Scenario synopsis

The mock spills are assumed to occur in our hypothetical city of Daysville. Because we are in Arlington, VA for this workshop, we are using local map images to describe the areas in Daysville where the following two spill events have just happened. (For both of these scenarios, participants may incorporate any relevant perspective from either an EU or a US standpoint):

Scenario A: Daysville River Spill

Spill of hypothetical Nano-[Ag]-cide® pesticide product on the banks of the Days River
The hypothetical pesticide product Nano-[Ag]-cide®, has been released in the Days River through an accidental spill of a large shipment of an aqueous suspension of the nanoform pesticide. We have 4 hours to prepare for a mock press conference. Members of the press, NGOs, and concerned citizens will arrive for a mock public briefing, where they will expect our subject matter expert teams to communicate key concerns, information needs, and nano-specific considerations, and to have the opportunity to ask the nanoEHS community targeted questions about their concerns.

Scenario B: Daysville Road/Loading Dock Spill

Spill of hypothetical Nano-[Cu]-cide® pesticide near a loading dock in Daysville
A significant quantity of copper-based hypothetical pesticide product, Nano-[Cu]-cide®, has been released in powdered form near a loading dock onto an urban street. We have 4 hours before a confidential briefing will be held before representatives of the pesticide company, regulators, and city officials (for this, assume any role relevant from a US or EU perspective). Individuals being briefed will expect our subject matter expert teams to communicate key concerns, information needs, and nano-specific considerations, and to have the opportunity to ask the nanoEHS community targeted questions about their concerns.

The charge will be to prepare a 5-minute oral briefing responding to the event with stances on, for example:

  1. What do you believe are the critical issues/concerns resulting from this event?
  2. What are your recommendations for the path forward to either address or alleviate the concerns? Teams do not have to give a solution, rather, lay out the array of information needed to identify and contain the problem from a characterization, exposure and hazard assessment standpoint, NOT an emergency response standpoint. Should include consideration of: What do we know? What do we need to know? What tests should we run to answer these questions and what decisions would that information support?

During the Scenario A conference, the Scenario B participants will act as judges for the competitive portion, and vice versa. For each scenario, the COR that is judged as best having handled the press conference preparation and execution will be declared winners.

The steps for all participants are depicted in numbered order in the summary graphic below.

NanoEHS Scrimmage steps

Scrimmage logistics and competition

Team composition

Scrimmage participants are asked to play themselves responding to this “real” scenario. Teams will be grouped by CORs to foster a working community of practice along the same disciplines. It is important that each COR assemble a representative number of people for this exercise to succeed, because each of 6 CORs will be divided into two teams (A and B Team) to respond to A and B Scenarios. The remaining COR – Databases and Computational Modeling – will divide up among the teams based on interest (since they represent an enabling aspect of multiple other disciplines). Ideally there should be no more than 8 people per team, 4-6 participants per team would be best.

Cross-COR preparation

Cross-COR interaction will be ensured by round-robin consulting sessions between CORs. As teams prepare for the press conference and company briefing, they will begin by strategizing among themselves and assigning roles within their team. Then they will physically rotate between timed interaction sessions, so that each COR team from one scenario will meet with every COR team (other than their own) that is addressing the other scenario for a total of 20 minutes. The first 10 minutes dedicated to one COR “interviewing” the other, and the second 10 vice versa. We will pre-assign the teams, and use a workshop registration form for participants to indicate their team preferences. During the sessions, participants will have access to the online scrimmage interface with detailed scenario information as well as pre-loaded resources that may be used in drafting responses. They will be guided to utilize the ITS-Nano hexagon map as a way to capture their approaches uniformly across teams.

Each team will prepare for two portions of the mock events:

  • The prepared statement: Throughout the scrimmage, each team will prepare for their individual prepared statement, where they will communicate in a 5 minute presentation what the critical concern(s) are (with regard to public health concerns, ecological issues, etc.) and their scientifically based (i.e. outside of first-responder responsibility) proposed path to investigate and manage those concerns. They are not asked to present a final solution, rather a path toward arriving at the solution (e.g. what tests should be run, what information is needed, to support what decision). The CORs will utilize the ITS-Nano hexagons to record which areas of the nanoEHS landscape are involved in their plan. This portion of the briefing will be competitive between all of the COR teams working on the same scenario; its design will generate multiple “maps” of the approaches, providing comparison opportunities as well as data to support workshop outcomes.
  • The Q&A portion: After individual COR teams have each presented their 5 minute plan synopsis, there will be a group portion of the briefing with 1 representative per COR, where the group fields a series of questions that might be asked of the nanoEHS representatives in response to the scenario and plans forward. This portion of the briefing will not be competitive, but rather serve as a capstone for the scenario where we can explore and evaluate as a group the practical outcomes and application of the exercise as a whole.

Exploratory Social Science Inquiry

Prior to the nanoEHS Scrimmage event, each participant will be asked to fill out a brief demographic survey and respond to a small number of brief prompts about nanoEHS research. During the event, social scientists will circulate and observe to carry out an ethnographic () analysis of communication, underlying assumptions, and other social driving factors affecting inter- and cross-COR integration of knowledge. After the event, each participant will be asked to respond to the same prompts again to measure any change of the activity on their perspectives.

Why are we doing this

  • Simulate a decision process exploring how communication between CORs functions, and may sometimes fail, to address practical questions about nanomaterials in the real world
  • Incorporate input from multiple communities of expertise across the nanoEHS field.
  • Avoid this being another academic exercise focused on caveats and data gaps, and press ourselves to test how what we know can support.
  • To pilot a custom-built cross-COR interactive software, used for presenting the scenario information and housing resources, but with potential for more interactive design going forward.
  • To pilot some exploratory social science inquiry into the links and disparities between disciplines, sectors, CORs and geographic regions, with potential for more extensive social science engagement going forward.
  • Via the mock press conference and briefing, explore the idea of natural and physical scientists considering nanoEHS research in terms of its relevance and impact on various stakeholder groups and society at large.
  • Provide insight into how the U.S.-EU CORs should advance individual community and interlinked goals, by shedding light on several questions:
    • What are some critical disconnects between communities or information deficits that might be addressed within the CORs?
    • Are the CORs properly aligned for successful information-sharing in support of risk-based decisions on nanomaterials?
    • What major differences are revealed through this specific case regarding informational needs and communication processes 1) for the different selected nanomaterials, 2) for the different audiences and 3) in the U.S. and the EU?

The recommended responses to be developed as part of this exercise are not intended to serve as actual policy recommendations; rather, the activity is intended to generate insight pertaining to the process of arriving at a collective answer in response to the simulated challenge.