Change for America on Science and Tech Policy, Part 4: The Office of Science and Technology Policy

In Washington, D.C. access is influence, and as we’ve argued several times here on Science Progress, in order to drive progressive science and tech policy across the entire federal government, the next science advisor to the president must be at the top level of the White House staff. And few would know better the importance of the science advisor (who also serves as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy) holding cabinet-level rank than the last person to serve in the position at that status, Neal Lane.

Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President book coverLane, an adviser to SP, worked under President Clinton during the last three years of the former administration and is the author of the chapter on OSTP in the forthcoming book Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President. The book is a joint project between CAP’s sister organization, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and the New Democracy Project, and offers recommendations for the next president and administration on priorities for a broad swath of executive branch departments and offices.

His first recommendations are for making sure that the nomination for science adviser comes fast on the heels of the inauguration and that the appointee also sits on the National Security Council, the National Economic Council, and the newly-suggested National Energy Council. Other key advice from Lane includes:

Move OSTP Back Into the White House Fold

This is both terms of representation in the policymaking process—fill out all four of the associate director positions, as two have been vacant during the Bush administration—and physical proximity. The Office “should be returned to the Eisenhower Old Executive Office Building so [staffers] can interact in real time with other senior White House policy officials and integrate informed, science-based decision making into White House policy.”

Executive Orders: Coordination and Restoration of Scientific Integrity

Lane recommends two key moves here. First, reinstitute the National Science and Technology Council, which during the Clinton administration included heads or deputies from all departments in the executive branch involved with science and tech policy and coordinated science policy among them.

Second, to reverse some of the damage done by conservatives through political interference with science-based policy, he suggests an order detailing that: “all federal policy and information provided to the public by the federal government will be based on the best scientific evidence; membership on federal scientific advisory committees will be based on scientific qualifications; and scientists within the federal government or funded by federal agencies will be free to publish and speak openly about their results, unless restricted due to national security concerns.”

Advocate for the Repeal of the Data Quality Act

This is an obscure provision wedged into a 2001 appropriations bill providing industries that threaten public and environmental health (e.g. polluters and cigarette manufacturers) with the legal tools to launch underhanded challenges on regulatory science before the government can use it to implement official protections. (For lucid and harrowing info on how its used, see David Michaels’s book, Doubt Is Their Product.)

Ten Percent

Lane echoes other science policymakers in writing that OSTP should press for key R&D agencies to get a 10 percent annual bump in their budgets. His list: NSF, NIH, the DOE Office of Science, NIST, DOD research programs (including DARPA), and NASA, NOAA, and USGS science programs.

You can hear more about Lane’s vision for progressive science policy under the new administration in the keynote speech he offered at the Science Progress event earlier this year.

For full listing of chapters in the book, including several that are available for download now, in advance of the January 5 release, visit the CAPAF project page.

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