Rep. Rush Holt on Science Advice

July 25th, 2006

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

From Represenatative Rush Holt’s statement (PDF) prepared for today’s House Science Committee hearing on science advice to congress:

There is no shortage of information and no shortage of wisdom. We are swamped with experts. We need help in weaving it into policy-relevant fabric.

3 Responses to “Rep. Rush Holt on Science Advice”

  1. James Bradbury Says:

    Hi Roger,

    Thanks for the links.

    Rep. Holt supports re-funding the OTA to help weave this fabric. Perhaps OTA has been been used as a partisan tool in the past… but it seems that the dire need for a working loom might now outweigh those concerns (?). I hope so.

    What do you think?


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  3. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    James- I think that getting rid of OTA was shortsighted. Congress should have such a body. But there is no way that an OTA can deal with everything that Congress faces related to science and technology – there are just too many issues.

    Professional societies, the NRC, and assessment bodies (like IPCC) could improve technical advice given to Congress if they increased their focus on advice over advocacy (often stealth advocacy) in the form of explicit discussion of policy options. Too often experts given Congress information rather than discuss the implications of the information for action.


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  5. David Bruggeman Says:

    Rep. Holt’s quest has gone on for a few years now, and from what I read and heard with respect to this hearing, I don’t expect new legislation any time soon.

    While the efforts of former OTA alumni are notable, when at least one committee member suggests the need to get past the demise of OTA (while agreeing with it being a bad thing), it’s worth trying to change tactics.

    The arguments are typically focused on the need for additional analytic capacity within Congress. While I need to review the first part of the hearing, I found very little in the testimony I saw or the prepared statements of the witnesses addressed how to weave this information into ‘policy-relevant fabric.’ You can read and view this information from the link Roger posted, so please let me know if I’ve missed something.

    Better questions to ask:

    Does Congress as a whole agree with the existence of this gap? If not, why not? Is it a question of priorities and/or resources (scientific information isn’t the most important point in many political or policy decisions)?

    What kind of products/reports would be useful for members of Congress to fill in the gap best identified by Dr. Peha (quick turnaround studies with a high level of balance and completeness)?

    What would be the best process for developing these products? Do you want researchers in-house, a smaller office that can coordinate efforts of outside organizations, consultants and volunteers, some hybrid of this, or some other method?

    If you don’t develop a new agency, how would you change things to better address the gap? GAO tried a pilot project of technology assessments? Can that be improved or refined? Are there people in the Congressional Research Service that could support this kind of work?

    In short, perhaps the effort would gain traction if a lot more time was spent on how this would happen.