US academics have called for major changes in the federal handling of nanotechnology risk research.
Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor at the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, warned that a failure to make such changes could result in dangerous "knowledge gaps".
"Without such an approach the significant knowledge gaps which exist in all areas of nanotechnology risk assessment will persist," he said. "At best these gaps create uncertainties, and at worst dangers, for workers, companies, consumers, investors and insurers."
Maynard's study, Nanotechnology: A Research Strategy for Addressing Risk, proposes a comprehensive framework for systematically exploring the possible risks of nanotechnology.
According to the analysis, only $11m of the more than $1bn the US government invests annually in nanotechnology research and development is devoted to highly relevant research into what is safe and what is not.
In addition to inadequate funding, the current federal nanotechnology risk research effort lacks a clear strategy and leadership.
Maynard argues that the federal government needs an "overarching strategy and comprehensive set of research priorities" to fill these gaps.
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