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February 2012


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February 2012

New Releases

A Research Strategy for Environmental, Health, and Safety Aspects of Engineered Nanomaterials
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A Research Strategy for Environmental, Health, and Safety Aspects of Engineered Nanomaterials

Despite substantial research, gaps remain in understanding the environmental, health, and safety (EHS) risks of nanomaterials-materials just one billionth of a meter in size-used in an array of products including drug-delivery systems, cosmetics, and food additives. With the nanotechnology sector poised to expand rapidly, there could be greater exposure of workers, consumers, and the environment to nanomaterials. As a result, there is a critical need for a research strategy to build knowledge of the unique properties of nanomaterials, this report finds. This report sets out a conceptual framework for environmental, health, and safety research on nanomaterials, develops a research plan with short- and long-term research priorities, and estimates the resources needed to implement the plan. In a subsequent report, the committee will evaluate progress toward these goals.


TRB Special Report 308: The Safety Challenge and Promise of Automotive Electronics
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The Safety Challenge and Promise of Automotive Electronics: Insights from Unintended Acceleration

The Safety Challenge and Promise of Automotive Electronics: Insights from Unintended Acceleration examines how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) regulatory, research, and defect investigation programs can be strengthened to meet the safety assurance and oversight challenges arising from the expanding functionality and use of automotive electronics. The report gives particular attention to NHTSA's response to consumer complaints of vehicles accelerating unintentionally and to concerns that faulty electronic systems may have been to blame. The committee that produced the report found that the increasingly capable and complex electronics systems being added to automobiles present many opportunities for making driving safer but also present new demands for ensuring their safe performance. These safety assurance demands pertain both to the automotive industry's development and deployment of electronics systems and to NHTSA's safety oversight role. With regard to the latter, the committee recommends that NHTSA give explicit consideration to the oversight challenges arising from automotive electronics and that the agency develop and articulate a long-term strategy for meeting these challenges.


Technical Evaluation of the NASA Model for Cancer Risk to Astronauts Due to Space Radiation
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Technical Evaluation of the NASA Model for Cancer Risk to Astronauts Due to Space Radiation

NASA's current missions to the International Space Station (ISS) and potential future exploration missions involving extended stays by astronauts on the lunar surface, as well as the possibility of near- Earth object (NEO) or Mars missions, present challenges in protecting astronauts from radiation risks. These risks arise from a number of sources, including solar particle events (SPEs), galactic cosmic rays (GCRs), secondary radiation from surface impacts, and even the nuclear isotope power sources transported with the astronauts. The serious early and late radiation health effects potentially posed by these exposures are equally varied, ranging from early signs of radiation sickness to cancer induction. Other possible effects include central nervous system damage, cataracts, cardiovascular damage, heritable effects, impaired wound healing, and infertility.


Public Response to Alerts and Warnings Using Social Media

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Social media technologies and platforms provide attractive tools for delivering alerts, warnings, and other information to the public in a crisis, and they have seen an increase in widespread use, both informal and official, in recent years. Because of the growing number of users, such tools can be used to reach wide swaths of the population. By design, most social media tools also support wide participation, allowing anyone to comment on official messages and to share their own observations about current events. Additionally, such tools often allow not only text-based communication but also images and video. As a result, social media use is opening new avenues for community involvement during a disaster and information sources about the event for neighbors and emergency managers. Read more about the project on the CSTB site and visit @cstb.

Related Reports from CSTB

Public Response to Alerts and Warnings on Mobile Devices: Summary of a Workshop on Current Knowledge and Research Gaps (2011) reviews the extensive body of knowledge about the public response to alerts and warnings and the challenges and open research questions associated with their delivery using cell phones and other new technologies.

Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery (2007) examines IT's as-yet unrealized potential to improve how communities and the nation handle disasters and describes payoffs for disaster management that include more robust and interoperable communications, improved situational awareness and decision support, greater organizational agility, and enhanced engagement of the public.

The Internet Under Crisis Conditions: Learning from September 11 (2002) presents an assessment of how the Internet fared on September 11, 2001, lessons learned, and how the Internet might play a greater role in responding to future crises, combining descriptions and data with guidance for research and action.

NASA's Space Technology Roadmaps


NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) has begun to rebuild the advanced space technology program in the agency with plans laid out in 14 draft technology roadmaps. It has been years since NASA has had a vigorous, broad-based program in advanced space technology development and its technology base has been largely depleted. However, success in executing future NASA space missions will depend on advanced technology developments that should already be underway. Reaching out to involve the external technical community, the National Research Council (NRC) considered the 14 draft technology roadmaps prepared by OCT and ranked the top technical challenges and highest priority technologies that NASA should emphasize in the next 5 years. This report provides specific guidance and recommendations on how the effectiveness of the technology development program managed by OCT can be enhanced in the face of scarce resources. Read the report


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Upcoming Meetings

February 7-9, 2012
Assessment of US Air Force Astrodynamic Standards
Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board
Washington, DC

February 21-22, 2012
The Aeronautics Research and Technology Roundtable
Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board
Keck Center
Washington, DC

February 28-29, 2012
To gain a better understanding of the current knowledge and research on social media's role in alerts, warnings, and crisis communications, CSTB will be holding a workshop on February 28-29 at the Beckman Center in Irvine, CA. The workshop is sponsored by DHS's S&T directorate. Additional information and registration is available at

February 29-March 2, 2012




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