Getting Serious about Science-Policy Reform

By Boucher, Rick | Issues in Science and Technology, Winter 1993 | Go to article overview

Getting Serious about Science-Policy Reform


Boucher, Rick, Issues in Science and Technology


Ever since Congress voted to kill the superconducting super collider (SSC) last fall, there have been plenty of postmortems on what surely ranks as one of the saddest chapters in the history of U.S. science. For some of my colleagues, the purpose of the SSC was never clearly defined or articulated. Others considered it an extravagance in a society beset with problems ranging from acquired immune deficiency syndrome to pollution. For still others, it was terribly administered and an example of pork-barrel politics at its worst. For some, it was all of these things.

As an SSC supporter, I understood these concerns and was sympathetic to some of them. But the SSC's problems tell only part of the story of how the federal government came to spend $1.6 billion with little to show but a partially dug tunnel in Texas.

The real lesson to be learned from the SSC's demise is that we as a nation need to change fundamentally the way we plan, debate, and implement science and technology policy.

For the research community, this is hardly startling news. Many calls for change have been made. More than a year ago, the Subcommittee on Science of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology launched a sweeping review of science policy, prompted in large measure by Rep. George E. Brown, Jr., (D-Calif.), the full committee chairman, whose 1992 report on the health of research challenged long-settled principles and ways of doing business. Others, including the Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Clinton administration have all concluded that in areas ranging from priority-setting to the formulation of federal research and development budgets, there is an urgent need to restructure and renew science policy.

The advocates of change share the belief that the science policy framework built by Vannevar Bush some four decades ago is no longer adequate for a society grappling with massive budget deficits, intense global economic competition, and other problems. Since the end of the Cold War (around which much of the rationale for public research funding was centered), cynicism about the research enterprise has been growing. Seen in this light, the SSC fiasco is but a costly symptom of a broader and more fundamental problem in defining goals and justifications for federal R&D policy.

I believe that an important step in redirecting federal science policy was taken on Nov. 9, 1993, when I introduced along with Chairman Brown and Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.) the Science Policy Renewal Act of 1993 (H.R. 3476). This legislation would implement the broad consensus that has arisen in the research community for priority-setting in science and greater ties between science and broader social concerns. The bill streamlines the science and technology policymaking apparatus in the Executive Office of the President, overhauls the way R&D budgets are formulated in the executive branch, and gives Congress new tools with which to exercise effective oversight of science policy. A bigger role for the science adviser

The most important of the bill's reforms is the direct role it confers on the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)--who is also the president's science adviser--in developing agency R&D budgets. Under the 1976 law that established OSTP, the director has only a very general role in assisting the president and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). With no line authority or control over budgets, the director must rely on the powers of persuasion in convincing agencies to shape or modify their R&D budgets in desired directions.

In a government where control of the purse strings equals power, this arrangement is too informal. It relies too much on the good faith of OMB to ensure that scientific concerns are brought to bear in the president's budget. The government is also potentially deprived of an effective agent to coordinate and to make tough choices about a $75 billion research budget spread across more than 20 departments and agencies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Getting Serious about Science-Policy Reform
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.