60-Second Science

Fix Congress's SciTech "Lobotomy"

Rep. Rush Holt, a physicist, says of the 1995 defunding of the Office of Technology Assessment: "Congress gave itself a lobotomy." Policy expert Lewis Branscomb offered reasons to bring back the OTA at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago on Feb. 14th. Steve Mirsky reports

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

Time to bring back the Office of Technology Assessment. The OTA was created in 1972 to provide Congress with an objective analysis of complex scientific and technological issues. But it was killed in ‘95. Rush Holt, one of three physicists in Congress, sent a statement to the AAAS meeting in Chicago last week that said, “When the OTA was disbanded, Congress gave itself a lobotomy.” At the meeting, Lewis Branscomb, from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, offered reasons to restore the OTA:

“First obviously technical understanding is much more critical to public policy now than it was in ’94. Consider energy independence, global climate change, nuclear weapons proliferation, and mutation of viruses into global disease threats—all major issues facing us today. Second, the American economy is more dependent than ever on innovation to give us a competitive advantage. Given the global competition we face, it will require the U.S. to improve more rapidly its own research and innovation capability.”

—Steve Mirsky 

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