E. Clayton Teague of the National Nanotechnology Initiative is scheduled to testify before the House subcommittee on Research and Science Education on October 31 to address the NNI’s development of its "risk research strategy." NNI has been criticized by several organizations including the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, the American Chemistry Council, and DuPont for its delayed development of the strategy.
The primary complaint of stakeholders is the speed at which NNI is developing its risk research priorities. Many complain that the process is taking too long to accomplish while nanotechnology development moves further ahead. Other comments on the program include the lack of authority over NNI member agency to dictate action, and an observation by Nanotechnology Law Report commenter Dr. Kristen Kulinowski, director of the International Council on Nanotechnology, that government could lean more heavily on non-governmental resources, including industry and research universities, for information.
The speed at which NNI is developing its risk framework is a ponderous given the concerns raised about the potential hazards or risks associated with free nanoparticles in the environment. And the fact that the concerns over NNI’s actions are being voiced by all facets of the nanotechnology community only adds to the confusion. And, this is not the first time NNI has been questioned in this regard. Co-author John Monica reported on prior criticism of NNI’s work here, and I posted thoughts even earlier here. Consequently, NNI’s deliberate actions cannot be wholly denied. However, we must keep in mind that NNI is undertaking a huge project in an extremely complex intersection of science, policy, and regulation. Further NNI is tasked with overseeing the work of 26 federal agencies, none of which it has complete authority over. Deliberate action is certainly understandable, however, at what point does the deliberateness transform into foot-dragging? After all, this will be NNI’s third appearance in front of Congress.