Bring Back the OTA – Bring Back Evidence Based Government

So I was thinking. It isn’t really enough to merely react constantly to anti-scientific behavior which seems to permeate the media, the interwebs, and policy discussions on Capitol Hill these days.

It used to be, for about 20 years (from 1974 to 1995), there was an office on the Hill, named the Office of Technology Assessment, which worked for the legislative branch and provided non-partisan scientific reports relevant to policy discussions. It was a critical office, one that through thorough and complete analysis of the scientific literature gave politicians common facts from which to decide policy debates. In 1994, with the new Republican congress, the office was eliminated for the sake of budget cuts, but the cost in terms of damage to the quality of scientific debate on policy has been incalculable. Chris Mooney described it as Congress engaging in “a stunning act of self-lobotomy” in his book the Republican War on Science (RWOS at Amazon).

The fact of the matter is that our government is currently operating without any real scientific analysis of policy. Any member can introduce whatever set of facts they want, by employing some crank think tank to cherry-pick the scientific literature to suit any ideological agenda. This is truly should be a non-partisan issue. Everybody should want the government to be operating from one set of facts, ideally facts investigated by an independent body within the congress that is fiercely non-partisan, to set the bounds of legitimate debate. Everybody should want policy and policy debates to be based upon sound scientific ground. Everybody should want evidence-based government.

For another good article on the OTA, and why it should be brought back I can recommend this one.

In the meantime, what can you do? Well, if you’re a Kossack, go write a diary or three on the topic. If you’re a LGFer, write comments about it there. If you have a blog, write a post about it. Here is a list of emails for senators and congressmen, write yours and suggest that the OTA be re-funded and allowed to scientifically investigate sound policy once more. Link back here so that I can see who is interested in pursuing this, and whether or not this is a popular idea.

It’s not enough to bitch about anti-science when it happens, the root of our problems stems from a government which no longer has a sound, non-partisan scientific body to guide debate. Let’s ask congress to re-insert their brain, and refund the OTA.

Links so far:
PZ at Pharyngula
John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts
Major Geek’s LiveJournal
Ordinary Girl at Tales of an Ordinary Girl
John Pieret at Thoughts in a Haystack
Dave Bruggeman at Prometheus writing a month ago
Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub
Alex at the Yorkshire Ranter
Measured Against Reality
La Pobre Habradora at Second Innocence
Dan at Migrations
Mike Dunford at Questionable Authority – with links to presidential campaigns!
Jeremy Elton Jacquot at TreeHugger
Epicanis at the Big Room
Blue Sky Mining
Brian Thomas at Carbon-Based
Bora at Blog Around the Clock
suddenly south at the Cucking Stool
Geoff Davis at Engineering and Science Blog
Amanda at Enviroblog
Kate at Anterior Commissure
Chris Mooney at the Intersection
Paul Hutchinson at Paul Hutchinson’s Blog
Kent at Uncommon Ground
DOF at Decrepit Old Fool