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While Richard Nixon appointed a White House Task Force on Science Policy within a few months of his inauguration in January 1969,he apparently gave little credence to its recommendation to strengthen PSAC and OST. Like Johnson, Nixon preferred applied to basic research, and his scienceand technology initiatives generally lay outside the PSAC framework. In his January 1971 State of the Union message, he announced a $100 million War onCancer program that emphasized his desire for practical results. In July, he announced a new program centered on the Domestic Council to stimulate newtechnologies. And in March 1972, he transmitted a special message to the Congress urging renewed emphasis on science and technology, but primarily fortargeted programs outside of academia.

Nixon appointed eighteen new PSAC members, excluding his two science advisors. Cal Tech President Lee DuBridge, who had been amongthe leading scientists engaged in defense-related research during World War II and was SAC/ODM chairman under Truman and Eisenhower, was sworn in as Nixon’sscience advisor on inauguration day. Immediately, he became actively engaged “inproblems important to the president: environmental quality, including a major oil spill in California, for which Nixon very publicly made a show of givingDuBridge responsibility for reviewing the situation and recommending corrective actions.” William G. Wells, Jr., “Science Advice and the Presidency: a View from Roosevelt to Ford,” in William T. Golden (ed.), Science Advice to the President (New York: Pergamon Press, 1980), 209. But DuBridge also was known to have been openly opposed to the SST and was further tainted in Nixon’s eyes by his imageas a dyed-in-the-wool member of the academic community, which along with PSAC came to be regarded by the White House as a special-interest lobby. So DuBridgewas forced to resign after two years, to be replaced by Edward David, an engineer from Bell Laboratories—the first nonacademic nonscientist to beappointed presidential science advisor. Nixon reinforced the message about his science agenda at David’s swearing-in ceremony, when he described his newadvisor as “a very practical man.”

In the Rose Garden following the searing in of Edward David, Jr., as President Nixon’s second science advisor, Sept. 14, 1970. Left to right:David, President Nixon, Ann David, Nancy David, and Lee DuBridge. Individuals in the second row are members of the President’s Science Advisory Committee. Thename of the judge who swore in David is not known. Courtesy of Edward E. David, Jr.

The gradual diminution of the science advisory system was accelerated after the November 1972 elections, when the president abolishedboth the PSAC and the OST.

In some respects—aside from its being at political odds with presidents Johnson and Nixon—PSAC’s demise can be attributed to theoverall growth of science and science policy-making throughout the federal bureaucracy. As science and technology policy capabilities in the DoD and othercabinet departments and agencies increased (thanks in part to recommendations of PSAC itself), Johnson and Nixon had many more sources of advice, particularlywith regard to national defense. By the time IBM physicist Richard Garwin—the most outspoken critic of presidential science policies—took the PSAC helm in1969 (after having previously served from 1962-1965), PSAC was already on the political outs with Nixon and all but dead. In January 1973, Nixon accepted theresignations of the last of the committee members and appointed NSF Director H. Guyford Stever his science advisor. Stever often joked about his second job.When asked whether he ever saw the president, he responded, in essence: “Certainly! I see him twice a day. Once in the morning when he walks in front ofmy window from his living quarters to the Oval Office, and once in the evening when he returns.” By then, it was abundantly clear to the scientificestablishment that there no longer was a good working relationship between academic science and the White House.

The abolition of PSAC and OST inspired further congressional science-policy initiatives. These activities intensified with theascension of Gerald Ford to the presidency after Nixon’s resignation. Ford was more than willing to work closely with his former colleges, and was alsoperceived as being friendly toward science.

The House Science and Technology Committee was now the only science-policy game in town. The scientific establishment began lookingto it to restore its special access to the president. Other groups, both scientific and non-scientific, looked to it to further their own interests andto confirm their beliefs in how relationships between science and government ought to be structured. Thus began a series of maneuvers and hearings in bothhouses of Congress that culminated three years later with the National Science and Technology Policy, Organization, and Priorities Act of 1976, the first andonly official statement of a comprehensive national science policy ever enacted by the United States Government.

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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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