U.S. Science Remains Far From Its Rightful Place

Laura Sanders | Science News | March 14, 2009

In a column (interview) about the state of U. S. science, Rush Holt (D-NJ) says he is troubled that many people have a bad attitude about science.  He said, “This attitude is seen with the latest stimulus package, where people go on the House floor — members of Congress — and ridicule the idea of funding science. They did!”

To explain why he thinks that science is important, Holt said,

It is from science that we get the innovation that provides productivity and growth for the future economy, so it is critically important for our economic well-being. It also adds to our quality of life in material ways. But I think most scientists still feel that there is a higher calling to what they do, that understanding how things work is an end in itself, and it’s a glorious end in itself.

Where legislators get their science information, according to Rep. Holt:

Well, in many cases, they don’t. They get it from whoever was the last person to visit their office, who may or may not know anything about science….

We should return to vibrancy the Office of Technology Assessment, which was abolished 14 years ago now. OTA was a terrific resource for anticipating the [scientific] questions that were coming up. It worked very well, and we can restore it just as it was, to very good effect.

About plans to reinstate OTA, Holt said, “I try again every year. I’m trying again this year.”