ASU faculty receive federal nanotech renewal grant


October 29, 2010

A team of professors at Arizona State University, including three faculty members of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, has received a quarter-million-dollar federal grant to pursue their research of nanotechnology regulation.

The two-year, $248,230 award from the Ethical, Legal and Social Issues (ELSI) Program in the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science will enable the researchers to evaluate novel “soft law” mechanisms for oversight of the technology. The grant, “Governing Nanotechnology Risks and Benefits in the Transition to Regulation,” was made to Gary Marchant, Ken Abbott and Doug Sylvester, professors at the College of Law, and Elizabeth Corley, an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs and co-principal investigator for the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU. Download Full Image

The grant follows a $314,000 federal award that Marchant, Abbott and Sylvester received in 2007 on behalf of the College of Law’s Center for Law, Science & Innovation to develop models for the international regulation of nanotechnology.

Known as the science of the small – the ability to manipulate and utilize materials at the “nanoscale” level where they display unique and beneficial characteristics – nanotechnology is a growing science with big implications for healthy, safety, quality of life and environment concerns. Already, there are hundreds of nanotechnology products on the market, yet the industry is largely unregulated.

“Nanotechnology is involved in a lot of different types of products, such as stain-repellant clothing, highly effective sunscreen lotions and many renewable energy applications,” said Marchant, the ASU Lincoln Professor of Emerging Technologies, Law and Ethics, and Executive Director of the Center for Law, Science & Innovation. “With so many nanotech products coming onto the market, some will undoubtedly create human health problems if not managed properly, potentially jeopardizing the entire nano brand.”

For example, some consumer protection organizations called for a global moratorium on nanotech research and a recall of products that contain nanoparticles, after a household sealant, Magic Nano, was yanked from the market in Germany last spring. The product had caused breathing problems among users, but it was later determined that it contained no nanoparticles.

“One important aspect of the limbo between progression of nanotechnology and awareness and accessibility is the development of nanotechnology regulation in the face of scientific uncertainty about the technology,” Corley said. “When we think about a field like nanotechnology, the science often moves forward very quickly while the discussion of the social, ethical and policy impacts often falls behind. One of the goals of our research is to make sure that as a scientific community we engage in a discussion about the policy implications of nanotechnology at the same time that the science is moving forward.”

As part of the first grant, Marchant, Abbott and Sylvester examined the potential for international harmonization of nanotech regulations and concluded that formal treaties in the foreseeable future were unlikely.

“International negotiations are so intense, and they require a lot of resources, so the issue has to be urgent,” said Marchant, the grant’s principal investigator. “Yet we need to provide assurances to the public that this is being looked at, even though it may take a long time for formal regulation to be implemented.”

Thus, the researchers will use the follow-on grant to bring cutting-edge analysis of innovative governance mechanisms to this rapidly-developing technology, Abbott said.

“New mechanisms are increasingly used, both domestically and transnationally, to provide regulatory oversight on environmental, commercial and social issues,” he said. “Our research will focus on ‘governance’ mechanisms, in which industry groups, non-governmental organizations and other private actors play important roles, and on “soft law,” in which some mandatory requirements are replaced by voluntary norms.”

Examples include a code of conduct that may be adopted by an individual firm or group of stakeholders, and the establishment of a network of national regulatory agencies, which can adopt recommendations for addressing health, safety and other risks and coordinate national actions.

“Mechanisms like these can be adopted more easily than binding legal requirements, are highly flexible, and allow for direct participation by concerned parties,” Abbott said. “They are especially useful as interim measures in situations where the appropriate form and level of regulation is not yet clear, as with nanotechnology.”

The team also will continue to expand a public online database of proposed and enacted regulatory requirements and programs that are specific to nanotechnology at the international, national and sub-national levels. The Nanotech Regulatory Document Archive (nanotech.law.asu.edu) was created as part of the first grant, and now has more than 300 government regulatory documents from more than 20 national jurisdictions.

“In addition to looking more closely at governance structures, this new grant will allow us to continue to operate and update the world’s most comprehensive website on nanotechnology regulations,” Sylvester said. “This website catalogs every regulatory action taken to analyze or control this emerging technology, and this new grant provides funding for us to continue to make it available to the public and to seek input from regulators and experts around the world on new and emerging regulations in the area.”

ASU rolls out new Sparky license plate design


October 29, 2010

Funds benefit ASU student scholarships

The ASU Alumni Association is unveiling the newly redesigned ASU collegiate license plate today during this year’s Homecoming Legends Luncheon, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at The Buttes, a Marriott Resort.

The license plate features a bold new look with Sparky on an all-gold background. With the redesign of the plate, it now can be customized with six characters on the plate – up from five on the previous design – to boast the ultimate display of personal ASU pride. Download Full Image

For Sun Devil fans wanting the new plate, the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division will be at the Homecoming Legends Luncheon and ASU’s Homecoming Block Party from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Oct. 30, issuing the new ASU collegiate license plate featuring Sparky.

Christine K. Wilkinson, president of the ASU Alumni Association, explained that $17 of every $25 charged by the state for the license plate is allocated to the university’s Medallion Scholarship fund. The Medallion Scholarship program gives students who are Arizona residents financial support as well as the opportunity to foster their personal development and leadership skills while attending ASU.

“The redesign of ASU’s collegiate license plate allows university supporters and Sun Devil fans to demonstrate their school spirit while at the same time contributing to scholarships for deserving students,” Wilkinson said.

Hundreds of ASU Medallion Scholarship recipients have benefitted from the funds generated by proceeds from the Sparky license plate since it first hit Arizona roadways in 1989. The current Medallion Scholarship program is comprised of 98 students majoring in business, engineering and liberal arts among other fields. Twenty-one of those students will graduate in May 2011 and utilize the skills they have received while being a part of the program to assist them in their future endeavors.

Sun Devil fans purchasing a Sparky plate will be charged an annual special plate fee of $25 with a $3 postage fee and an annual renewal charge of $25. Those wanting a customized license plate will be charged an additional $25 personalization fee.

For more information or to order an all-new Sparky license plate, visit http://www.sparkyplates.com" target="_blank">www.sparkyplates.com or contact the Motor Vehicle Division from 8 a.m.-5p.m., Monday through Friday, by calling (602) 255-0072 (Phoenix), (520) 629-9808 (Tucson) or (800) 251-5866 (throughout Arizona). Individuals with an existing Sparky license plate may replace it with one featuring the new design for a $5 exchange fee by visiting a local Motor Vehicle Division office or ASU’s Homecoming Block Party on Oct. 30.


Media contact:
Tracy Scott
ASU Alumni Association
(480) 789-3963
mailto:tracy.scott@asu.edu" target="_blank">tracy.scott@asu.edu

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library