Issues in Science and Technology

A quarterly journal of the National Academy of Science focused on discussion of public policy related to science, engineering, and medicine. Provides a forum researchers, government officials, business leaders, and others concerned with public policy to s

Articles from Vol. 20, No. 4, Summer

A Patent System for the 21st Century: To Meet the Challenge of Rapid Technological and Economic Change, We Must Continue to Study and Refine the U.S. Intellectual Property Regime
The breakneck pace of innovation across many industries, the explosive developments in particular areas such as biotechnology and software, and the rapidly changing role of universities in the development and ownership of technology create challenges...
Asian Countries Strengthen Their Research
The global scientific landscape is changing. During the past decade, many governments, convinced that their economic futures lay with knowledge-based economies, sought to strengthen national research and education. Increased foreign scientific competitiveness...
Can Coal Come Clean?
"Clean Air and the Politics of Coal" by DeWitt John and Lee Paddock (Issues, Winter 2004) contains a good history of the attempts of the federal government to regulate the adverse effect of coal burning on air quality since the passage of the federal...
Climate Change Caution
I am critical of some of the conclusions of Richard B. Stewart and Jonathan B. Wiener in "Practical Climate Change Policy" (Issues, Winter 2004). The climate regime they propose is not that simple when seen in an international perspective. The European...
Completing the Transformation of U.S. Military Forces: The Updated Military Excelled in Afghanistan and Iraq, but Further Progress Must Be Supported Now to Ensure Long-Term Security
On taking office in 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced his intention to transform the U.S. armed forces to meet today's threats of rogue states and transnational terrorism. The effectiveness of U.S. fighting forces in Afghanistan...
Congress Probes outside Earnings of NIH Employees
A Congressional committee has begun investigating possible problems stemming from the involvement of employees of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with outside organizations. The congressional interest was prompted by negative stories in the...
Deterring Nuclear Terrorists
The prospect of a nuclear weapon detonated by terrorists in a U.S. city is one that needs to be taken very seriously. Michael A. Levi's article on attribution as part of a strategy of deterrence deserves a careful reading ("Deterring Nuclear Terrorism,"...
Electrical Blackouts: A Systemic Problem; Although Human Error Can Be the Proximate Cause of a Blackout, the Real Causes Are Found Much Deeper in the Power System
About every four months, the United States experiences a blackout large enough to darken half a million homes. As long ago as 1965, a massive blackout in New York captured the nation's attention and started remedial action. But that was almost 40 years...
Energy Futures
In "Improving Prediction of Energy Futures" (Issues, Spring 2004), Richard Munson explores how energy models might be improved and how their predictions might be better used in policymaking. Clearly, there are settings in which short-term policy choices...
Federal R & D Funding
"A Revitalized National S & T Policy" by Jeff Bingaman, Robert M. Simon, and Adam L. Rosenberg (Issues, Spring 2004) diagnoses a disease--the underfunding of long-term civilian R & D--and proposes some cures. The diagnosis is accurate and the...
Flying Blind on Drug Control Policy: The Axing of a Key Data Collection Program Is a Major Setback for Effective Policymaking
Not knowing about the actual patterns of illicit drug abuse and drug distribution cripples policymaking. As the subtitle of a National Academies report put it four years ago, "What We Don't Know Keeps Hurting Us." (Currently, we don't even know whether...
Forests Face New Threat: Global Market Changes; an Overhaul of Forest Policy Is Needed to Deal with the Economic and Environmental Consequences of Globalized Production
For the past 100 years, U.S. forest policy has been guided by the assumption that the United States faced an ever-increasing scarcity of timber. Indeed, at times during the 20th century, there were fears of an impending timber famine. Policymakers...
How Soon for Hydrogen?
In "The Hype About Hydrogen" (Issues, Spring 2004), Joseph J. Romm devotes considerable energy to high-lighting the challenges that must be addressed in realizing a hydrogen-based economy. As his title implies, he concludes that the world's interest...
Is Human Spaceflight Obsolete? Risk Is High, Cost Is Enormous, Science Is Insignificant. Does Anyone Have a Good Rationale for Sending Humans into Space?
During the past year, there has been a painstaking, and painful, investigation of the tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia and its seven crew members on February 1, 2003. The investigation focused on technical and managerial failure modes and...
Most R & D Agencies Prepare for Budget Cuts in Fiscal Year 2006
The Bush administration's plan to reduce the federal deficit in half over the next five years would mean cuts in funding for most R & D funding agencies, with the steepest cuts coming in fiscal year (FY) 2006 after this year's elections. Only defense,...
New Roles for Nuclear Weapons
In "A 21st-Century Role for Nuclear Weapons" (Issues, Spring 2004), William Schneider, Jr. endorses the nuclear weapons policy of the current administration as promulgated in its Nuclear Posture Review and National Defense Strategy papers. He describes...
Plugging the Leaks in the Scientific Workforce: Much More Needs to Be Done to Reverse the High Rate of Attrition of Both Men and Women Early in Their Scientific Careers
In response to the dramatic decline in the number of U.S.-born men pursuing science and engineering degrees during the past 30 years, colleges and universities have accepted an unprecedented number of foreign students and have launched aggressive and...
Preventing Nuclear Proliferation
Michael May and Tom Isaacs' "Stronger Measures Needed To Prevent Proliferation" (Issues, Spring 2004) is a significant contribution to the ongoing discussion on how best to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Regime, the centerpiece...
Recoupment Efforts Threaten Federal Research: Encouraged by Congress to Patent Inventions, Academic Researchers Now Face a Drive by Government to Recover Royalty Income
In recent years, members of Congress and health advocates have proposed legislative "recoupment measures" that would inappropriately and unfairly place the onus for the pricing and affordability of therapeutic drugs and biologics on academic and other...
Saving Earth's Rivers
I thank Brian Richter and Sandra Postel for highlighting, in their book Rivers for Life and their article Saving Earth's Rivers (Issues, Spring 2004), a growing awareness of the true costs of water-related development. Globally, we have manipulated...
What Is Climate Change? Incompatibility between the Definitions Used by Science and Policy Organizations Is an Obstacle to Effective Action
Believe it or not, the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), focused on international policy, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), focused on scientific assessments in support of the FCCC, use different definitions of...
White House, Congress Promote Efforts to Boost Supercomputing
A White House task force released a report in early May concluding that current federal efforts in supercomputing are inadequate. Meanwhile, several bills have been introduced in Congress to bolster U.S. R & D on supercomputing. In its Federal...