Issues of the Day
This section offers us some very divergent perspectives on the process of reformulating our national science policy, and then discusses the role of science in foreign policy. We also hear from two members of the legal community as they address the interface between science and law. We end with a look at the role of science and technology in state-level development plans.
Representative Vernon J. Ehlers, vice chairman of the House Science Committee, starts off by picking up on some earlier themes. He discusses the need for going beyond the Vannevar Bush model, sees economic strength as our primary concern, and stresses the necessity of greater involvement by more diverse groups in determining science policy. His list of goals includes credibility in international collaborations, a stronger educational system, and stable, substantial federal funding of research. He also wants science to assume a new role in societythat of helping society make good decisions.
But Richard E. Sclove, director of a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, presents a challenge to the House Science Committee's report. "How did the committee labor so long and wind up so far out of touch?" he asks. The committee actually reaffirmed the core elements of the Bush report. It concentrates on federal funding of research in the natural sciences and ignores some of the most important scientific challenges of our day. Sclove says the committee's "single most important challenge" was actually how to bolster popular support for funding science. The committee's report is not empowering taxpayers, but freezing our national science policy in "a Cold War time warp."
Jane Lubchenco, past AAAS president, then asks a sobering question: Is the scientific enterprise that met the challenges of the past prepared to meet the challenges of the future? Her answer is "no." She says we must move beyond the status quo, and we must periodically reexamine our goals and alter our course as necessary. We must ask how our world is changing and we must change accordingly. She echoes Ehlers in advocating that science inform policy decisions and that scientists communicate better with the public. She, too, believes that science has the responsibility to benefit society.
Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering addresses science and foreign policy from the perspective of the State Department. He sees a world of geopolitical realignment, a global economy, increased influence by non-state actors, and new challenges in health and the environment. In this world, science has taken a more important role in foreign policy. The Department is firmly committed to international S&T, and Pickering asks for input in how the State Department can configure itself "to meet the S&T challenges of the new century."
The Honorable Sadakazu Tanigaki of Japan affirms Pickering's dream when he extols the success of Japan-United States S&T partnerships in working together to achieve results useful for mankind. Tanigaki begins by discussing what Japan is doing to improve its R&D environment, and thus strengthen its economy. Japan has chosen to emphasize information technology and the health sciences, while also considering scientific ethics and the environment. Looking to the future, Tanigaki emphasizes the importance of capturing the attention of youth, a challenge also faced in the United States.
Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer turns our attention to science and law. From his perspective, law now requires access to sound science. AAAS, along with the American Bar Association and the Federal Judicial Center, is working to find a way to provide scientific help to the courts. The legal community is in the process of accepting that they need sound legal foundations in both science and the law. With science "the law will work better to resolve many of the most important human problems of our time," he says.
D. Allan Bromley continues this discussion on law by showing how science and the law are drawn together in today's world. We need to better understand each other and how we each work. He begins by comparing the methodology of the two. He then cites several examples of how the courts have misused and "disused" science in the past. Turning to the role of expert witnesses in the courts, he cites recent Supreme Court decisions that have instructed courts to consider the methodology as well as the conclusions of scientific witnesses. Bromley then comments on the proposal made by Associate Justice Breyer to provide court-appointed experts in selected cases (and discusses the role AAAS is playing).
The section concludes with a report on what is happening at the state level in the development of science and technology strategic plans. The report of the State Science and Technology Institute points out some commonalities in the plans, such as the critical role of public outreach, the key role for business and industry representatives, and the need for involvement by both the public and private sectors.