OTA Thread II

Let’s keep this ball rolling. On Friday we started talking about the importance of the OTA

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.

We’ve gotten some nice linkage so far:

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
One Good Move
La Pobre Habladora 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 PhDs.org 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

As before we ask if you have a blog link this post, spread the word, and contact your senator or congressman about having this office re-established.

We believe that we can make this a political issue in the coming election. If candidates for office support science and reason period, they should support the idea that government and policy should be studied scientifically in a non-partisan and independent fashion. I also believe this can go a long way to undoing the influence of money in politics. While it’s probably impossible to truly expect congress to do away with lobbying or stop listening to crank think tanks, having independent and non-partisan scientific information presented routinely to congress can go a long way to balance out the ideologically-motivated nonsense that currently passes for science on Capitol hill.