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AAAS Contributes to Woodrow Wilson Center Report Regarding Science Advice for the Next U.S President
How should the next U.S President ensure the highest quality science advice to help guide White House decisions related to such critical issues as energy and the environment, national security, and competitiveness?
Earlier this year, AAAS Science and Policy Programs Director Albert Teich and AAAS Chief International Officer Vaughan Turekian joined an array of other experts in discussions that resulted in a new report: Critical Upgrade: Enhanced Capacity for White House Science and Technology Policymaking, which was released 17 June by the Woodrow Wilson Center, regarding science advice for the next U.S administration.
AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner, executive publisher of the journal of Science, applauded all efforts to support science advice for the White House.
"American science policy is at a critical crossroads," Leshner noted. "Federal research investment has declined, in real terms, since 2005, and a shortage of U.S scientists and engineers could hamstring American innovation. At the same time, the integrity of science and science education are increasingly threatened by moral objections and political interference. The next U.S president will set the course for U.S scientific discovery for generations to come. The scientific community stands ready to help."
The report notes that "science and technology pervade virtually all domestic and global issues. The defining policy issues facing our nation are directly related to our capabilities in science, technology, and innovation. Those issues span national security and economic competitiveness, energy security, environmental protection and natural resource conservation, public health, and quality of life."
Further, the report states: "The next President will need a superb Assistant for Science and Technology—not only to evaluate complex issues and develop sound policies but also to guide and oversee the federal investment in science and technology which totaled some $142 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2008."
The Woodrow Wilson Center report draws upon more than 60 interviews and comments from science and technology leaders in both the public and private sectors, including all living former White House Science Advisors. The goal of the report was to present a set of best practices designed to enhance the effectiveness of the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and S&T-related policy-making in other White House offices.
"Over the past fifty years," the Woodrow Wilson Center noted in a press release, "the President's Assistant for Science and Technology and OSTP fostered the development of policies that proved to be of great benefit to the nation and the world. Policies formulated in the White House science office helped to put a man on the moon, encouraged private sector innovation that has become a major driver of the U.S economy, and ensured the federal funding that made U.S academic institutions and global leaders."
When an organization such as the highly respected Wilson Center is focusing on how best to ensure federal science advising, Turekian said, it underscores "the critical and central role of science in the large number of issues that the next administration will face across the policy spectrum."
Details about the recommendations were released at a media breakfast briefing featuring Lee H. Hamilton, president and director of the Woodrow Wilson Center and former Indiana congressman; and David Abshire, president of the Lounsbery Foundation and president for the Center for the Study of the Presidency, among others.
"The President will need to appoint an extraordinary individual with the breadth of knowledge and sound judgment to chart advice on matters of sweeping national importance," Abshire said. "To be effective, the science advisor must have ready access to, and the total trust of, the president in order to be fully involved in cabinet-level policymaking."
The report's recommendations focus on lessons learned from the past as well as suggestions for the future regarding "best practices" in 10 major areas. The points include responsibilities and activities of OSTP, relations with other White House entities, external science advice, coordination of programs across the federal government, programs of international scope, and interactions with the private sector and the states.
The nonpartisan Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, established by Congress in 1968 and supported by public and private funds, maintains a neutral forum for free, open and informed dialogue regarding national and world affairs.
19 June 2008