A new report from the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars explores a variety of voluntary options available for the oversight of nanotechnology products and processes.
The report, Voluntary Initiatives, Regulation, and Nanotechnology Oversight: Charting a Path, by Dr. Daniel Fiorino, Director of the Center for Environmental Policy at American University, provides a historical overview of voluntary approaches to environmental protection and assesses their applicability to the emerging field of nanotechnology.
The report provides a taxonomy of the various types of voluntary initiatives and the partnerships that underlie them, as well as an assessment of the factors that are most likely to contribute to program success. The thesis of this report is that both non-regulatory and voluntary initiatives can play a constructive role in nanotechnology oversight.
"This report is the most extensive analysis done to date of how voluntary programs can be applied to managing nanotechnology's possible environmental and health effects," said David Rejeski, Director of the project. "The report's analysis and recommendations extend beyond nanotechnology to the newer generation challenges that we face as science rapidly advances."
As nanotechnologies move forward, along with other emerging technologies, voluntary programs will play an important role in the governance portfolio available to the federal government as well as states and municipalities.
"Issues like nanotechnology require more creative and innovative solutions than did many of the problems we have had to deal with in the past," commented Dr. Fiorino. "Voluntary initiatives, partnerships, and collaboration may be used as part of a larger strategy. They may complement, help prepare the ground for, and in some cases be used independently of a more traditional regulatory approach."