According the June 22, 2012 news item on Nanowerk, The US General Accountability Office (GAO) has release a new report titled, Nanotechnology: Improved Performance Information Needed for Environmental, Health, and Safety Research (published May 2012). From the report,
Nanotechnology involves the ability to control matter at approximately 1 to 100 nanometers. Worldwide trends suggest that products that rely on nanotechnology will be a $3 trillion market by 2020. However, some of the EHS [Environmental, Health, and Safety]impacts of nanotechnology are unknown. The NSTC [National Science and Technology Council] coordinates and oversees the NNI [National Nanotechnology Initiative], an interagency program that, among other things, develops national strategy documents for federal efforts in nanotechnology.
In this context, GAO examined: (1) changes in federal funding for nanotechnology EHS research from fiscal years 2006 to 2010; (2) the nanomaterials that NNI member agencies’ EHS research focused on in fiscal year 2010; (3) the extent to which NNI member agencies collaborate with stakeholders on this research and related strategies; and (4) the extent to which NNI strategy documents address desirable characteristics of national strategies. GAO’s review included seven NNI agencies that funded 93 percent of the EHS research dollars in fiscal year 2010. This report is based on analysis of NNI and agency documents and responses to a questionnaire of nonfederal stakeholders.
GAO recommends that the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), which administers the NSTC, (1) coordinate development of performance information for NNI EHS research needs and publicly report this information; and (2) estimate the costs and resources necessary to meet the research needs. OSTP and the seven included agencies neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendations. [p.2 of the PDF]
This provides some interesting contrast to the National Nanotechnology Initiative’s (NNI) 4th assessment report which I wrote about in my May 2, 2012 posting,
PCAST [President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology] acknowledges that the NSET [Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology Subcommittee coordinates planning, budgeting, program implementation, and review of the NNI] has acted on our recommendation to identify a central coordinator for nanotechnology-related EHS research within NNCO. The EHS coordinator has done a laudable job developing and communicating the 2011 NNI EHS research strategy. [emphasis mine] However, there is still a lack of integration between nanotechnology-related EHS research funded through the NNI and the kind of information policy makers need to effectively manage potential risks from nanomaterials. The establishment of the Emerging Technologies Interagency Policy Coordination Committee (ETIPC) through OSTP has begun to bridge that gap, but without close integration between ETIPC and the NEHI working group [Nanotechnology Environmental and Health Implications Working Group], the gap may not be sufficiently narrowed. OSTP and the NSET Subcommittee should expand the charter of the NEHI working group to enable the group to address cross-agency nanotechnology-related policy issues more broadly.
Alphabet soup, eh? The best I can gather is that the GAO report has identified gaps that are identified by the NNI (and which they have begun to address) as per my emphasis in the excerpt from the 4th assessment. As someone who does not know the politics or have access to inside information, the GAO report recommendations are much simpler to understand as the issues are laid out from a more ‘global’ perspective (or big picture perspective) as per US EHS nanotechnology research efforts. The NNI’s 4th assessment report offers more detail and, frankly, I found it more confusing.
This is my 2nd GAO report and, again, I love the writing and organization of the report. (Note: I am lauding the report writing skills.) Thank you to Frank Rusco, Dan Haas, Krista Anderson, Nirmal Chaudhary, Elizabeth Curda, Lorraine Ettaro, Alison O’Neill, Tind Shepper Ryen, Jeanette Soares, Ruth Solomon, Hai Tran, and Jack Wang.