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Ogmius Newsletter

Introduction to the Ogmius Exchange

According to Sherwood Boehlert, Chair, House Science Committee, “Advancements in science and technology will be critical to the success of every mission of the Department of Homeland Security. Improving intelligence analysis, cybersecurity, border security and emergency response all will require the invention and deployment of new technologies, ranging from new software to make computer networks more secure to new standards to make emergency response communications equipment interoperable. Like the Cold War, the war on terrorism will be won as much in the laboratory as on the battlefield.” 25 July 2002 (reference).

As is frequently the case when decision makers confront complex and challenging problems, the science and technology community is being called upon to contribute to national goals related to homeland security. But connecting science and technology with decision making – in any context – is challenging. As George Brown, former Chair of the House Science Committee once wrote, “the path from scientific discovery to societal benefit is neither certain nor straight.”

Scholars of the connections between science and policy have long used the phrases “science for policy” and “policy for science” to clearly distinguish the two-way connections between research and decision making. The former focuses attention on producing knowledge and technologies useful for those responsible for making decisions; examples might include the development of reliable, low-cost vaccines against bioterrorism, or detection systems for nuclear or biological weapons. The latter focuses on how the scientific enterprise itself is organized, supported, and evaluated, ultimately to produce useful knowledge and technologies. The nation’s focus on homeland security has profound implications for both “policy for science” and “science for policy,” as well as their inter-connections.

In this month’s Exchange two distinguished participants in and observers of the nation’s response to homeland security comment on issues of science, technology and security policy. The nation not only has great resources in science and technology, it also has resources for understanding and considerable experience in connecting science and technology and the needs of decision makers in a range of contexts. To borrow Representative Boehlert’s metaphor, successful security policies will depend on effectively connecting what is done in the laboratory with what happens on the battlefield. Our exchange this month focuses on these connections.

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