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Defining and implementing a national science policy

Title I of the OSTP Act consists of sets of explicit principles and goals underlying a national science policy, areas (including national defense) to be included in such a policy, and procedures for implementation.

According to the legislative history of the act, “Title I is a statement of national science policy—but it is not the invention of the Committee. It represents an analysis of much testimony and research on the subject. The main issue has not been the Title’s but whether or not Congress should attempt such a policy statement. Some people have thought it feasible; others have not…. The government has gone through decades of ad hoc situations, arrangements regarding science and technology that have not been based on any firm policy but have responded merely to current crisis. The result has been a marked inconsistency in utility and effect. In some cases things have worked well; at other times they have worked poorly.” Congressional Research Service, National Science and Technology Policy Issues 1979: Implementation of the National Science Policy Act , Part II , April 1979, p. 89.

The act states at the outset that it is: “An Act to establish a science and technology policy for the United States, to provide for scientific and technological advice and assistance to the President, to provide a comprehensive survey of ways and means for improving the Federal effort in scientific research and information handling, and in the use thereof.” PL 84 282, op. cit.

The first section of Title I (Section 101) provides a list of six reasons that led Congress to determine that the United States government needs a science policy, followed by thirteen priority goals for linking the science and technology resources of the nation to national goals and needs. The six principles that are to define U.S. science policy are: “(1) those of foreign policy, (2) a healthy national economy, (3) the special needs of food and energy, (4) the national security in its broadest sense, (5) the national health, and (6) a satisfying total environment, natural and man-made, urban and rural.” Legislative History, op. cit. , 908. The six modes of implementation are: “Central planning and coordination; information management, publicly supported science and technology; division of responsibility with the States, local governments, and private entities; allocation of public effort to science and technology in relation to competing activities; and the assurance of information to Congress about the totality of the science and technology effort.” Ibid., 910.

The Act makes no mention of OSTP or its director, who would also serve as the president’s science advisor, until Title II, where the director’s responsibilities include chairing an Intergovernmental Science, Engineering and Technology Advisory Panel (ISETAP) to advise on the science and technology needs of state and local governments; and submitting to Congress a biennial Five Year Outlook on Science and Technology and an Annual Science and Technology Report.

Questions & Answers

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Source:  OpenStax, A history of federal science policy from the new deal to the present. OpenStax CNX. Jun 26, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11210/1.2
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