Nanoinformatics: easy access data for the whole community

Right now Europe is a hive of activity that’s busy generating enormous amounts of data on nanomaterials, but making the best use of that data is a challenge. For nanosafety alone there are over sixty European and many national projects each producing reams of information that could be tremendously useful for advancing nanomaterial research. Unfortunately the data tends to be stored in an ad hoc fashion dispersed across Europe, meaning it’s not always easy to get hold of the relevant bits and pieces of information or even know that they are out there.

An entire area of research known as nanoinformatics has grown with the aim of addressing this pressing matter. Broadly speaking, nanoinformatics aims to find out what data and info is relevant to scientists and engineers working in the nanoscale and then goes about developing and putting into practice ways to collect, validate, store, share, analyse, model and apply it.

At ENF2017 the final session on the “Societal Dimension and Governance of Innovation” will be touching on how nanoinformatics addresses environmental, health and safety (EHS) issues and risk assessments can be approved. There will also be a focus on how companies and research organisations deal with EHS aspects as well as discussing safe-by-design approaches and regulatory requirements.

To explain this topic there will be five guest speakers, each bringing their own unique perspectives from industry, academia, and EU policy. Dr Tero Mustonen is the global new substance coordinator at BASF, the world’s largest chemicals producer, whose role within the Performance Chemicals Division sees the steering of new chemistry through the complex global regulatory landscape. Dr Daan Schuurbiers has a wealth of experience raising awareness of EHS issues among researchers and policy makers. In 2010 he founded the Dutch consultancy De Proeffabriek for training researchers, advising policy makers and advancing the public debate on responsible innovation. Dr Abdelqader Sumrein from the European Chemicals Agency will shed light on the European Observatory of Nanomaterials. The Observatory will be implemented in a stepwise approach and will integrate and expand the existing Commission information sources on nanomaterials. Professor Eva Valsami-Jones will deliver insights into the activities undertaking under the NanoSafety Cluster. Finally, the forum will be welcoming Dr Keld Alstrup Jensen, senior researcher and leader of the Nanomaterials and Exposure Characterisation Group at Copenhagen’s National Research Centre for the Working Environment.

Programmes like NanoSafety Cluster understand that synergy between projects dealing with EHS aspects is vital for moving ENM production forwards. Of particular note is eNanoMapper, a large EU effort that has made important strides in the development of a community agreed ontology and matching data warehouse, providing a computational infrastructure for toxicological data management of ENMs. Based on open standards and an interoperable design, eNanoMapper will be able to play a crucial role in helping Europe to take a more effective and integrated approach to nanotechnology research.

The EU is not alone in this endeavour but is working closely with the US to develop a roadmap for nanoinformatics in 2017 that aims to get a grip on all that scattered and hard to find data, whether it’s new or old. Visit here next time for a closer look at eNanoMapper and the nanoinformatics roadmap, the people behind them and the impacts they’re expected to have on nanomaterial research in Europe.