Tuesday, February 3, 2009

CRS Studies Science and Technology Policy Office

Congress should examine the role and responsibilities of the White House Office of Science and Techonology Policy and question whether the office is effective, says a new Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.

Some in the science community have called for the office director to be elevated to a Cabinet-level post, but also warms that if the adviser is too close to the President then certain stakeholders may question the potential for politicization of science. On the other hand, CRS suggests that if the office becomes a completely independent agency it might be viewed as "inappropriately distancing" the President and the office.

The report points out the delicate balancing act between scientists and policy makers. Too distant could mean the appropriate questions could not be asked; too close could mean the policy makers have too much control over what scientists are allowed to say.

Congress established the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) through the National Science and Technology Policy, Organization, and Priorities Act of 1976. The act states that “The primary function of the OSTP Director is to provide, within the Executive Office of the President [EOP], advice on the scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of issues that require attention at the highest level of Government.” Further, “The Office shall serve as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans, and programs of the Federal Government.”

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