IRG 3-1a: Expert Studies - Regulatory Challenges.

One component of CNS-UCSB expert study by Conti, an Asst Prof. of Sociology, affiliated in the Law School, at UW Madison, focuses on nano regulators and policymakers. His prior work with IRG 3 as a key collaborator on both the 2008 public risk perception survey and the 2006 industry EHS survey has attuned him to the protocols and risk perception issues of interest, and his unique background as an expert on international governance provides an extremely useful comparative framework. In 2010-2011 he conducted an extensive series of interviews with US nano environmental regulators in which he explored their views on issues of regulating nanomaterials and nano-enabled technologies, particularly in the context of significant risk uncertainty and jurisdictional constraints that provoke “relational regulation” (Huising and Silbey 2011). This work connects directly to the expert web survey project (IRG 3-1b). The publication in preparation on this work aims to better understand how regulators think about risk, the way precaution and analogical references by regulators partially overcome what Beck has called “the ultimate deadlock of modern society,” that is, the need to make decisions about oversight under conditions of uncertainty, and the way regulatory risk judgment works as an inevitable form of discretion and informs risk management.

This work also interfaces well with the UBC team’s analytic work on regulation across the life cycle and both studies link well to our collaborative work in the UC CEIN.In 2011, the UBC team completed a paper (Beaudrie, Kandlikar and Satterfield, in press 2013, ES&T) based on Beaudrie’s Chemical Heritage Foundation commissioned study of regulatory gaps across the life cycle of nanomaterials (2010). This work identifies critical gaps in US regulatory coverage across the life cycle of emerging nanotechnologies. They argue that these gaps create a regulatory “no-man’s land” and make it difficult for regulatory agencies to collect risk relevant data, and conduct risk analyses for emerging nanomaterials at each stage of their life cycle. The focus on LCA (life cycle analysis) in this work aligns well with rising interests in the nano eco-toxicology world in the UC CEIN and elsewhere.

Closely connected to this, the UBC team (Kandlikar, Satterfield & Beaudrie) completed work with Decision Research structured decision making expert, Robin Gregory, and collaborator Graham Long, in developing and implementing in a 2-day expert workshop, a framework for expert elicitation of ranking nanomaterial risks, Vancouver in May 2012. The goal of the workshop was to understand the process of expert judgment formation in the context of high uncertainty about risks. They sought to develop generalized risk influence diagrams to track nano risk pathways (specific to carbon nanotubes & nano silver), identify measureable attributes for key risk factors, and test the feasibility of weighting risk concerns in light of attribute thresholds. This work is culmination of several years work, in which they have argued that decision-analytic tools (such as risk-ranking, multi-criteria decision analysis, and control banding) can be adapted to help make decisions about emerging nanotechnologies and nanomaterials. Yet, they have found that decision analytic research and tool development is lagging and will require targeted funding mechanisms (Beaudrie & Kandlikar 2011). The workshop has yielded presentations at SRA 2012, the Conf. on Environmental Effects of Nanoparticles and Nanomaterials (Banff, Alberta, Sept 2012), a report, proposals for additional funding, with more results in preparation.