With fall, and college football (sorry, couldn’t resist), firmly upon us, it seemed appropriate to tell you about two developments at the collegiate level regarding nanotechnology regulation.  The developments are on opposite sides of the country, further showing the widespread interest in nanotechnology.

First, Johns Hopkins University recently announced that students will be able to minor in "nanotechnology risk assessment and public policy."  Faculty from the engineering and public health programs received a grant to offer the curriculum.

"The new minor will involve courses on topics such as risk science and public policy, ethics and law, environmental engineering, public health and toxicology. Faculty members who will develop or teach the courses are affiliated with the Institute for NanoBioTechnology, Whiting School of Engineering, Bloomberg School of Public Health and Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, as well as the Risk Sciences and Public Policy Institute, Berman Institute of Bioethics and Center for Law and the Public’s Health."

Second, in Tempe, Arizona, three professors at the University of Arizona’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law received a $314,000 grant from the US Department of Energy to "develop models for the international regulation of nanotechnology."  The grant will cover approximately 3 years worth of work, and will be used to:

  • "create and maintain a public online database of proposed and enacted regulatory requirements and programs specific to nanotechnology at the international, national and local levels.
  • analyze proposed and enacted national and local regulations for nanotechnology, including the consistencies and inconsistencies of requirements in different jurisdictions.
  • prepare case studies of nine transnational models for the oversight of various technologies, with analysis of their strengths and weaknesses.
  • propose and evaluate potential frameworks for the transnational regulation of nanotechnology and coordination of national regulatory strategies."

These two schools are essentially turning out the first generation of nanotechnology regulators.  While those of us in the system now are learning as we go, students in both programs will be taught nanotech regulatory issues from the beginning of their careers.  What’s also interesting is that these programs are addressing the regulatory issues from different perspectives, which should lead to differing views and debates on laws and regulation. Perhaps even a cross-university conference is in the making here?