Societal Implications and Risk Perception

Leader: Barbara Herr Harthorn
Theme 7 research activities are organized around 2 main sets of goals. The first aims to produce new knowledge about key factors likely to drive critical stakeholder groups’ perceptions of risks to the environment posed by specific ENMs and their enabled products. We hope to use this knowledge to inform and help calibrate UC CEIN research, and public and policy outreach strategies, including recommendations to US regulatory agents. Groups/sectors we study include the US public, the ENM industry, and a range of experts (nanoscale scientists & engineers, nanotoxicologists, regulators, and nano environmental remediation experts).  Factors currently being analyzed as drivers of public perception include: views about environmental media of air, water, and soil; environmental values and worldviews; different framings of ENM and application risks and benefits, and perceived thresholds of under-regulation or over-regulation by government or industry of emerging environmental risks. Theme 7 also analyzes how industry’s perceptions of risk and regulation impact their environmental stewardship & workplace safety practices and their receptivity to the regulation of engineered nanomaterials. Downstream effects of ENM production are also examined by studying how nano environmental remediation is or should be handled from the perspective of industry and regulators, and which assessment and regulatory challenges with regard to ENMs are viewed as central. The resulting portfolio of environmental risk perception research is providing UC CEIN with a carefully nuanced analysis of emergent public, industry, and expert concerns; differences among risk views of experts (those developing ENMs and their applications; those studying their risks and toxicological signature; and those responsible for their regulation); and differences among multi-stakeholder views that could lead to conflict or controversy if not addressed upstream. Theme 7 research is developed in close consultation and collaboration with UC CEIN toxicologists and ecologists and works to share results to contribute to responsible decision making and to increase sensitivity of UC CEIN to societal environmental concerns and values.