Tag Archives: OECD

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.

OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) makes recommendation regarding regulatory frameworks for nanomaterials.

A Sept. 26, 2013 news item on Nanowerk announces the latest OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) recommendations on nanomaterial safety,

The OECD has recommended its Member Countries apply existing international and national chemical regulatory frameworks to manage the risks associated with manufactured nanomaterials.

The Sept. 20, 2013 OECD news release, which originated the news item, provides more details,

The Recommendation, approved by the Organisation’s governing Council, noted that these frameworks and other management systems may need to be adapted to take into account the specific properties of manufactured nanomaterials.

Manufactured nanomaterials are chemical particles that exhibit new characteristics in contrast to the same material without nanoscale features. These novel features offer possibilities for new commercial applications, such as solar cells using silicon nanocrystals to achieve higher efficiency. They also raise questions regarding potential unintended risks to humans and the environment. For example, new manufactured nanomaterials have applications in sunscreens and cosmetics, and so the potential risk from their exposure to consumers needs to be carefully assessed and managed.

The OECD has been working since 2006 to develop approaches for risk assessment for manufactured materials that are of high quality, science-based and internationally harmonised.

The Recommendation notes the importance of the OECD Test Guidelines for the Safety Testing of Chemicals, concluding that many of the existing guidelines are also suitable for the safety assessment of nanomaterials. At the same time, it recognises that some guidelines may need to be adapted to take into account the specific properties of nanomaterials. Work continues at OECD to achieve that.

An important consequence of this Recommendation is that much of the data collected as part of the safety assessment of nanomaterials will fall within the scope of the OECD system for the Mutual Acceptance of Data (MAD) in the Assessment of Chemicals. The OECD Mutual Acceptance of Data system is a multilateral agreement which saves governments and chemical producers around €150 million every year by allowing the results of a variety of non-clinical safety tests done on chemicals and chemical products, such as industrial chemicals and pesticides – and now nanomaterials – to be shared across OECD and other countries that adhere to the system.  Argentina, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa as well as all OECD countries are full adherents to the MAD system, and Thailand is a provisional adherent.

The extension of the scope of MAD to nanomaterials will considerably reduce the potential for non-tariff trade barriers between countries when marketing manufactured nanomaterials or products which include nanomaterials as well as allow for sharing the workload between countries in testing and assessing all the nanomaterials which are on the market. There will be a review of the Recommendation in three years to assess how it has been implemented in OECD countries and those partner countries which have adhered to it.

I find it odd the Working Party on Nanomaterialsis (or the Working Party on Manufacture Nanomaterials as it sometimes called) is not mentioned. This recommendation seems to have  arisen from the  Council on the Safety Testing and Assessment of Manufactured Nanomaterials. Canada is a member of the OECD and of its Working Party on Nanomaterials. I don’t know where we stand if anywhere on the Council on the Safety Testing and Assessment of Manufactured Nanomaterials. Perhaps I can check later when I have time.

Final report on joint OECD/NNI report on assessing nanotechnology’s economic impact

In March 2012, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) held a symposium on assessing the economic impacts of nanotechnology, which was hosted by American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC.  Lynn Bergeson announced the release of the symposium’s final report in her Sept. 16, 2013 posting on the Nanotechnology Now website.

The title of the final report published by the OECD is Symposium on Assessing the Economic  Impact of Nanotechnology: Synthesis Report. I have excerpted some information including this introductory paragraph from the executive summary of this 81 pp report,

Governments have a fiscal and social responsibility to ensure that limited research and development resources are used wisely and cost-effectively in support of social, economic, and scientific aspirations. As a result of significant public and private investments in nanotechnology during the past decade and an expanding array of commercial applications, the field of nanotechnology has matured to the point of showing significant potential to help societies achieve the shared goal of improving efficiencies and accelerating progress in a range of economic sectors, including medicine, manufacturing, and energy. Countries that wish to promote the continued responsible development of nanotechnology will, however, need quantitative data on the economic impact of nanotechnology to guide further investment and policy decisions. Few widely accepted economic impact assessments have been conducted, however, and there are many questions regarding the best methodologies to be used. (p. 4)

The attendees considered the challenges associated with evaluating the impact of nanotechnology, some of which are common to emerging technologies in general and some or which are specific to nanotechnology (from the report),

The attendees also considered the question of a definition for nanotechnology. While operational definitions are developed at national or regional levels, e.g. for statistical or regulatory purposes, there are relatively few internationally agreed upon definitions or classifications for nanotechnology or its products and processes. Such definitions are essential for developing a methodology for an economic impact assessment and/or to facilitate data collection. Participants mentioned that definitions should be flexible so that they facilitate the development and valuation of the technology; they also noted that definitions might vary in different contexts or sectors.

Additional issues were raised:

 Its multipurpose, enabling nature makes measuring the impact of nanotechnology difficult. It can be fundamental to a product’s key functionality (e.g. battery charge time or capacity) but ancillary to the value chain (E.g. represent a small portion of the final product or process). Nanotechnology is also likely to have a range of incremental impacts on goods and services as well as existing manufacturing techniques. This requires understanding the value added at different stages of the production chain.

 Nanotechnology’s impact is often intermingled with that of many other interventions and technologies so that determining its precise role can be difficult.

 The large and varied amount of data linked to nanotechnology development may lead to difficulties in cleaning and manipulating the data meaningfully.

 Confidential business information and the proprietary nature of products and services may make it difficult to obtain information from industry. Moreover, it is not clear how a nanotechnology company or a company using nanotechnology is defined or defines itself or to what extent companies, universities and associate institutions are involved in exploiting and developing nanotechnology.

 For now, data are mainly collected through surveys. It is important to weigh the benefits against the additional workload that surveys place on administrations, research institutes and industries. Information should be obtained efficiently, focusing on the data of greatest interest for assessing the value of the technology.

 The nanotechnology policy landscape is evolving. It is important to consider non-specific, rather than nanotechnology-specific, funding strategies and policies when assessing economic impacts such as return on investment.

While certain issues may be resolved through improvements and over time, some restrict the ability to conduct valid nanotechnology impact assessments, such as the complex relationship between science, innovation and the economy; the interaction between public and private actors; the role of other factors in technology development and innovation; and the time lag between investments and their returns. (p. 8)

Of course the main issue being addressed was the development of tools/instruments to assess nanotechnology’s economic impact (from the report),

Some steps have been taken towards assessing the impact of nanotechnology. Examples mentioned during the symposium include the U.S. STAR METRICS database, which uses an input/output approach to determine the outputs of federal funding of science and technology, and Brazil’s Lattes system, in which researchers, students and institutions share information about their interests and backgrounds to facilitate information sharing and collaboration. The Lattes system is also intended to aid in the design of science, technology and innovation policies and to help understand the social and economic impacts of previous investments. DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, United Kingdom) values a given nanotechnology product in monetary terms against an incumbent and thus calculates additional value added over current technology.

Other valuation methods mentioned included the “traditional” cost/ benefit analysis (often accompanied by scenario development for immature technologies such as nanotechnology) and life cycle assessment (LCA). LCA addresses the impact of nanotechnology along the entire product value chain. It is important to conduct LCAs as early as possible in product development to define the full value of a product using nanotechnology. Value chain assessments can also help address the challenge of determining the role of nanotechnology in a final product, where economic value is most commonly assessed. (p. 9)

Participants recognised the difficulty of developing a “one size fits all” methodology. The data collected and the indicators and the methodologies chosen need to fit the situation. Precisely defining the objectives of the impact assessment is critical: “What do we want to measure?” (e.g. the impact of a specific nanotechnology investment or the impact of a nano-enabled replacement product on environmental performance). “What outcomes do we want from the analysis?” (e.g. monetary value and GDP growth or qualitative measures of environmental and social benefits).

Input indicators (e.g. R&D investment, infrastructure) are the easiest to collect; they provide information on the development of a technology in a given region, country or globally. Output indicators, such as patents and publications, provide information on the trajectories of a technology and on key areas of innovation. The most useful for policy makers are indicators of impact, but high-quality data, especially quantitative data, are difficult to collect. Indicators of impact provide a basis for assessing direct (market share, growth of companies, new products, wealth creation) and indirect impacts (welfare gains, consumer surplus). The economic and social impact of nanotechnology goes beyond what can be measured with existing statistics and traditional surveys. A pilot survey by the Russian Federation plans to examine nanotechnology issues that are not necessarily covered by traditional statistical surveys, such as technology transfer and linkages between different segments of the national innovation system. The OECD Working Party of National Experts on Science and Technology Indicators is also working on the development of a statistical framework for the measurement of emerging, enabling and general purpose technologies, which includes the notion of impact.
While quantitative measures may be preferable, impact assessments based on qualitative indicators using methods such as technology assessment scenarios and mapping of value chains can also provide valuable information.

I haven’t read the entire report yet but the material after the executive summary bears a similarity to field notes. Generally in reports like this everything is stated in an impersonal third person with the speaker being mentioned only in the header for the section  so the contents have an  authority associated with holy books. While I haven’t seen any quotes, the speakers here are noted as having said such and such, e.g., “Mr. Tassey suggested a “technology-element” model as an alternative means of driving policy and managing the R&D cycle.” (p. 15) It’s not unheard of, just unusual.

For anyone interested in the earlier reports and/or in the Canadian participation in this 2012 symposium, there’s an interview with Vanessa Clive, Industry Canada, Nanotechnology Policy Advisor in my July 23, 2012 posting where she discusses the symposium and offers links to documents used as background material for the symposium.

NanoValid invites you to a Sept. 2013 workshop on the Advanced Characterization of Nanomaterial

I received (Aug. 5, 2013) an announcement, which I’m passing on here, about a workshop taking place in Spain this coming September (2013),

The EC-funded NanoValid Project (www.nanovalid.eu) invites you to register for the last remaining places at the “Advanced Characterization of Nanomaterials” workshop organised by the University of Zaragoza and the Institute of Nanoscience of Aragon (INA).

When: September 16th – 20th 2013

Where: University of Zaragoza, Institute of Nanoscience of Aragon

BACKGROUND:

The characterization of nanomaterials is a challenging topic that requires in-depth knowledge of physicochemical techniques and state-of-the-art devices. This workshop contributes to continuous training of analytical procedures at the nanoscale for enhancing current knowledge and developing novel materials and procedures in nanotechnology.

FEATURES AND BENEFITS:

•             Addresses both PhD students and Post-Doc researchers

•             Access to advanced techniques of nanotechnology

•             Fully qualified scientific and technical personnel

•             Open poster and oral communication sessions

FEE:

€ 525:    This includes workshop fees, a welcome reception, lunches, coffee-breaks & booklet.

Optional banquet in a traditional Aragonese cuisine venue (€50)

PROGRAMME:

The full programme includes theory sessions, practical demonstrations and training sessions, as well as oral and poster presentations (…).

REGISTER HERE:

http://www.nanovalid.eu/events/ws/registration.htm

FURTHER INFORMATION:

[email protected]

M. Pilar Lobera, PhD ([email protected]); Francisco Balas, PhD ([email protected])

http://ina.unizar.es

Not having previously investigated the NanoValid project, I checked out the homepage,

The EU FP7 large-scale integrating project NanoValid (contract: 263147) has been launched on the 1st of November 2011, as one of the “flagship” nanosafety projects. The project consists of 24 European partners from 14 different countries and 6 partners from Brazil, Canada, India and the US and will run from 2011 to 2015, with a total budget of more than 13 mio EUR (EC contribution 9.6 mio EUR). [emphasis mine] Main objective of NanoValid is to develop a set of reliable reference methods and materials for the fabrication, physicochemical (pc) characterization, hazard identification and exposure assessment of engineered nanomaterials (EN), including methods for dispersion control and labelling of ENs. Based on newly established reference methods, current approaches and strategies for risk and life cycle assessment will be improved, modified and further developed, and their feasibility assessed by means of practical case studies.

In cooperation with other relevant projects, such as MARINA and QNano, and relevant standardization bodies, such as the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] WPMN [Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials], existing industrial or newly designed ENs will be subjected to a rigid and comprehensive inter-laboratory validation campaign that includes the currently most advanced methods and instruments for measuring and characterizing of ENs, to generate accurate and reproducible material data and standardized method protocols, also for tracing and quantifying nanoparticles (NP) in complex matrices. The stability and behaviour of selected NP will be monitored and tested in a variety of relevant environmental samples and test media to derive optimum and reproducible fabrication, measurement and test conditions.

The validated characterization methods will be used to design well-defined certified reference materials, which in turn will help to validate, adapt, modify and further develop current biological approaches (in vitro, in vivo and in silico) for assessing hazard and exposure of ENs, and associated risks to human health and the environment. Effects of chronic and accumulative exposure and of exposure under real-life conditions, where ENPs [engineered nanoparticles] are likely to act as components of complex mixtures, will be duly taken into account.

It was a little surprising to find Canada listed as one of the project partners. I also found this map of the consortium participants which lists McGill University specifically as the Canadian participant.

I briefly mentioned NanoValid in a June 19, 2012 posting which featured a listing of Environmental, Health and Safety projects being funded by the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme.

Nanotechnology for Green Innovation report, Canada, and the OECD’s Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials

I will get to the report in a moment but since it led me on a magical mystery tour through the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and its new website and assorted organizational confusions, I thought I’d share those first.

February 2012 marks the last report from the OECD’s Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials that I can find. As well, the OECD appears to have changed its website recently (since Feb. 2012) and I find searching it less rewarding.

There’s more, it seems that the Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials either no longer exists or has been subsumed as part of the Working Party on Nanotechnology. I mourn the old nanomaterials working party as I found much valuable information there about the Canadian situation that was available nowhere else. Oddly, Industry Canada still has a webpage devoted to the OECD’s Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials but the OECD link on the Industry Canada leads you to a database,

The OECD Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials (WPMN ) was established in September, 2006 in order to foster international co-operation in health and environmental safety-related aspects of manufactured nanomaterials. Environment Canada represents the Government of Canada at the WPMN, supported by other interested federal departments and agencies, including Industry Canada, and stakeholders. For more information on the work of the WPMN, please visit the WPMN website or contact Environment Canada.

Nostalgia buffs can find all 37 of the Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials reports here on the Nanotechnology Industries Association website (save one) or here on the OECD’s Publications in the Series on the Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials webpage.

A new ‘green’ nanotechnology and innovation report was announced in a June 18, 2013 news item on Nanowerk (Note: A link has been removed),

A new paper by the OECD Working Party on Nanotechnology (“Nanotechnology for Green Innovation”; pdf) brings together information collected through discussions and projects undertaken relevant to the development and use of nanotechnology for green innovation. It relies in particular on preliminary results from the WPN project on the Responsible Development of Nanotechnology and on conclusions from a symposium, organised by the OECD WPN together with the United States National Nanotechnology Initiative, which took place in March 2012 in Washington DC, United States, on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology. [emphases mine]  It also draws on material from the four background papers that were developed for the symposium. The background papers were:

“Challenges for Governments in Evaluating the Return on Investment from Nanotechnology and its Broader Economic Impact” by Eleanor O’Rourke and Mark Morrison of the Institute of Nanotechnology, United Kingdom;

“Finance and Investor Models in Nanotechnology” by Tom Crawley, Pekka Koponen, Lauri Tolvas and Terhi Marttila of Spinverse, Finland;

“The Economic Contributions of Nanotechnology to Green and Sustainable Growth” by Philip Shapira and Jan Youtie, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, United States; and

“Models, Tool and Metrics Available to Assess the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology” by Katherine Bojczuk and Ben Walsh of Oakdene Hollins, United Kingdom.

The purpose of the paper is to provide background information for future work by the WPN on the application of nanotechnology to green innovation.

I wrote about the March 2012 symposium in a March 29, 2012 posting,

I was hoping for a bit more detail about how one would go about including nanotechnology-enabled products in this type of economic impact assessment but this is all I could find (from the news release),

In their paper, Youtie and Shapira cite several examples of green nanotechnology, discuss the potential impacts of the technology, and review forecasts that have been made.

I checked both Philip Shapira‘s webpage and Jan Youtie‘s at Georgia Tech to find that neither lists this latest work, which hopefully includes additional detail. I’m hopeful there’ll be a document published in the proceedings for this symposium and access will be possible.

So, I’m very happy to see this 2013 report and  I have three different ways to access it,

  1. OECD library page for Nanotechnology for Green Innovation
  2. http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/docserver/download/5k450q9j8p8q.pdf?expires=1371578116&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=F308B436A883BF6533E66C19182ECF17 which features a title page identifying this is as  an OECD Science, Technology and Industry Policy Papers No. 5 (this one lists 35 pp)
  3. http://search.oecd.org/officialdocuments/displaydocumentpdf/?cote=DSTI/STP/NANO%282013%293/FINAL&docLanguage=En which is identified with this Unclassified DSTI/STP/NANO(2013)3/FINAL and a publication date of June 13, 2013 (this one lists 34 pp)

The following comments are based on a very quick read through the report. Pulling together four papers and trying to create a cohesive and coherent single report after the fact is difficult and this report shows some of the stresses. One  of the problems is that 34 or 35 pp., depending on which version you’re reading, isn’t enough to cover the very broad topic indicated by the report’s title. I couldn’t find a clear general statement about government policies. For example, there are various countries with policies and there are trade blocks such as the European Union which also has policies. Additionally, there may be other jurisdictions. All of which contribute an environment which makes ‘green’ innovation nano or otherwise a challenge but no mention is made of this challenge. Further, I don’t recall seeing any mention of patents, which I’d expect would be a major talking point in a paper with innovation in its title. If there was mention of intellectual property, it made no impact on me, odd, especially where nanotechnology is concerned.

The report does have some good specifics and  it is worthwhile reading. For example, I found the section on lithium-ion batteries quite informative.

In any event, I’m not really the audience for this document, the “purpose of the paper is to provide background information for future work by the WPN on the application of nanotechnology to green innovation.”

ETA June 18, 2013 6:00 pm PDT: Here’s a link to the new OECD nanotechnology page, STInano

France’s nanomaterial declaration

I stumbled across a rather brief May 13, 2013 announcement on the ICON (International Council on Nanotechnology) website about a French nanomaterial initiative,

France Extends Deadline for Reporting Nanomaterials (NOECT Blog)

Further investigation landed me on the R-Nano.fr; Declaration of Nanomaterials website,

Welcome to the website for declaring substances with nanoparticle status: “r-nano”. On these pages you can declare the substances with nanoparticle status that you produce, import, distribute, or formulate, as required by Articles L. 523-1 to L. 523-5 of the French Environmental Code.

At the deadline of 30 April 2013, 457 companies have made 1991 declarations. These initial results shows a satisfactory mobilization of stakeholders.

The Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, considering the diversity of actors covered by the declaration requirement, and at the request of several industries, decided, for the first reporting year, to grant two more months to complete the declarations. Thereby, exceptionally, new declarations can be initiated and submitted until 30 June 2013.

There’s a little more explanation of the site’s raison d’être on the Help/FAQs page,

Q : 1/ Why is there a system for declaring substances with nanoparticle status ?

Because of the advantages offered by their specific properties, substances with nanoparticle status are used in a number of sectors: foodstuffs, aeronautics, cosmetics, alternative energies, pneumatics, health, sport and others. The properties in question are such as to create potential hazards for humans and the environment. As emphasised in the European Commission Communication of 3 October 2012, a substance can present different hazards depending on whether it has bulk status or nanoparticle status.

For a better understanding of the issues, it seems necessary to acquire an improved knowledge of the market, including the substances marketed in France, their uses, the sectors in which they are used, the quantities involved, etc.

With the help of this information, it will be possible to estimate exposures more accurately and produce risk assessments for these substances. It is for this purpose that France has decided to introduce mandatory declaration of substances with nanoparticle status, whether in that form, in mixtures or within certain materials.

Q : 2/ How must declarations be made? Is there a special form ?

A web site has been set up on which the various companies concerned can each create an account and submit their declarations. The address of the declaration web site is www.r-nano.fr

Regarding declarations for which applicants wish to make use of the waiver concerning the availability of information to the public provided for activities related to national defence, the declaration will first be made online and then finalised on paper.

Q : 3/ At what date does the system come into force ?

The system comes into force on 1 January 2013: the first declarations will concern substances in nanoparticle status produced, imported and/or distributed during 2012.

Q : 5/ If a substance with nanoparticle status is indicated on the packaging (case of biocides and cosmetics in 2013), is it still necessary to submit a declaration ?

Yes: the labelling and the declaration system do not have the same purpose.

Q : 6/ Is France the only country in Europe with this kind of declaration system ?

Yes, though Italy, Belgium and Denmark are considering the introduction of similar measures.

Q : 7/ Which players are concerned by the declaration ? (UPDATED)

All national participants in the distribution chain in France covered by the requirement to declare substances with nanoparticle status must complete a declaration if they produce, import into France from another Member State of the European Union or from any other country or distribute any substance, mixture or “article” (article, see Question 18) covered by the definitions laid down in Article R. 523-12 and in quantities exceeding 100 grams/year and per substance.

Q : 38/ How will the information supplied be used ?

The information supplied for declarations enables the authorities to estimate the flows of substances with nanoparticle status in France, which will be a “first” for Europe. The knowledge acquired concerning substances and their uses, the production and usage sectors, or the quantities sold, will provide insight into the dissemination of these substances and their actual use.

To help them undertake health risk assessments, authorities will be allowed to request supplementary information from declarers, when available, especially concerning toxicological and ecotoxicological data, as well as data concerning exposure.

I have two comments. First, there are over 40 questions in the FAQs but none concern the issue of how this requirement will be enforced. Second, I gather that after abysmal results elsewhere the French concluded that voluntary reporting does not work.

It’s good to see at least [one*] government making an attempt to gather the information openly. The Canadian scheme was managed in a more clandestine fashion. I finally tracked down some information about it in an OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) document and featured some of the data from the Canadian nanomaterial reporting scheme (as reported to the OECD)  in my April 12, 2010 posting.

* ETA May 17, 2013: I added the word ‘one’.

Mexico, nano, and bombs

Violence in pursuit of a cause is not unusual. With a goal in sight, often it’s freedom of one kind or another, people will revert to violence to achieve their ends, especially when they feel there are no alternatives and/or are under attack. However, violence in pursuit of some vague worldview is more difficult to understand (at least, it is for me).

An anarchist group (ITS, aka, Individuals Tending to Savagery) has again claimed ‘credit’ for violence against scientists in Mexico. From Robert Beckhusen’s Mar. 12, 2013 article about the ITS and the violence for Wired magazine (Note: A link has been removed),

Over the past two years, Mexican scientists involved in bio- and nanotechnology have become targets. They’re not threatened by the nation’s drug cartels. They’re marked for death by a group of bomb-building eco-terrorists with the professed goal of destroying human civilization.

The group, which goes by the name Individualidades Tendiendo a lo Salvaje (ITS), posted its manifesto to anarchist blog Liberacion Total last month. The manifesto takes credit for a failed bombing attempt that month against a researcher at the Biotechnology Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. And the group promises more.

ITS posted on Feb. 18, 2013 on the War On Society blog something called the Seventh communique from Individualists Tending toward the Wild (ITS)  (Gabriella Segata Antolini is named as the poster)

The aim of this text is to make our stance clear, continuing the work of spreading our ideas, clearing up some apparent doubts and misinterpretations, as well as accepting mistakes and/or errors. In no way do we want to start an endless discussion that only takes up time and energy, nor do we want this text to turn into something other than what it is. Anyone who reads it will be able to interpret correctly (or incorrectly) what they are aiming to read; the intelligent reader will know to reflect and consequently do what seems right to them.

ITS is not going to cover every person or group’s forms of thought, but the ones we respect, that we tolerate, is something else; the ideas, doctrines, stances (etc) that deserve critiques (because we are in disagreement with them [being that they cover discourses that are leftist, progressivist, irrational, religious, etc]) will be mentioned in this way; the ones that don’t, we will let pass or agree with.

All the texts that ITS has made public are not for society to “wake up and decide to attack the system,” they are not to forcibly change what the others think, nothing like this is intended; the lines we write are for the intelligent, strong individuals who decide to see reality in all its rawness, for those few who form, think and carry out the sensible critique of the highest expression of domination–the Techno-industrial System (a).

And so that our words, critiques, clarifications and statements are made known as they have been spread up to now, we have decided (until now) to take the next step, which has been to attack and try to kill the key persons who make the system improve itself. [emphasis mine]

This is the only viable way for radical critiques to emerge in the public light, making pressure so this discourse comes to the surface. We are extremists and we act as such, without compassion, without remorse, taking any means to reach our objectives.

It’s a lengthy, rambling communiqué that provides little insight into what would motivate anyone to “attack and kill.”

Beckhusen attempts to make some sense of the situation in Mexico with references to the Unabomber (a US citizen who developed a radical critique of technology and bombed various facilities) and trends within Latin American societies.

In a couple of 2012 articles for Nature (May 28, 2012 and Aug. 29, 2012), Leigh Phillips discussed and tried to make some sense of the ITS attacks in Mexico and the attacks in Europe, which were carried out by different extremist groups who do not appear to be connected, by giving it a global perspective.

Meanwhile, nanotechnology continues to be practiced and discussed in Mexico. A Mar. 13, 2012 news item on Azonano notes a recent meeting,

Nano Labs Corp. is pleased to report on the Fifteenth Meeting of the ISO/TC 229 Nanotechnologies Conference held last week [Mar. 4 - 8, 2013?] in Queretaro City, Mexico.

Nano Labs was proud to sponsor two important events in the field of international regulations of nanotechnology, in the colonial City of Queretaro, in Central Mexico. The first was a joint Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)/ International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Expert Meeting on Physical-Chemical Properties of Manufactured Nanomaterials and Test Guidelines, and the second the 15th Meeting of ISO/TC 229 Nanotechnologies by the ISO Secretariat.

“… One of the major issues of the ISO conference is to establish a global ISO standard and regulate the safety issues related to the production and uses of nano particles in the manufacturing process on a global scale,” stated Dr. Victor Castano, Chief Innovations Officer of Nano Labs, who attended the conference.

Mexico also recently hosted a conference for the European Commission’s NanoForArt project, which I mentioned in a Mar. 1, 2013 posting,

The Feb. 2013 conferences in Mexico as per a Feb. 27, 2013 Agencia EFE news item on the Global Post website featured (Note: Links have been removed),

Baglioni [Piero Baglioni, a researcher and professor at the University of Florence] and Dr. Rodorico Giorgi, also of the University of Florence, traveled to Mexico earlier this month to preside over a conference on Nanotechnology applied to cultural heritage: wall paintings/cellulose, INAH [Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia] said.

I don’t know that there is any sense to be made of the situation in Mexico (certainly I can’t do it). The ITS communiqué doesn’t provide much insight. My guess is that this is a small group of people who will seem rather pathetic once they are caught—any power derived from their clandestine, violent activities disappeared.

For my previous postings about the bombings in Mexico:

Nanotechnology terrorism in Mexico? (Aug. 11, 2011)

In depth and one year later—the nanotechnology bombings in Mexico (Aug. 31, 2012)

ETC group replies to Nature’s “Nanotechnology: Armed resistance” article (Oct. 11, 2012)

While this isn’t strictly speaking on topic, I did cover a fascinating study on right wing violence in this posting,

Higher education and political violence (Sept. 23, 2010)

OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and six years of nanomaterials safety work

Thank to Carla Caprioli (@carlacap)for pointing out this OCED (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development overview document of their health and safety activities regarding nanomaterials, which was announced on Sept. 13, 2012 according SafeNano,

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Working Party on Manufactured Nanomaterials (OECD WPMN) has released an announcement regarding “Six Years of OECD Work on the Safety of Manufactured Nanomaterials: Achievements and Future Opportunities“.

As nanomaterials started to be used in commercial applications, OECD launched a programme of work in 2006 to ensure that the approaches for hazard, exposure and risk assessment for manufactured nanomaterials are of a high quality, science-based and internationally harmonised.

Based on this, the OECD and its member countries have come to the conclusion that the approaches for the testing and assessment of traditional chemicals are in general appropriate for assessing the safety of nanomaterials, but may have to be adapted to the specificities of nanomaterials. As with other chemicals, it is clear that each nanomaterial may pose specific challenges, but in most instances, they can be addressed with existing test methods and assessment approaches. In some cases, it might be necessary to adapt methods of sample preparation and dosimetry for safety testing. Similarly, adaptations may be needed for certain Test Guidelines but it will not be necessary to develop completely new approaches for nanomaterials. OECD continues to review all existing methodologies to identify and implement the necessary changes needed for their application to nanomaterials.

The four-page document won’t provide any new information or insights for long time observers but for new observers it does offer a listing of the OECD-published documents on safety and engineered nanomaterials. This excerpt from p. 4 of the document describes the OECD’s future plans,

There is still much to learn before our understanding of the safely [sic] use of manufactured nanomaterials is sufficient. However, the work achieved so far allows a better understanding of remaining “unknowns”. Knowing that the general approaches for the testing and assessment of traditional chemicals are in general appropriate for assessing the safety of nanomaterials, OECD will now focus on those specific aspects of manufactured nanomaterials, which require the adaptation and/or development of specific testing methods used for assessing human health and environmental safety as well as on developing guidance documents for assessing manufactured nanomaterials adapted to their specifities. This will  include guidance on estimating exposure (including fate and transport) on how to use results on physicochemicals [sic] endpoints in exposure assessment and mitigation measures to reduce exposure to safe levels (defining appropriate exposure metrics). At the same time, as R&D on manufactured nanomaterials/nanotechnologies is increasing, OECD remains vigilant in order to address emerging issues in a timely and resource efficient way.

It’s a good to find compilations either to point you in the right direction for your document or to confirm that you’ve found everything on the subject and on very rare occasions you may realize you found something everyone else missed.

Industry Canada, Vanessa Clive, nanotechnology, and assessing economic impacts

I have long (one year) wanted to feature an interview with Vanessa Clive, Nanotechnology Policy Advisor; Industry Sector, at Industry Canada but have been distracted from sending interview questions until about several weeks ago.  (Sometimes, I lose track *of time.)

Here then are the interview questions  I asked and the answers Vanessa very kindly provided,

1.      Could you describe your role? 

Industry Canada’s mandate is to help make Canadian industry more productive and competitive in the global economy, thus improving the economic and social well-being of Canadians.  As an emerging/nascent technology, nanotechnology can help contribute towards this objective.  Our role vis a vis nanotechology is to:

  • better understand Canadian capabilities, strengths and expertise
  • contribute to effective policy development
  • contribute to the development of a supportive business environment for innovation and commercialization

2.       Recently, you helped organize an event in Washington, DC (International Symposium on Assessing the Economic Impact of Nanotechnology, March 27-28, 2012). Could you give a brief overview of why this was needed, who attended, & what happened? 

The Symposium was organized jointly by the OECD Working Party on Nanotechnology (WPN) and the National Nanotechnology Coordinating Office for the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), and hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). I was a member of the OECD WPN Steering Committee which worked with the NNI to organize the event.

Some 200 people participated from OECD and non-OECD countries, representing a broad spectrum of sectors, industries, and areas of expertise. In addition to plenary sessions, industry break-out discussions were organized on advanced materials, food packaging, transportation, nanomedicine, energy, and electronics.

The decision to hold the event recognized the important potential contribution of nanotechnology to innovation, as reflected in rising R&D investments over the past decade. OECD member countries wish to explore ways to assess returns to these investments and the broader economic impacts of nanotechnology more generally, as well as the challenges for effective innovation policy development in this area.

The agenda and presentations can be viewed at http://nano.gov/node/729. Four background papers on related topics were also commissioned for the Symposium and can be found at the same site.

3.      What can be said about nanotechnology’s economic impacts and what information (e.g. bibliometric measures, no. of patents, etc.) is being used to arrive at that conclusion? 

Given the still relatively early stage of developments, the range of potential applications, and other factors, there are major challenges to estimating potential impacts. Holding this Symposium was intended to provide a start to develop useful indicators and other assessment tools.

4.      So, how is Canada doing relative to the international scene?

As discussed above, given the lack of measures, it is difficult to assess our relative position. However, Canadian federal and provincial governments have invested increasing amounts in nanotechnology R&D over the past decade or so. These investments have supported an array of government funding programs and contributed to the establishment of a world-class R&D infrastructure and research community and a growing number of companies involved in nanotechnology across industry sectors in Canada.

5.      Is there anything that stands out from the symposium?

It was clear from the level of attendance, presentations, and discussions which took place, that there is widespread interest in the symposium topics. To learn more about the event, I would encourage interested people to visit the website where presentations and background papers are posted – http://nano.gov/node/729.

6.      Are there any Industry Canada plans in the works for developing new assessment tools given that, unlike many countries, Canada does not have a national nanotechnology funding hub? 

We are working with the OECD to develop useful tools that would enable us to estimate or measure the economic impacts of nanotechnology.

7.      Are there any plans for a nanotechnology ‘road map’ similar to the digital media road map? Or perhaps there’s something else in the works?

Industry Canada is focused on assisting Canadian industry to grow, compete in the global economy, and create jobs. In order to do so we are building the department’s knowledge base about Canadian activities and capabilities, contributing to sound policy development in domestic and international for a, and contributing to building a supportive business environment for responsible innovation and commercialization in this field.

Thank you for the insight into the Canadian nanotechnology situation and the issues around economic impacts as per Industry Canada and tor taking the time to do this . Also, I am very happy to see the link to the presentations and background papers for the March 2012 nanotechnology and economic impacts event in Washington, DC (first mentioned in my Jan. 27, 2012 posting).

I did briefly visit the website which is a US National Nanotechnology Initiative website. The event page for which Vanessa provided a link hosts the background papers and links to other pages hosting the presentations and the agenda providing a rich resource for anyone interested in the issue of nanotechnology and its possible economic impacts.

* Changed preposition from ‘to’ to ‘of’ on Sept. 19, 2013.