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Science and Technology News

Science & Technology Policy Conference

Science & Technology Policy:
Who Wins, Who Loses, and Who Cares?
August 15-20, 2004
Big Sky, MT

Gordon Research Conferences logoGordon Research Conferences have, since 1931, provided a place for academics, government, industry, and media representatives to share intellectual exchange in different ways than the usual academic conferences allow. The rules require afternoons free of formal meetings and strictly prohibit publication, quotation, or attribution of the ideas exchanged. The goal is a free flow of ideas to promote creative thinking about "cutting edge" science and pushing beyond the boundaries of what we know. Successful conferences lead to productive new collaborations and new lines of investigation. This second official Gordon Conference on Frontiers of U.S. Science and Technology Policy (following a planning meeting in 1999) therefore affords opportunity for those interested in the workings of science policy to step outside the time-critical environment in which the many decisions affecting science and technology policy are made.

Rather than traverse old ground or duplicate existing programs, we will focus on driving questions and propose hypotheses to be explored. First, what are the distributional impacts of science policy decisions? Do some groups of people generally "win" and others "lose" or does everyone "win?" Science policy cannot be amoral, should not be immoral, and yet does not often reflect on how to be moral. What underlying values drive policy-making, and what values emerge from the results of decisions? Is science policy just another form of politics as usual, differing only in the specifics of interest group politics? Or does science policy involve a special sort of politics, ones with different rules about winners and losers? The political process de facto adjudicates among competing values in ways that are rarely informed by deep or substantive thinking about what we actually think is important.

Second, we will examine science as politics. The scientific method and the doing of science may well follow some insulated "pure" rules of science's own so that the knowledge produced is respected and carries authority and epistemic warrant. Yet every decision to pursue some research rather than other research is intrinsically value-laden and necessarily political. Scientists rarely address this fact explicitly. On the premise that they should, and that thus informed they should become part of the policy-making process, we will ask: how, who, to what end, and based on what values? What role should scientists play in science policy? What role should non-specialists play? How should these roles relate to one another? Recognizing the role of values, how can technical issues best be used in values adjudication? And how can we educate young scientists to become reflective leaders who can guide us to wise decisions?

Third, who, when, and how do we think about what goes on the policy agenda? There is no official science policy agenda-maker, and we typically end up with nothing more than a mantra that "more science is obviously good, produces benefits, and therefore should be funded." Funding wishes almost always drive science policy, and this is not good enough. Policy decisions have consequences, since funding something and not funding something else hurts some just as it helps others. How should scientific values and choices compete? Science is politics in this sense. Science policy has moral consequences. Scientists can play a role in policy-making, but ought not always or only to play the role of lobbyists demanding more funding. What is science policy, who makes it, what role should the scientists play, what are our goals, and what will be considered a success? In the constellation of policy issues, science is rarely at the forefront. Why? Should it be? Or is science policy best viewed as an instrument of defense, transportation, health, welfare, agriculture and other such policies? How do we distinguish between science policy and science budget policy? Should and does policy play different roles for basic and applied science?
Sessions include the following:

  • Science and Technology Policy: Who Wins, Who Loses, and Who Cares?
  • IT: Infrastructure, Info-Complexity, and Info-Security
  • Science as Expertise, Morality, and Politics I: Creating and Constraining Expertise
  • Competing Levels of Regulation and Development of Biomedicine and Biotechnology: Stem Cells, Genetically-modified Foods and Pharmaceuticals
  • Science as Expertise, Morality, and Politics II: ELSI - so What?
  • Forests, Fires, and Interpreting while Managing Forests: why the History Matters
  • Science as Expertise, Morality, and Politics III: Politics isn't Policy
  • Global or Local: Environmental Policy in the Face of Uncertainty
  • What good is Science and Technology Policy?

For the complete agenda and registration information visit the conference website.

S&T Policy Resources on the Web

AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Congress newsletter logoThe AAAS Center for Science, Technology and Congress newsletter, Science and Technology in Congress, provides timely, objective information to Congress on current science and technology issues.

National Library for the Environment logoCongressional Research Service Reports on environmental and related topics can be found here.

Telecommunications Conference

The Digital Broadband Migration: Toward A Regulatory Regime For The Internet Age
February 8-9, 2004
University of Colorado School of Law
Boulder, CO

Silicon Flatirons Telecommunications Program logoThe transformation of telecommunications from an analog, narrowband network optimized for voice to a digital, broadband network optimized for data traffic has created a slew of challenges for businesses, policymakers, and academics alike.  As increasing numbers of users are adopting digital products and services that are networked through broadband connections, it is now an opportune time to evaluate the issues that policymakers, academics, and businesses will confront over the course of this transition.
This conference, sponsored by the Silicon Flatirons Telecommunications Program, will examine three central areas of regulatory policy associated with the Internet age: broadband policy, digital rights management, and privacy and security policy. The principal speakers will be FCC Chairman Michael Powell, Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, and Microsoft CTO Craig Mundie.
For more information visit the conference website.