Monthly Archive for August, 2009

Memories of Senator Kennedy

In his long career of public service, Senator Edward  Kennedy championed good governance, as demonstrated by his enduring support for the Office of Technology Assessment.

Speaking on March 2, 1972 in support of the legislation that created OTA, he said:

Technology Assessment refers to matters of the utmost importance and urgency to those of us in the Congress and to each of our citizens.  Like it or not, science and technology have become central to our civilization, to our economic strength, to the preservation of our environment, and to the quality of our lives.

What citizen does not have vital data on himself stored in some computer memory cell?  Who is not at the mercy of far-reaching power blackouts and brownouts?  How many citizens are impervious to the transportation snarls that strangle our cities?  What family will not someday be dependent on the outmoded medical technology which prevails in far too many of our hospitals?

Which one of us doesn’t daily take some chemical additives with his food?  Or hasn’t used some medication which FDA hasn’t yet certified as effective?  Who doesn’t breathe the pollution in our air?  Or regret the filth in our rivers and streams?

We live in a world increasingly shaped by man, and technology is the principal tool he uses to shape it.

He favored OTA as a way of assuring that new technological developments would be “channeled so as to achieve the maximum benefit for humanity.”  The transcript of the hearing can be found here in the archive.  (The quote above is from pages 35-36.)

Senator Kennedy was the first chairman of  OTA’s Technology Assessment Board and served on its Board throughout OTA’s entire existence, until the agency was disbanded in 1995.

Near the end of OTA, on July 20, 1995, Senator Kennedy again spoke on the floor of the Senate in defense of OTA:

In the years ahead, as we move into the 21st century, there will be even greater need to rely on OTA for impartial assessment of technology-related policies.  The world of science and its impact on public policy are becoming more complex, not less.  Technology is central to every aspect of American life, from biotechnology to law enforcement, from agriculture to education.  It would be a serious mistake to limit our ability as a legislature to evaluate and respond to the scientific and technological challenges facing Congress, the Administration, and the Nation.

Sunil Paul Releases Gigaton Throwdown Report

Joel Makower | two steps forward | July 23, 2009

This blog post highlights former OTA analyst Sunil Paul’s recent initiative, Gigaton Throwdown , which asked, “What would it take to aggressively scale up clean energy to have a major impact on job growth, energy independence, and climate change over the next ten years?”

The project involved dozens of people  and asked how a single technology could reduce carbon dioxide emissions and  greenhouse gases  by a gigaton (1 billion metric tons) by the year 2020.

“The markets for clean technology involve a coordinated effort in three principal areas: technology, policy, and capital. Each of these plays a role in scaling technologies, clean or otherwise, and each of these “levers” must be pulled in proper sequence so as to create sustained, orderly markets that can exist without subsidies.” Makower said.

The report concludes that seven of the nine technologies analyzed  have the potential today to scale up rapidly and massively by 2020.  “We sort of already get the technology pieces of it,” Paul said.   “And we know there is a lot of capital sitting on the sidelines that is ready to invest given the right kind of long-term opportunity.” What’s needed now, he says, is political leadership and action.

The complete Gigaton Throwdown report and more can be found  at the initiative’s  website.

Andrew Wyckoff appointed to head OECD Directorate

American Association for the Advancement of Science | July 22, 2009

According to a AAAS Policy Alert, Andrew Wyckoff has been appointed as director of the Science, Technology and Industry Directorate (STI) of the  Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).   The Directorate’s mission is to provide analysis of science, technology and industry to inform government decisions about  growth, employment and well-being.

Wyckoff, a former OTA staffer,  has been a key science and technology analyst for OECD in Paris for almost fifteeen years.