Archive for the 'OTA in the news' Category

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Congress Needs Tools of the Future to Save Past Gains

By Paul Light | Roll Call | November 20, 2008

An article about the threat to some of our country’s greatest achievements by a recent lack of investment in the infrastructure of government.    It makes three suggestions for the new Congress:  1) create a new office similar to the disbanded Office of Technology Assessment -perhaps the “Office of Long-Range Analysis,” 2) set in place updates to decisions to be “triggered” later by new information, and 3) find the courage to look into the future and tackle the issues coming at us.

Open Up

By Molly E. Morgan | Science Progress | August 5, 2008

Ms. Morgan explains a new appraisal methodology called Multicriteria Mapping and discusses how it could be used to create greater transparency in science policy decision making. She suggests that this approach could improve the policy making abilities of the Office of Science and Technology Policy or a revived OTA.

German OTA releases report on policy options for converging technologies

The U.S. Congress may have defunded OTA in 1995, but the German Parliament has an Office of Technology Assessment (TAB) that is still alive and producing reports. The summary of one of their recent studies, on “converging technologies”, has recently been translated into English. The author describes converging technologies this way:

“The last twenty years have been marked by drastic political events and by spectacular scientific and technical breakthroughs (such as in the life sciences) and innovations (such as in the case of the Internet). Just as noteworthy in hindsight, however, is the fact that these years appear as a period in which far-reaching technology visions once again attracted serious attention in parts of the scientific community, among politicians, and in the public. In the current discussions about these visions, which were sparked in fields such as nanotechnology and brain research, both cautioners and optimists predict fundamental changes in society, civilisation, and “human nature”.

The debate about “converging technologies” (CT) has to be seen in this context. It has been driven primarily by research policy actors and by experts from various disciplines, and is part of a more comprehensive political and social discourse on nanotechnology, biotechnology, information and communications technology (ICT), brain research, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and the sciences that deal with these topics. “Convergence” is an umbrella term for predictions ranging from an increase in synergetic effects to a merging of these fields, and for demands for government funding of research and development where these fields overlap.

The first CT initiative was started in the United States in 2001 in connection with activities concerning social, legal, and ethical aspects of nanotechnology. The primary participants in this initiative were the National Science Foundation and the Department of Commerce, and it received the support, for example, of some of those in military research. Some of the features of this initiative, which despite its nonofficial character is often viewed as an official government initiative, triggered some very controversial discussions. The subject was even picked up by some of the mass media, nongovernmental organisations (NGO), and private enterprises. For analytical purposes, we can distinguish between:

  • A debate that started in the United States, bundled various social conflicts concerning science and technology, and focused on “human enhancement”, i.e., the artificial improvement of an individual’s capacities, and on far-reaching visions of the future of humanity;
  • The discussions about CT research policy in a narrower sense and the related scientific and technological activities. Here too the starting point was in the United States, but the main participants driving this field are now located in Europe.”

The entire report (in German) can be found here.
Click here for a brief summary and here for an extended article about this new TAB report posted on nanowerk.com.

Weekend wrap-up of OTA Archive coverage

A few more websites have mentioned the OTA Archive-

Total WonKerr

Atomic Archive

TEDBlog

More posts about OTA and the OTA Archive

A few more blogs have discussed the OTA since our launch Wednesday…

From The Great Beyond, a blog hosted by Nature:

“Washington is full of science-policy wonks who bemoan the loss of the Office of Technology Assessment, which between 1972 and 1995 was the go-to place for smart independent advice for policymakers on science and technology topics. Fortunately, OTA junkies now have an online fix for all their needs.”

From Rhetoric and Rockets:

“Before OTA is reborn I would want to know the following:

  • How, exactly, would a revived OTA would function?
  • How big would it be?
  • Who would participate?
  • More importantly (from my semi-mistrustful point of view) who DECIDES who gets to participate?
  • What would the new OTA charter look like?
  • What steps would be taken to prevent the real or perceived irrelevance of the agency?
  • What provisions will be made to ensure that OTA remains a “lean and mean,” think tank type of organization?
  • In short, what will OTA supporters do to assure budget hawks that the agency deserves to be reborn when there is already a call to decrease the deficit, balance the budget, and eliminate a great deal of waste elsewhere in the federal government?”

Exploring Interdisciplinarity:

“The Agency, which we as staffers labeled “Congress’ Own Think Tank,” had become official in 1972, and was tasked with taking a long-term look at the implications of technology on all aspects of society. By most accounts, we did a phenomenal job.”

OTA Archive coverage around the web

Here’s a sampling of some of the coverage the OTA Archive launch received around the internet.

Science Progress / Science Cheerleader

OMB Watch

Sunlight Foundation

George Dimitriou

Bioephemera blog

Bored Science blog

Scientists and Engineers for America

Secrecy News




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