I don’t like to praise Republicans, but Boehlert of NY took a positive step for science by bringing together staff and pols for a discussion of what counts as science. Of course, it’s the GOP that abolished the advisory agency on science during Gingrich’s reign. From the NY Times:
Where Science and Public Policy Intersect, Researchers Offer a Short Lesson on Basics
…when scientific questions pervade legislation on issues like climate change and stem cell research, there is growing concern that Congressional misunderstanding can produce misguided policy.
To fight such misunderstanding, Mr. Boehlert and others sponsored the Jan. 23 briefing, organized by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard…
Some criticize these briefings as little more than showboating. But Mr. Boehlert, like many others, thinks they are “absolutely” useful. And the briefing was unusual in that its subject was not avian flu, the budget for NASA or any other relatively narrow issue, but rather “how science works.”
And of course, Rush Holt is all in favor.
And some on Capitol Hill, notably Representative Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat and a physicist, say Congress should address the lack of knowledge and understanding of science by establishing something similar to the Office of Technology Assessment, an agency that advised Congress until it was abolished after Republicans won control of the House in 1994. Prospects for that are uncertain.
Not everyone thought defining science was even possible, in such a short session. “It makes me extremely tired that they are going to do this again,” said Sheila Jasanoff, a professor of science and technology studies at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, who has written widely on how science policy is made. “There is no easily graspable definition”…
But the briefing’s subject apparently struck a chord. More than 100 committee staff members, Congressional aides and at least one senator, Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, crammed into a basement meeting room. With all of the seats filled, people leaned on walls, sat on the floor and spilled out into the hall.
Dr. Eric Chivian, who directs the Harvard center, said he got the idea for the briefing while following the debate over intelligent design and noticing what he called widespread misunderstanding about science.