance for all nanoforms, as well as check the compliance of all dossiers which, due to uncertainties in the description of their identity and characterization, are suspected of including substances in the nanoform. Further, the Community Roling Action Plan (CoRAP) list should include all identified substances in the nanoform and evaluation should be carried out without delay.

4. Information on nanomaterials must be collected and disseminated

All EU citizens have the right to know which products contain nanomaterials as well as the right to know about their risks to health and environment and overall level of exposure. Given the uncertainties surrounding nanomaterials, the Commission must guarantee that members of the public are in a position to exercise their right to know and to make informed choices pending thorough risk assessments of nanomaterials on the market.

Therefore, a publicly accessible inventory of nanomaterials and consumer products containing nanomaterials must be established at European level. Moreover, specific nano-labelling or declaration requirements must be established for all nano-containing products (detergents, aerosols, sprays, paints, medical devices, etc.) in addition to those applicable to food, cosmetics and biocides which are required under existing obligations.

5. REACH enforcement activities should tackle nanomaterials

REACH’s fundamental principle of “no data, no market” should be thoroughly implemented. Therefore, nanomaterials that are on the market without a meaningful minimum set of data to allow the assessment of their hazards and risks should be denied market access through enforcement activities. In the meantime, we ask the EU Member States and manufacturers to use a precautionary approach in the assessment, production, use and disposal of nanomaterials

This comes on the heels of CIEL’s March 2014 news release announcing a new three-year joint project concerning nanomaterials and safety and responsible development,

Supported by the VELUX foundations, CIEL and ECOS (the European Citizen’s Organization for Standardization) are launching a three-year project aiming to ensure that risk assessment methodologies and risk management tools help guide regulators towards the adoption of a precaution-based regulatory framework for the responsible development of nanomaterials in the EU and beyond.

Together with our project partner the German Öko-Institut, CIEL and ECOS will participate in the work of the standardization organizations Comité Européen de Normalisation and International Standards Organization, and this work of the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development], especially related to health, environmental and safety aspects of nanomaterials and exposure and risk assessment. We will translate progress into understandable information and issue policy recommendations to guide regulators and support environmental NGOs in their campaigns for the safe and sustainable production and use of nanomaterials.

The VILLUM FOUNDATION and the VELUX FOUNDATION are non-profit foundations created by Villum Kann Rasmussen, the founder of the VELUX Group and other entities in the VKR Group, whose mission it is to bring daylight, fresh air and a better environment into people’s everyday lives.

Meanwhile in the US, an April 6, 2014 news item on Nanowerk announces a new research network, based at Arizona State University (ASU), devoted to studying health and environmental risks of nanomaterials,

Arizona State University researchers will lead a multi-university project to aid industry in understanding and predicting the potential health and environmental risks from nanomaterials.

Nanoparticles, which are approximately 1 to 100 nanometers in size, are used in an increasing number of consumer products to provide texture, resiliency and, in some cases, antibacterial protection.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded a grant of $5 million over the next four years to support the LCnano Network as part of the Life Cycle of Nanomaterials project, which will focus on helping to ensure the safety of nanomaterials throughout their life cycles – from the manufacture to the use and disposal of the products that contain these engineered materials.

An April 1, 2014 ASU news release, which originated the news item, provides more details and includes information about project partners which I’m happy to note include nanoHUB and the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISENet) in addition to the other universities,

Paul Westerhoff is the LCnano Network director, as well as the associate dean of research for ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and a professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment.

The project will team engineers, chemists, toxicologists and social scientists from ASU, Johns Hopkins, Duke, Carnegie Mellon, Purdue, Yale, Oregon’s state universities, the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Engineered nanomaterials of silver, titanium, silica and carbon are among the most commonly used. They are dispersed in common liquids and food products, embedded in the polymers from which many products are made and attached to textiles, including clothing.

Nanomaterials provide clear benefits for many products, Westerhoff says, but there remains “a big knowledge gap” about how, or if, nanomaterials are released from consumer products into the environment as they move through their life cycles, eventually ending up in soils and water systems.

“We hope to help industry make sure that the kinds of products that engineered nanomaterials enable them to create are safe for the environment,” Westerhoff says.

“We will develop molecular-level fundamental theories to ensure the manufacturing processes for these products is safer,” he explains, “and provide databases of measurements of the properties and behavior of nanomaterials before, during and after their use in consumer products.”

Among the bigger questions the LCnano Network will investigate are whether nanomaterials can become toxic through exposure to other materials or the biological environs they come in contact with over the course of their life cycles, Westerhoff says.

The researchers will collaborate with industry – both large and small companies – and government laboratories to find ways of reducing such uncertainties.

Among the objectives is to provide a framework for product design and manufacturing that preserves the commercial value of the products using nanomaterials, but minimizes potentially adverse environmental and health hazards.

In pursuing that goal, the network team will also be developing technologies to better detect and predict potential nanomaterial impacts.

Beyond that, the LCnano Network also plans to increase awareness about efforts to protect public safety as engineered nanomaterials in products become more prevalent.

The grant will enable the project team to develop educational programs, including a museum exhibit about nanomaterials based on the LCnano Network project. The exhibit will be deployed through a partnership with the Arizona Science Center and researchers who have worked with the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network.

The team also plans to make information about its research progress available on the nanotechnology industry website Nanohub.org.

“We hope to use Nanohub both as an internal virtual networking tool for the research team, and as a portal to post the outcomes and products of our research for public access,” Westerhoff says.

The grant will also support the participation of graduate students in the Science Outside the Lab program, which educates students on how science and engineering research can help shape public policy.

Other ASU faculty members involved in the LCnano Network project are:

• Pierre Herckes, associate professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
• Kiril Hristovski, assistant professor, Department of Engineering, College of Technology and Innovation
• Thomas Seager, associate professor, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment
• David Guston, professor and director, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes
• Ira Bennett, assistant research professor, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes
• Jameson Wetmore, associate professor, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, and School of Human Evolution and Social Change

I hope to hear more about the LCnano Network as it progresses.

Finally, there was this Nov. 12, 2013 news item on Nanowerk about instituting  voluntary safety protocols for carbon nanotubes in Japan,

Technology Research Association for Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes (TASC)—a consortium of nine companies and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) — is developing voluntary safety management techniques for carbon nanotubes (CNTs) under the project (no. P10024) “Innovative carbon nanotubes composite materials project toward achieving a low-carbon society,” which is sponsored by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

Lynn Bergeson’s Nov. 15, 2013 posting on nanotech.lawbc.com provides a few more details abut the TASC/AIST carbon nanotube project (Note: A link has been removed),

Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) announced in October 2013 a voluntary guidance document on measuring airborne carbon nanotubes (CNT) in workplaces. … The guidance summarizes the available practical methods for measuring airborne CNTs:  (1) on-line aerosol measurement; (2) off-line quantitative analysis (e.g., thermal carbon analysis); and (3) sample collection for electron microscope observation. …

You can  download two protocol documents (Guide to measuring airborne carbon nanotubes in workplaces and/or The protocols of preparation, characterization and in vitro cell based assays for safety testing of carbon nanotubes), another has been published since Nov. 2013, from the AIST’s Developing voluntary safety management techniques for carbon nanotubes (CNTs): Protocol and Guide webpage., Both documents are also available in Japanese and you can link to the Japanese language version of the site from the webpage.

Ecotoxicology and environmental fate of manufactured nanomaterials—testing guidelines from Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has released guidelines for testing manufactured nanomaterials according to a March 11, 2014 news item on Nanowerk,

As part of its Programme on the Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials, and in particular work on the testing and assessment of manufactured nanomaterials, OECD initiated a series of expert meetings to improve the applicability of the OECD Test Guidelines to nanomaterials. With this in mind, the Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials agreed to address the ecotoxicology and environmental fate of manufactured nanomaterials.

The OECD Expert Meeting on Ecotoxicology and Environmental Fate took place on 29th-31st January 2013 in Berlin, Federal Press Office. The event was hosted by the German delegation and funded by the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) as well as the United States Environment Protection Agency (US EPA).

Three documents were published one of which being a preview,

The OECD expert meeting on ecotoxicology and environmental fate — Towards the development of improved OECD guidelines for the testing of nanomaterials by Dana Kühnel and Carmen Nickel. Science of The Total Environment Volume 472, 15 February 2014, Pages 347–353 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.11.055

This document is open access.

The report itself,

OECD. ENVIRONMENT DIRECTORATE.
JOINT MEETING OF THE CHEMICALS COMMITTEE AND
THE WORKING PARTY ON CHEMICALS, PESTICIDES AND BIOTECHNOLOGY. Environment, Health and Safety Publications
Series on the Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials. ENV/JM/MONO(2014)1

ECOTOXICOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL FATE OF MANUFACTURED NANOMATERIALS:
TEST GUIDELINES Expert Meeting Report
Series on the Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials No. 40

Ecotoxicology and Environmental Fate of Manufactured Nanomaterials: Test Guidelines

There’s an addendum which includes the presentations made at the meeting (you can find both the report, proper, and the addendum on this page scroll to report no. 40),

OECD. ENVIRONMENT DIRECTORATE JOINT MEETING OF THE CHEMICALS COMMITTEE AND
THE WORKING PARTY ON CHEMICALS, PESTICIDES AND BIOTECHNOLOGY. Environment, Health and Safety Publications. ENV/JM/MONO(2014)1/ADD

ADDENDUM TO EXOTOXICOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL FATE OF MANUFACTURED
NANOMATERIALS: TEST GUIDELINES

Series on the Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials No. 40
Ecotoxicology and Environmental Fate of Manufactured Nanomaterials:
Test Guidelines.

As it can get a little tricky accessing OECD documents, I’ve tried to give a couple different links and as much identifying information as possible. Good luck!

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) report on responsible development of nanotechnology plus news about upcoming survey on nanotechnology commercialization

I stumbled onto this OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation for Development) information in the context of research on another, unrelated, story about the current state of nanotechnology standards and regulations (Dec. 23, 2013 news item on Nanotechnology Now) which is not likely to be written up here.  Getting back to this posting, I found a report from the OECD’s Working Party on Nanotechnology dated Nov. 29, 2013 and titled: RESPONSIBLE DEVELOPMENT OF NANOTECHNOLOGY
Summary Results from a Survey Activity (report no. DSTI/STP/NANO(2013)9/FINAL). This 34 pp. report includes the latest information for 25 countries that agreed to take part in the survey. Here’s the information supplied by Canada,

Canada
While Canada does not have a distinct policy for nanotechnology, the Government of Canada is engaged in a number of activities which specifically address the responsible development of
nanotechnology:
Policy principles for regulation and oversight: Federal departments are working together under the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council Nanotechnology Initiative to strengthen current policy principles to guide government decision-making concerning the responsible development of nanotechnology. These principles address the need to protect human health, safety, and the environment, while not unnecessarily hampering innovation and the exploitation of potential benefits from nanotechnology use.
Research and international collaboration: In collaboration with domestic and international partners, the Government of Canada is actively involved in research and other activities to assess the environmental, health, and safety aspects of nanomaterials and to develop appropriate and internationally compatible approaches for their responsible development and application (e.g. through safety assessment work at the OECD, ISO/IEC nanotechnology standards development, bilateral regulatory co-ordination, and government research and government-funded extramuralresearch).
Development of new policy tools: In October 2011, Health Canada introduced a Working Definition of Nanomaterials to provide a tool to assist the Government to gather safety information about nanomaterials in support of Health Canada’s mandate. The Working Definition is not an additional source of authority, but applies within existing regulatory frameworks that allow for obtaining information (www.hc-sc.gc.ca/sr-sr/pubs/nano/pol-eng.php).
Federal science and technology (S&T) strategies: Federal strategies for S&T research recognise the interconnection between responsible innovation, regulation, and socioeconomic development. Through its 2007 strategy, Mobilising Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage, for example, the Government of Canada is committed to ensuring the responsible development of nanotechnology. Federal strategies set out the general priority areas for government S&T research support (www.science.gc.ca/S&T_Reports-WS5F25C99B-1_En.htm). [Ed. Note: I would describe the information as statistical data rather than strategy and,in fact, the webpage you're being directed to is titled: Science and Technology Data.)
• Interdepartmental collaboration and coordination: Federal science-based departments and agencies (SBDAs) are engaged in an initiative to foster interdepartmental collaboration and coordination of activities for the responsible governance of nanotechnology. The results of this initiative will inform SBDA work and activities concerning innovation, regulation, public engagement and research.
External collaboration and coordination: Federal departments and agencies collaborate with external partners, such as provincial nanotechnology associations, on issues related to the responsible development of nanotechnology. (p. 9)

I mentioned the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council Nanotechnology Initiative in a June 26, 2013 posting.

As for this OECD report, there's always the question, What constitutes 'responsible' development? The OECD report provides an answer,

For the purpose of this activity the responsible development of nanotechnology was described as actions to stimulate the growth of nanotechnology applications in diverse sectors of the economy, while addressing the potential risks and the ethical and societal challenges the technology might raise. Policy and initiatives for the responsible development of nanotechnology aim both at supporting research (and/or business activities) and implementing effective legal and regulatory frameworks in order to assure that risk and safety standards are met. They also aim at supporting and stimulating the debate on the place of science and technology in society by engaging with the public on social and ethical issues. As nanotechnology develops, countries and regions have begun to develop, refine and/or articulate regulatory approaches to support the responsible development of nanotechnology. (p. 7)

The question as to which countries have a specific policy for the responsible development of nanotechnology is answered at length (from the OECD report),

All participating delegations responded to the questions on whether a dedicated policy for the responsible development of nanotechnology was in place or if nanotechnology was addressed as part of other policies; and whether a dedicated research programme for nanotechnology was in place or if nanotechnology formed a part of other research programmes.

Many delegations reported a specific policy for the responsible development of nanotechnology, with 11 delegations, out of the 25 participating, indicating the development of a policy brief, a regulatory framework, a legislative framework and/or an overall strategy for the responsible development of nanotechnology. All of these delegations reported that the policy had already been implemented. Some of the delegations that indicated a dedicated policy for the responsible development of nanotechnology also indicated that nanotechnology was included within other policies.

Where there was a dedicated policy for nanotechnology, the policy operated at the national level in all cases with the exception of Spain, which indicated that there was a nanotechnology policy in some of its regions, in parallel with the national dedicated nanotechnology policy for R&D and innovation.

Nine delegations [Canada was one of the nine delegations] indicated there was no dedicated policy for the responsible development of nanotechnology, but those delegations indicated that nanotechnology was included as part of other policies.

Two delegations indicated there was neither a dedicated policy for the responsible development of nanotechnology nor a policy of which nanotechnology was a part. However, these delegations either reported a dedicated research programme on nanotechnology, or that nanotechnology had been recognised as a strategic research area.

Finally, three delegations, out of the 25 participating, indicated that a policy for the responsible development of nanotechnology was under development (Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom) with publication planned for 2013-2014. For those countries, nanotechnology is currently included under the general umbrella of science and technology policy.

The majority of delegations highlighted the importance of collaboration and co-operation across- ministries, departments and agencies to ensure responsible and efficient development of the technology. Indeed, nanotechnology was expected to impact on a variety of industrial and economic sectors; this cross- sectoral nature appears to be a challenge for policy makers who require the involvement of all governmental stakeholders likely to be impacted by nanotechnology development. The majority of delegations involved a number of relevant ministries and departments in the development of their strategies for the responsible development of nanotechnology. This broad involvement was noted as a clear requirement in order to succeed in the development of nanotechnology.

… (pp. 7-8)

Finally, there is an OECD survey currently underway regarding nanotechnology commercialization according to a Dec. 20, 2013 notice on the Nanotechnology Industries Association (NIA) website (Note: A link has been removed),

NIA Members Consultation: OECD WPN Survey on Nanotechnology Commercialisation Policy – Deadline: 3 January 2014
Posted on 20 Dec 2013

The Working Party on Nanotechnology (WPN) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is undertaking a project examining policies that support the commercialisation of nanotechnology research. It aims to identify:

Which existing government policies help companies efforts in commercialisation;
How significant this support is; and
What else governments could do/do more of, that would most significantly increase the commercialisation of nanotechnology research.

As part of its role within the Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC), NIA is asking its members to provide their views to the project via a short questionnaire.

Participating members have the option to remain anonymous, with their identity and other information kept confidential by the project.

The findings from the questionnaire responses will be presented in a final OECD WPN Report and will be made available to all participants in the new year.

Only NIA members have access to the questionnaire and I cannot find any mention of it on the OECD website although I did stumble on this delightful page titled: OECD Working Party on Nanotechnology: Second meeting of the Working Party on Nanotechnology, which contains a number of documents including one which outlines a 2007 Canadian project: Nanotechnology Pilot Survey by Statistics Canada.

I hope to hear about this commercialization survey in a more timely fashion than I’ve been managing lately. In any event, it’s nice to get caught up on the Canadian nanotechnology scene.

On a related front: In March 2013 the OECD and the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) held a joint symposium about assessing nanotechnology’s economic impacts. My Sept. 19, 2013 posting features the final report on the symposium. There’s also my July 23, 2012 interview with Vanessa Clive, Industry Canada’s Nanotechnology Policy Advisor and one of the symposium organizers. Finally, there’s the OECD’s 2010 report, The Impacts of Nanotechnology on Companies: Policy Insights from Case Studies. This report was co-designed and co-led by Vanessa, one of her Canadian colleagues and a Swiss colleague. The report itself was written by OECD staff as per Vanessa’s comments in my March 29, 2012 posting.

OECD Science, Technology and Industry 2013 Scorecard: Canada highlights and key nanotechnology indicators*

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has released its 2013 scorecard or, more officially, the OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2013 (which you can find here). There’s a brief description of the 2013 scorecard on the webpage housing the complete report/scorecard and various publications derived from it,

Science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship – which foster competitiveness, productivity, and job creation – are important mechanisms for encouraging sustainable growth. The 260 indicators in the OECD Science, Technology and Industry (STI) Scoreboard 2013 show how OECD and partner economies are performing in a wide range of areas to help governments design more effective and efficient policies and monitor progress towards their desired goals.

The 2013 scorecard highlights concerning Canada are (from the OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2013
: Canada publication),

Canada experienced a decline in business spending on R&D between 2001 and 2011, despite generous public support, mainly through tax incentives for business R&D. As a percentage of GDP, Canada’s tax incentives for R&D were the largest after France in 2011. [emphasis mine]
Despite relatively limited investment in R&D, a large share of Canada’s manufacturing and services firms are involved in innovation. Canada is among the group of countries where high-technology industries still dominate patenting activity, while in several other OECD countries business services now account for the largest share of patents. Canada lags somewhat in the proportion of young firms applying for patents, however.
 Canada achieves a relatively high impact with its scientific research. Compared with other large OECD economies, Canada has a very high rate of international mobility of researchers, mostly with the United States. Returning researchers and new inflows tend to publish in journals with higher quality than researchers that have not engaged in international mobility.
 Canada’s trade performance is characterised by a strong focus on primary products, which affects its positioning in global value chains. This contributes to a relatively low foreign (and thus a high domestic) value added content in Canada’s exports, which declined between 1995 and 2009. In 2009, over 26% of jobs in the business sector were sustained by demand from abroad, down from just over 30% in 1995.

So, despite some of the best tax incentives amongst OECD countries, business in Canada spent less on R&D as the decade wore on. Interesting. Especially so since the government, realizing there were problems of some kind, commissioned Tom Jenkins (Chairman, OpenText Corporation), along with a committee,, to examine the various government tax incentive programmes developed for business R&D. This resulted in what  is known as the Jenkins report (featured in my Oct. 21, 2011 posting) and changes, based on the recommendations, such as more incentives for partnerships between universities and businesses and a major change of focus (funds for science that will make money) for one of the granting agencies (mentioned in my May 22, 2013 posting). Given that Canada already had good incentives for business R&D before 2011, why did the government implement more incentives after the 2011 Jenkins report since it seems that the incentives might not be the problem. Here’s more about the situation prior to the changes stemming from the 2011 Jenkins report, from the OECD’s 2013 scorecard: Canada Highlights,

Canada is among the few OECD countries where R&D expenditure declined between 2000 and 2011 (Figure 1). This decline was mainly due to reduced business spending on R&D. It occurred despite relatively generous public support for business R&D, primarily through tax incentives. In 2011, Canada was amongst the OECD countries with the most generous tax support for R&D and the country with the largest share of government funding for business R&D being accounted for by tax credits (Figure 2). …

OECD and key nanotechnology indicators

At roughly the same time as the OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard was released, there was this Oct. 25, 2013 news item on Nanowerk about an October 2013 update of the OECD’s key nanotechnology indicators (Note: A link has been removed),

The ‘Key Nanotechnology Indicators’ are produced by the OECD’s Directorate for Science Technology and Industry (DSTI) and recently have been updated in October 2013. These latest numbers are available as Excel spreadsheets and can be found here on the OECD DSTI page and include the following:
Nanotechnology firms
KNI 1 Number of firms active in nanotechnology, 2011 or latest available year
KNI 2 Percentage of small nanotechnology firms, 2011 or latest available year
Number of firms active in nanotechnology
Number of firms active in nanotechnology (OECD). (click image to enlarg

i have looked at some of the nanotechnology key indicator spreadsheets provided by the OECD and the only one of my admittedly small sample that lists Canadian performance was in the Share of countries in nanotechnology patents filed under PCT, 2008-10. Apparently Canada did not submit data about Number of firms active in nanotechnology, 2011 or latest available year or Nanotechnology R&D expenditures in the business sector, 2011 or latest available year.

*Added ‘Science’ to the head as in ‘… Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2013′ on May 29, 2014.

What happened? 2009 report says Canadian students are leaders in reading, math, and science; 2013 report says Canadian students are dropping out of maths and sciences

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) assesses reading, mathematics, and science skills every three years (they measure results from 15 year olds in participating countries) through their Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Canada has participated since 2000 (PISA was launched in 1997). As recently as the 2009 assessment (the 2012 assessment does not appear to have been released yet),, Canadian students were above average in many measures, from the Canadian School Boards Association 2010 (?) posting titled, PISA Results: Canadian Students Score High in Performance, Canadian Education System Scores High in Equity,

The results of the Programme for International Assessment (PISA) 2009 were released today at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto. This report, which measures the “quality, efficiency and equity” of education in sixty-five countries and economies, is issued by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), in conjunction with the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and Statistics Canada. This international assessment ranks Canadian students in three domains: reading, math and science. …

Highlights of both the international report and Canadian report include:

  • Canadian students continue to be leaders in reading, math and science. [emphasis mine]
  • The overall performance of Canadian students in math and science are well above the OECD average and remain unchanged from previous PISA results. Canada is outperformed only by seven countries in math and six countries in science.
  • The Canadian gender gap: females outperform males in reading, while males outperformed females in math and science.
  • Equity, a measure of how well a country can maximize its students’ potential, was ranked as extremely high in Canada. The combination of high PISA scores with high equity demonstrates that there is a small gap between highest and lowest performing students.

Three or so years later, it appears that we have high drop out rates in the sciences and maths, from an Oct. 8, 2013 news item on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) website,

… Canadians are paying a heavy price for the fact that less than 50 per cent of Canadian high school students graduate with senior courses in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at a time when 70 per cent of Canada’s top jobs require an education in those fields, said report released by the science education advocacy group Let’s Talk Science and the pharmaceutical company Amgen Canada.

Spotlight on Science Learning 2013 compiles publicly available information about individual and societal costs of students dropping out STEM courses early.

The answer as to what happened has something  to do with when the OECD programme makes its assessment. They measure skills in 15 year olds and generally speaking that means students in grade 10, which coincidentally, is the last year math and science are required courses in most provinces, from the CBC Oct.8, 2013, news item,

Even though most provinces only require math and science courses until Grade 10, the report [Spotlight on Science published by Let's Talk Science and pharmaceutical company Amgen Canada) found students without Grade 12 math could expect to be excluded from 40 to 75 per cent of programs at Canadian universities, and students without Grade 11 could expect to be excluded from half of community college programs. [emphasis mine]

This news about Canadian students and their failure to pursue maths and sciences according to the Spotlight on Science Learning report was included in the context (in the CBC news item) of another OECD report (released Tues., Oct. 8, 2013), which concluded that Canadian adult numeracy skills lag behind, from the Oct. 8, 2013 CBC news item,

The OECD released its first survey of adult skills Tuesday (Oct. 8, 2013), measuring the literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills of those aged 16 to 65 in 24 countries, including 27,000 people in Canada.

While Canadians scored far above average at problem solving in technology-rich environments and their average literacy score was around the average of OECD countries, their mean numeracy score was “significantly below the average,” the OECD said, putting Canada 13th out of 21 countries. [emphasis mine]

The Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, described the average score as “slightly below the OECD average,” but acknowledged the results suggested “this is one area that could be targeted by policymakers for improvement. [emphasis mine]

There’s a difference between ‘significantly below average’ and ‘slightly below average’ and shy of reading the report I’m not sure who to believe. In any event, our literacy skills are accounted to be good and we’re also good at problemsolving in technology-rich environments.  This latest OECD report is titled, OECD Skills Outlook 2013. Here’s more about it from the Outlook webpage (Note: Links have been removed),

This first OECD Skills Outlook presents the initial results of the Survey of Adults Skills (PIAAC), which evaluates the skills of adults in 24 countries. It provides insights into the availability of some of the key skills and how they are used at work and at home. A major component is the direct assessment of key information-processing skills: literacy, numeracy and problem solving in the context of technology-rich environments.

You can get the full report or summaries from here. As for the Spotlight on Science report, you can find it here on the Let’s Talk Science website. I’ve included the video about the report, which I think illustrates one of the key problems with Canadian children and science,

It’s (video) dull and it didn’t need to be.As for the report itself, it’s reflects a standard approach to this ‘problem’ of getting children to pursue the sciences and maths after a certain point. Personally, I think there’s a much interesting study on this topic of children and science, the ASPIRES project, in the UK, which I highlighted in my Jan. 31, 2012 posting,

One of the research efforts in the UK is the ASPIRES research project at King’s College London (KCL), which is examining children’s attitudes to science and future careers. Their latest report, Ten Science Facts and Fictions: the case for early education about STEM careers (PDF), is profiled in a Jan. 11, 2012 news item on physorg.com (from the news item),

Professor Archer [Louise Archer, Professor of Sociology of Education at King’s] said: “Children and their parents hold quite complex views of science and scientists and at age 10 or 11 these views are largely positive. The vast majority of children at this age enjoy science at school, have parents who are supportive of them studying science and even undertake science-related activities in their spare time. They associate scientists with important work, such as finding medical cures, and with work that is well paid.

“Nevertheless, less than 17 per cent aspire to a career in science. These positive impressions seem to lead to the perception that science offers only a very limited range of careers, for example doctor, scientist or science teacher. It appears that this positive stereotype is also problematic in that it can lead people to view science as out of reach for many, only for exceptional or clever people, and ‘not for me’.

Professor Archer says the findings indicate that engaging young people in science is not therefore simply a case of making it more interesting or more fun. She said: “There is a disconnect between interest and aspirations. Our research shows that young people’s ambitions are strongly influenced by their social backgrounds – ethnicity, social class and gender – and by family contexts. [emphases mine]

Families and support systems make a huge difference in children’s lives and their aspirations, scientific or otherwise.

In sum, up until 2009 Canadian children seemed to have good skills in literacy, maths, and sciences at the age of 15, which is the same year courses in maths and sciences are no longer required (in most provinces). According to the Spotlight on Science Learning 2013 report, most children choose not take those maths and sciences courses after grade 10 despite the fact that they are needed for most higher education. This lack of interest appears to be reflected in the OECD’s recent report, OECD Skills Outlook 2013, which noted that Canadian adults’ numeracy skills lag behind that of many of their counterparts in other countries (although we compare well with high literacy and other skills). While I find the Spotlight on Science Learning 2013 report interesting, the UK’s ASPIRES project has taken what seems to me a more fruitful approach to children and science.

Bottom line: I think we need more imagination in our approach and we need to better include the kids themselves (a couple of interactive demonstrations just aren’t involving enough), and we need to make science, etc. engaging for the entire community.