Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) on Science Policy

April 23rd, 2004

Posted by: Roger Pielke, Jr.

Yesterday, Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) gave a speech at the AAAS 29th Annual Forum on Science and Technology Policy. It is a wide-ranging speech with elements of both policy and politics. Below is an excerpt focused on Senator Daschle’s endorsement of “Jeffersonian” science,” which refers to research that is inspired both by usefulness and advancing knowledge. This is what the late histroian Donald Stokes called “use-inspired basic research” in his book Pasteur’s Quadrant. Anytime a major national politician sees fit to speak thoughtfully on science and technology policy it is worth our attention. Download speech.

An excerpt …

“The challenge to the American scientific community is to rebuild the link not only between science and government, but between science and society. I believe we can do so, if we return to the model established by Thomas Jefferson. There is an implicit ongoing debate within the government regarding what kind of research is most important to support. Some suggest that we should put no limits on the kind on research we support and have faith that advances in theoretical science, regardless of the field, will inevitably translate into practical applications that improve human life.

For others, that approach is too abstract. There are real problems, and to spend taxpayer dollars on anything but the most pragmatic search for solutions seems high-minded, but naive. There is merit to each approach. Both kinds of research are critical.

But Jefferson offered a third way, and, I believe, the right way to make the best use of government’s resources, and gain the full support of the American people for the efforts of science. Merriwether Lewis’s expedition represented a basic attempt to enlarge the scope of America’s understanding of the world around it. It was the stuff of doctoral dissertations. At the same time, because the mission was targeted at the urgent needs of an expanding nation, the voyage captured the support of Washington and the imagination of our young country.”

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