New OTA site

The archived reports of the OTA are on a new site hosted by the Federation of American Scientists.

You may remember that we’re big fans of the OTA as we feel that scientific assessment of government policy and guidance of legislation is key to having an efficacious, informed congress. In our initial post on the OTA we said:

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.

One of the leading advocates of restoring the OTA, Rush Holt, has a video up explaining why he thinks the OTA is important:

I’m glad to see that within the government there are those who still think this is an important issue, and the possibility of bringing science back within the halls of government is still a very real possibility.