Restoring the Office of Technology Assessment to Its Rightful Place

Over at his new digs, Chris Mooney talks about efforts to re-launch the OTA:

I’m starting to detect some buzz on this very important front, which I wrote about in detail in 2005’s The Republican War on Science and elsewhere. Basically, the story is this: In 1995 the Gingrich Republicans, looking to slash budgets–and looking askance at science in general in many areas–got rid of their scientific advisory office, which had been in existence since 1972 and had become world renowned not only for accurate studies, but for far-ranging analyses that forecast future science and technology problems that we might someday have to grapple with. For our unfailingly presentist elected representatives, this was a vital source of perspective on where things are heading.

Technically OTA was merely defunded by the Gingrichites, rather than thoroughly dismantled. And one of its champions, my own legislator Rush Holt of Princeton, New Jersey, is now pushing to bring it back. See the details here from Science Cheerleader, who wants not only to reopen OTA but to include a more significant public participation component in its technological decisionmaking–an advance that I for one would thoroughly welcome.

He also includes a link to an online petition calling for the OTA’s restoration.

Restoring the OTA is pretty much a no-brainer. Congress needs to make important decisions about issues that are fundamentally scientific (global warming, stem cells, energy sources, pandemic disease, etc.), and they ought to have high-quality independent advice about these questions.

So, if you’re in a position to help support the efforts to bring back the OTA, please do so.