Over the last 20 years, Nanotechnology’s lingering uncertainty has presented a challenge to regulators and developers aiming to ensure that no unacceptable hazards are permitted to gain exposure to humans, animals, or the environment. This challenge is typically addressed through risk assessment, where hazards are analyzed and exposure pathways are characterized in an objective and data-driven manner. However, many engineered nanomaterials still retain uncertain physical, chemical, or biological properties that make risk assessment difficult or even prohibitive, whereby existing testing protocols and indicators may not account for the various environmental health and safety risks that such novel technologies pose. This resulted in current focus on Risk Governance, which involves creating a rational process that balances material risks alongside societal benefits and concerns and establishing appropriate governance authorities. Despite of all of these efforts, are we any closer to answering the questions we had 20 years ago? How our experience in Nano risk assessment and management relates to other emerging risks, both in new technologies (e.g., synthetic biology) and other fields (e.g., cybersecurity, pandemics). I will try to connect developments in the field of Nano risk assessment and management with changes in my own mindset and advice on strategies that I provide as a consultant, public servant and academic.
Dr. Igor Linkov is Senior Science and Technology Manager with the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), and Adjunct Professor with Carnegie Mellon University. He is responsible for ERDC’s project portfolio in the areas of crises management and resilience. He develops methods and tools for measuring resilience in interconnected network and applies these tools to critical infrastructure, transportation, energy and cyber systems, supply chains and currently to manage response and recovery following COVID pandemic. He was part of several Interagency Committees and Working Groups tasked with developing resilience metrics and resilience management approaches, including the US Army Corps of Engineers Resilience Roadmap, Secretary of Deference Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, and OSD Cyber Resilience Technical Committee. He is Army representative at the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) and Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program. Dr. Linkov is a member of Transportation Research Board’s “Transportation, Sustainability and Resilience” committee. He has organized more than thirty national and international conferences and continuing education workshops, including over twenty NATO events. He has published widely on environmental and technology policy, climate change, and risk and resilience analytics, including twenty five books and over 400 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters in top journals, like Nature, Nature Nanotechnology, Nature Climate Change, among others. Dr. Linkov is Elected Fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Society for Risk Analysis and received multiple awards for his scientific achievements from the Army and other organizations. Dr. Linkov has a B.S. and M.Sc. in Physics and Mathematics (Polytechnic Institute) and a Ph.D. in Environmental, Occupational and Radiation Health (University of Pittsburgh). He completed his postdoctoral training in Risk Assessment at Harvard University.