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Nanotechnology involves the ability to control matter at approximately 1 to 100 nanometers. Worldwide trends suggest that products that rely on nanotechnology will be a $3 trillion market by 2020. However, some of the environmental, health, and safety (EHS) impacts of nanotechnology are unknown. The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) coordinates and oversees the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), an interagency program that, among other things, develops national strategy documents for federal efforts in nanotechnology.
In this context, the GAO examined: (1) changes in federal funding for nanotechnology EHS research from fiscal years 2006 to 2010; (2) the nanomaterials that NNI member agencies' EHS research focused on in fiscal year 2010; (3) the extent to which NNI member agencies collaborate with stakeholders on this research and related strategies; and (4) the extent to which NNI strategy documents address desirable characteristics of national strategies.
The GAO recommends that the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), which administers the NSTC, (1) coordinate development of performance information for NNI EHS research needs and publicly report this information; and (2) estimate the costs and resources necessary to meet the research needs.