Archive for the 'Blogging on OTA' Category

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Reversing the Congressional Science Lobotomy

Rush Holt | Wired Science | April 29, 2009

In an op-ed article,  Rep. Holt makes the case that it is time for Congress to restore an important science resource to its rightful place – referring, of course, to OTA.  Holt points out that since very few members of Congress are scientists, they need their own source of science advice. He said:

While members of Congress do not suffer from a lack of information, we lack time and resources to assess the validity, credibility, and usefulness of the large amount of scientific information and advice we receive as it affects actual policy decisions. The purpose of the OTA was to assist members of Congress in this task. It both provided an important long-term perspective and alerted Congress to scientific and technological components of policy that might not be obvious.

Holt mentioned that OTA wrote comprehensive reports in the 1990s on issues that the Congress and the President are preparing to address today, for example: clinical preventive services, patient cost-sharing, health care in rural America, and health technologies. OTA also reported to Congress on energy efficiency, including how to save energy on transportation.

The Push for Restarting the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment

Chris Mooney | Discover Blogs/The Intersection | March 31, 2009

A blog entry points to several articles that are calling for OTA to be restarted, and says that OTA should be brought back because “…Congress is literally flying blind. There is no body of consensus information that our legislators can use for the purposes of decision-making; but there is a heck of a lot of nonsense being fed to them constantly.”

The Future of Foresight under Obama

Eric Meade | The Extreme Future | February 2009

A blog entry says that the new administration marks a change in our society’s views of the future and a chance to renew support of programs that that engage in active foresight.  A few such programs from the 70’s were mentioned:  the Office of Technology Assessment and The Congressional Clearinghouse for the Future.  According to the blog,

In 1974, the House Select Committee on Committees stipulated that each standing committee “shall review and study on a continuing basis undertake futures research and forecasting on matters within its jurisdiction,” a rarely observed requirement that remains on the books to this day.

The entry says, “Regardless of what specific values emerge during the next four years or beyond, it is clear that the U.S. is ready for a new approach to the future that envisions and creates the type of world we would like to give to our children.”

Document of the Day: The Technology Assessment Act of 1972, December 19, 1972

Today’s document of the day summarizes the key concepts, background and rationale underlying the creation of the Office of Technology Assessment. The report, by  Walter H. Hahn and Rosemary Chalk of the Congressional Research Service,  also gives a brief  legislative history of the Act (P.L. 92-484).

Technology assessment was first discussed in the House Subcommittee on Science and Astronautics. According to the report,

The committee began serious work on the assessment concept in 1965, and on October 17, 1966, the Subcommittee on Science, Research, and Development published a report which examined the consequences and secondary impacts of technical innovations. This report was the first to use the term “technology assessment,” and the  authors cited technological unemployment, toxic pesticides, pollution, exhaustion of resources, the disposal of radioactive wastes, and invasions of personal liberty by electronic snooping and computer data banks as examples of the potentially dangerous consequences of technology. In view of these unforeseeable impacts, the subcommittee concluded that an “early warning” system for both the good and bad results of technology would be of great use to Congress.

In describing why this office should be a part of Congress the report noted,

The proposition of this Act is that the Congress is the proper national forum for deliberating and deciding upon conflicting goals, values, priorities, resource allocations and the distribution of benefits, risks, and costs, all of which are involved in technology assessment.  To carry out these responsibilities, The Congress should be one of the best informed institutions is this country.  Technology assessment alone will not achieve this desired state, but it does offer significant improvements to the current system.

This report is part of a growing colletion of historic documents found  here in the OTA Library.

How to fix global warming and gain energy security

Peter Montague | Rachel’s Democracy and Health News | December 18, 2008

A newsletter article discusses a recent Stanford study by Mark Z. Jacobson comparing ten ways to generate electricity and two ways to make ethanol fuel.  When analyzing the study, the author asks “Where is the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment when you need it?”

Health Reform from Transition Central

A Health Reformer’s Online Diary | Ken Terry | November 17, 2008

A blog post suggests that  the U.S. healthcare system can improved by organizing providers,  improving quality,  reforming reimbursements, and researching cost-effectiveness.

As to cost-effectiveness research, Health Reformer says,  “…. have Medicare look not only at the clinical effectiveness of tests and treatments, but also at their cost-effectiveness–an idea that has been banished from American political discourse since the demise of the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment in the early ‘90s.”

You can check out several excellent reports on the cost-effectiveness of health care from the OTA archive:

1994 report, Identifying Health Technologies that Work – Searching for Evidence,  is a comprehensive update about what works.   Chapter 6, a history of the federal role in health technology assessment, may be of current interest.

A 1988 report, The Quality of Medical Care: Information for Consumers,  is a great compendium on how medical care can be evaluated.  It combines a conceptual framework,  dimensions to consider, and an analysis of possible indicators of the quality of care provided by physicians and hospitals.

A 1986 report, Payment for Physician Services: Strategies for Medicare, lays out a relevant process for analyzing how we pay for heathcare (even though the policy context is dated).  It evaluates some innovative payment methods, for example, bundling services into a package that is paid for at a flat rate or paying for a greater scope of services by capitation.