IRG 3-1b: Expert Survey - NSE, Nanotox, NanoReg

Building on interviews conducted by Harthorn and Bryant in 2006-2007 in California, UBC researchers Satterfield, Kandlikar & Beaudrie, with Harthorn, developed a systematic web-based survey of 3 samples of nano experts in 2010. The survey was delivered to 2130 nano-experts with 424 responses from nanoscientists and engineers (NSE), nano-EHS researchers (NanoTox), and nanotechnology regulators (NanoReg). Data analysis is now complete and papers are in final preparation for publication. In the reporting year, aspects of the findings were presented at UC CEIN (May 2012), CNS (May 2012), 4S (Oct 2012), SNET (Oct 2012) and SRA (Dec 2012), and key publications nearing readiness to submit (Beaudrie, Satterfield, Kandlikar& Harthorn, 2 papers in preparation). The study explores experts’ views on physical or technological risks, societal risks and benefits, laboratory practices (where appropriate), and regulatory challenges for engineered nanomaterials (ENMs) and nanoenabled products. Results:

  • The expert survey found consistent patterns in risk ranking of nanomaterial release scenarios and product applications across the three nano expert groups, suggesting a general trend and agreement in relative ranking of potential risks. Occupational exposures and environmental releases from production facilities were deemed most risky compared to other release scenarios and specific nano-applications.
  • Nonetheless, they also found significant differences in risk perceptions across nano-expert groups, and across demographics including gender and race. They argue that these small but consistent differences in risk judgment, once identified, should be taken into consideration and controlled when utilizing expert judgment under conditions of high uncertainty, such as when conducting risk analysis for emerging nanomaterials.
  • Experts in regulatory agencies judge risks across a range of nano-application categories to be significantly higher than corresponding judgments of NSE and nano-EHS researchers. Somewhat surprisingly, regulators in this study are also more likely than the other two groups to agree that US regulatory agencies are inadequately prepared for controlling risks from nanotechnologies across application categories.