SA Perspectives: Bring Back the OTA; June 2005; Scientific American Magazine; by Staff Editor; 1 Page(s)
In this 21st century, science and politics are intertwined to a greater degree than ever before. Global warming poses a long-term challenge with no easy answers. The prospect of terrorism using technology such as dirty bombs and biowarfare looms large on everybody's radar. Then there is the threat of a bird-flu pandemic, not to mention the issues of embryonic stem cells, energy policy, missile defense, education, voting technologies.... The list goes on and on.
More than ever, those elected to govern are in need of timely, high-quality, impartial advice on matters of science and technology. Yet for nearly a decade now, one of the most successful agencies for providing just such advice--the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA)--has been defunct. Scrapped in September 1995 to save a paltry $22 million from the $2 billion spent each year on congressional operations, the OTA had produced widely hailed reports on an extraordinarily broad range of topics. (The full set of over 750 OTA reports is archived at www.wws.princeton.edu/~ota/)