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. 24, No. 3, Spring

A New System for Preventing Bridge Collapses
On August 1, 2007, the eight-lane Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, collapsed catastrophically during rush hour, killing 13 people and severing a crucial connection across the Mississippi River. Before an investigation even had time...
Animal Migration: An Endangered Phenomenon? Timely International Action Can Sustain This Inspiring Natural Process before It Becomes a Crisis
Animal migrations are among the world's most visible and inspiring natural phenomena. Whether it's a farmer in Nebraska who stops his tractor on a cold March morning to watch a flock of sandhill cranes passing overhead or a Maasai pastoralist who climbs...
Asian Successes vs. Middle Eastern Failures: The Role of Technology Transfer in Economic Development; the Differences between the Two Regions in Their Openness to Trade, Investment, and New Ideas Could Not Be More Striking, nor Could the Economic Consequences Be More Stark
In 1960, Korea, Taiwan, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt were in roughly the same economic position. Average per capita income was about $1,500 in 1995 U.S. dollars, and none of these countries had significant manufacturing capacity or exports....
Bush Proposes 3.3% Increase in FY 2009 R & D Budget
After a rocky end to the fiscal year (FY) 2008 appropriations process, in which R & D funding was hit hard, President Bush on February 4 released a proposed budget of $3.1 trillion for FY 2009. The president's budget includes increases for the...
Climate Change Bills Advance in Senate
In December Senate committees approved four bills dealing with climate change, including a bill designed to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change and a bill aimed at adapting to climate change. On December 5, the Senate...
Dealing with Disability
Marilyn J. Field and Alan M. Jette call on the nation to strengthen its commitment to accommodate the needs of its disabled citizens ("Dealing with Disability," Issues, Winter 2008). One of the barriers to such a commitment, they note, is that the...
Energy in All Directions
The excellent and interesting set of articles about U.S. energy policy in the Winter 2008 Issues (headed "Ending the Inertia on Energy Policy") probably went to press before the recent congressional passage of an energy bill. The articles refer to,...
Environmental Stalemate?
American Environmental Policy 1990-2006: Beyond Gridlock by Christopher McGrory Klyza and David Sousa. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008, 408 pp. The past decade and a half have been marked by bitter battles over environmental policy, forged in...
Freedom of Speech
In "Freedom of Speech in Government Science" (Issues, Winter 2008), David B. Resnik raises troubling issues about the politicization of government science and threats to the freedom of speech of government scientists. The issue is complicated because...
From Medical Malpractice to Quality Assurance: A Properly Designed Malpractice Insurance System Could Actually Decrease the Prevalence of Errors and Enhance the Overall Level of Care
Every decade or so, the United States is seized with a fervor to reform medical malpractice. Unfortunately, this zest is typically motivated by circumstances that have little to do with the fundamental problems of medical malpractice, and the proposed...
Gone Fishing
David Festa, Diane Regas, and Judson Boomhower's compelling account "Sharing the Catch, Conserving the Fish" (Issues, Winter 2008) echoes mounting theoretical and empirical evidence on the powerful ability of economic incentives to provide resource...
Innovation in Poor Countries
At the World Economic Forum, Bill Gates spoke about creative capitalism as an approach that combines business principles, government policies, and nonprofit activism as a way to expand the reach of market forces so people can participate in the economic...
Learning to Deliver Better Health Care: Rigorous Study of the Most Effective Ways to Deliver Care as Well as What Care Works Best Can Result in Not Only Better Treatment but Also Significant Cost Savings
Most Americans assume that the health care they receive is determined by firm medical evidence, that the practice of medicine is fundamentally scientific. But this is far from true. For over 30 years, John Wennberg and others have been documenting...
Open Access
There can be no doubt that technology provides the means to better connect developing-country scientists to the larger scientific community. In "Open Access to Research for the Developing World" (Issues, Winter 2008), Matthew J. Cockerill and Bart...
Racial Disparities at Birth
In "Racial Disparities at Birth: The Puzzle Persists" (Issues, Winter 2008), Paula Braveman does a superb job of outlining the case for discrimination as a source of disparities in birth outcomes. As Braveman ably argues, many of the "usual suspects"...
Report Faults Food-Safety Agency
A report released in November 2007 says that budget woes at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have resulted in the agency falling behind not only on the growing number of tasks in its purview but also on advances in research and technology. It...
Science in the Developing World
Mohamed H. A. Hassan is a great spokesman for the role that science, technology, and innovation (ST & I) can play in facilitating the development of the less developed part of our world ("Global Science Gaps Need Global Action," Issues, Winter...
Strengthening Nuclear Safeguards: Urgent Action Is Needed to Shore Up the Ability of the International Atomic Energy Agency to Detect Nuclear Weapons Programs and Safeguard Peaceful Nuclear Programs
As events in Iran and elsewhere illustrate, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is confronting a crisis in its ability to detect nuclear weapons programs and to safeguard peaceful nuclear programs. This crisis stems from a number of factors:...
The R & D Future of Intelligence; the U.S. Intelligence Community Faces a Changing Landscape. Here Is a Blueprint for How It Can Best Harness the Potential of Technology. One Key: Foster Risk-Taking
The United States has long depended on its capability to develop and use technology for collecting and analyzing intelligence in order to protect national security. Indeed, the intelligence community has a remarkable record in R & D. Among its...
Time to Act on Health Care Costs: Near-Term Changes to the Consumer and Provider Sides of Health Care Financing Are Essential to Prevent the Nation from Being Overwhelmed by Rapidly Rising Health Care Expenditures
Popular discussions of the long-term fiscal challenges confronting the United States usually misdiagnose the problem. They typically focus on the government expenses related to the aging of the baby boomers, with lower fertility rates and longer life...