Advanced Risk Assessment and Categorization Nanomaterials Ontology System (ARACNOS)

The development of next generations of nanomaterials and nanosystems such as hybrid nano-molecular systems, and organic-inorganic or passive-functional nanomaterials, hereinafter referred to as complex nanosystems, will pose an enormous challenge to systematically naming, defining and describing new complex nanosystems, as well as identifying the key parameters relating to properties, behaviour and effects, and appropriate methodologies for risk assessment (RA).

In this project we develop a systematic, ontology-based RA methodology of health and environmental safety for complex nanosystems. We take into account the special nano-specific aspects, e.g. material characterisation, potential multi-sector applications, exposure in a lifecycle perspective, environmental fate/behaviour, (eco)toxicological hazards, risk characterisation, as well as perception and communication of the risk relating to complex nanosystems. The methodology is implemented in a prototype, evaluated against relevant use cases, and made available to broad stakeholders for exploration. The RA methodology will be based on two ontologies to be developed during the project and built on existing and evolving ontologies in the area: one for complex nanosystems and one for relevant notions around nano-safety and risks. These will be specified in OWL, integrate suitable existing vocabularies and ontologies – in particular those built in projects answering related calls – though existing ontologies will need to be axiomatically enriched to ensure that behavioural uncertainties and knowledge gaps related to nano-specific properties and (eco)toxicological effects are dealt with in a transparent, manageable, and open way. The latter will be achieved by suitable exploitation of OWL’s open world semantics, its post-coordination capabilities, as well as sophisticated tool, explanation, and reasoning support available. Realisation of endeavour, ambitious goals and future proofe its efforts, the project provide for nano-specific, multi-lingual tools for nano-experts to browse, extend, and maintain the OWL ontologies that the RA methodology is based upon.

Partners in ARACNOS:

The team of ARACNOS reflects the challenge (and our concept) to marry the methods of materials science, safety and risk assessment with the most advanced ontology and semantic web technology. Up to now there have not been joint initiatives of these two spheres, at least not of comparable scope.

We have brought together leading researchers from all disciplines: NQCG, UM, and UOX are leading the development in semantic web applications and ontology, in particular the development of a comprehensive IT infrastructure that remains resilient on open architectures. JRC, IOM, TNO, NRCWE, FIOH, NIOH, and RIKILT are among Europe’s leading groups in human health risk assessment, as are FERA, RIVM, INIA, OMNT, NU and INERIS in environmental risk assessment. Both groups cover a tremendous variety of test and nanomaterials, throughout all lifecycle stages. They already collaborate in a number of European projects and are members of the EU NanoSafety Cluster. Partners in these projects and the cluster are as well the researchers from academia (TVUR, SU-NUM, IST, DTU, NMI) – they offer unique methods, which are far beyond the state-of-the-art portfolio, both for hazard assessment, exposure, and risk management (including monitoring). In addition these groups have significant experience in the design of complex nanoparticles; supported by three of Europe’s most renowned experts for the analysis of nanomaterials, IPA, LGC, IFE, we are confident to have all expertise available to:

  1. Develop an ontology for complex nanomaterials and nanosystem
  2. Develop an ontology for safety of nanomaterials
  3. Develop an ontology for risk-assessment
  4. Develop (IT) tools for the three ontologies

Industry partners in ARACNOS represent relevant sectors that need no further introduction - they will mainly contribute with industry perspective on requirements and practicality which are key asset for the test cases, but they will as well participate in the development of the ontology for complex nanomaterials and nanosystem as all partners have outstanding facilities for the characterisation of complex nanomaterials.

The industry partners have a second role as ‘ambassadors’ to other industrial stakeholders. It is a crucial aspect of our project to liaise to our stakeholders both in production and industrial use, as well as to regulators. NIA and VNT have an excellent track record in this regard and will ensure a balanced, evidence based discourse.

A peculiarity of the risk assessment community is very fortunate for our project: much of the leading research is done in National and International research centres. Thus JRC, TNO, NRCWE, FIOH, NIOH, RIKILT, FERA, RIVM, INIA, OMNT, and INERIS will act as liaison to the regulatory sphere and the research communities at the same time.

Outreach is a major task as an ontology depends on consensual contributions from a greater number of international users. This does include participation to OECD, EU Committees and ISO, CEN, IEC and CODATA-VAMAS, of course – in addition over 30 additional groups have endorsed their membership in our advisory board and stakeholders panel, covering the Americas, Oceania, and Asia. We will continue to invite further members to ensure that our results will make a difference.

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Image Courtesy A. Dzurak, University of New South Wales

NQCG's primary research interest is the realization of quantum simulators capable of complex computations in the fields of nanoscience and continuum mechanics.


NQCG is developing an open semantic e-infrastructure system and international collaborative environment for open-source research, standardization and innovation in future and emerging convergent technologies and the integration of state-of-the-art techniques of ontology design.