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Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments APPENDIX G A DECISION-MAKER’S GUIDE TO SCIENCE ADVISING REPRINT
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Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments A Decision-Maker's Guide to Science Advising David Z. Beckler In all countries, there are significant rewards to the government policy-making processes in reaching outside government for the best available scientific and technical advice. The increasing complexity of science and technology-related policy issues is such that, in many situations, there is no sound alternative to seeking outside advice. Scientists and engineers outside government, if mobilized and properly utilized, can bring a range of competence and experience to governmental decision-making that constitutes an enormous source of strength. This essay is concerned with the interaction between part-time science and technology advisers and government decision-makers. It suggests a set of principles to guide this interaction that reflects the experience of the United States with the science and technology advisory process from the vantage points of both the decision-maker and the science and technology adviser. This experience may be applicable to other governments, although its relevance may vary in different political, organizational and decision-making contexts. THE DECISION-MAKING ENVIRONMENT Outside science and technology advisers should be aware of the decision-making environment in which they are advising, insofar as it affects the nature and receptiveness of science and technology advice. In this context, it is instructive to view the performance of the President’s Science Advisory Committee prior to President Nixon's decision to terminate the White House science and technology advisory mechanism in 1972. Although the decision reflected strains between the White House staff and the academic community engendered by the Viet Nam conflict, there were underlying factors that affected the committee’s effectiveness during its entire lifetime, with periods of strengths and weaknesses. (See Beckler, D., “The Precarious Life of Science in the White House,” Daedalus, Summer 1974.) They included: David Z. Beckler, “A Decision Maker’s Guide to Science Advising.” in William T. Golden, ed., Worldwide Science and Technology Advice to the Highest Levels of Government (NY: Pergamon, 1991), 28–41.
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Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments The President’s perception of science and technology as an instrument of national policy contributing to the solution of critical national problems; The effectiveness of channels of communication between the President and the science and technology mechanism, which tend to close unless positive pressure is exerted to keep them open: The potential threat posed by the science and technology mechanisms to other sources of advice and decision-making in the Executive Office of the President, such as the National Security Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and the heads of departments and agencies; The credibility and confidentiality of the science and technology mechanism in terms of its members and institutional loyalties, as perceived by the President and his staff; The relationships of the Presidential science adviser and his professional staff to key personnel in other White House units and in the federal departments and agencies; The level of the White House “generalists’” distrust for specialists on the President’s staff, and fears of being pressured from within by narrow expertise and advocacy; and Budgeting as it is affected by political demands for short-term decisions that tend to drive out long-term thinking and planning, and by the extent of budgetary authority over program and policy decisions. Situated between officialdom and outside interests, the performance of science and technology advisory groups is especially sensitive to the tides of political change, as was seen in the politicization of the Science Advisory Committee to the Environmental Protection Agency in the early 1980s. There are hazards to the inside science and technology adviser, as well, when linked to an outside advisory group that has fallen out of political favor. Despite the steady growth of outside science and technology advisers, there have been no general ground rules for their utilization by the government. Although the ways in which science and technology advisers are selected and used affect their performance, there has been no systematic effort to distill from past experience the conditions influencing success or failure. Rules can be invigorating as well as stultifying. It is the object of this essay to chart a path for strengthening the science and technology advisory process, recognizing that—without cautionary road signs—public pressures and political controls might deny the decision-maker a valuable resource. There is already a perceptible trend in this direction in the United States. To stem or reverse this trend, the science and technology adviser and the policy-maker alike must understand each others’ perceptions and preoccupations. The following principles for science and technology advising have been drafted with the foregoing cautions in mind. The principles are expressed in simplistic
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Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments terms. They are indicative, rather than definitive, since it is not possible within the confines of this essay to make them sufficiently comprehensive and nuanced. It is hoped that they provide a systematic way of viewing the science and technology advisory process from a management standpoint, particularly in identifying questions the decision-maker should have in mind in calling on outside science and technology advisers. PRINCIPLE 1. RECOGNIZE WHEN OUTSIDE S&T ADVICE IS NEEDED Government decision-makers should recognize the circumstances when they should consider calling on outside science and technology advisers. Advice can range from narrow technical questions to broad policy issues, for example, in the following circumstances: Where the problems raise science and technology questions that exceed the range and depth of expertise of the in-house staff (math and science education); Where the importance of the issue suggests the desirability of an independent assessment (failure of the space shuttle); Where the problem to be addressed cuts across lines of jurisdiction within or among departments and agencies (priorities of R&D); Where it is desired to have an authoritative, longer-range view and early warning of future science and technology developments (climate change); Where independent science and technology analyses can strengthen public confidence (nuclear reactor safety); and Where the character of the issue calls for science and technology competence that can be provided only by those working at the cutting edge of their fields (superconductivity). With the growth of in-house staff capabilities, decision-makers may mistakenly feel self-sufficient in their abilities to handle science and technology questions. Even in the cases in which the need for outside advice is clear, time constraints, political sensitivities, and concerns over confidentiality and loss of control over the final decision may press the decision-maker to avoid the use of outside science and technology advisers. Countervailing pressures may be imposed by staff members who do not want their views challenged by outside advisers. Guideline: Decision-makers should recognize the circumstances where they should call on outside science and technology advisers and devise procedures for their proper selection and use as an integral part of their managerial function.
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Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments PRINCIPLE 2. THERE IS A SPECTRUM OF VIEWS ON MOST S&T QUESTIONS For most science and technology questions, there is a range of expert views, with their distribution represented by a bell curve. When the curve is steep, it is easy to distinguish between mainstream and outlier views (cold fusion). When the curve is relatively flat, the difficulty in resolving differences in science and technology views is correspondingly greater (advising on the effects of potential carcinogens based on animal tests). While the decision-maker reaches for certainty, he will often face scientific uncertainty, and will need to take into consideration the distribution of scientific views and the risk factors involved. Rejecting the views of the outlier at the extremes of the bell curve is not without concern, as they may subsequently prove to be correct (should cold fusion be found to have scientific validity). Depending on the nature and im- portance of the scientific question, the outlier paradox can be partially addressed by designing the advisory process to give fair hearing to the outlier. Conversely, the views of the outlier should be put to the test of theory and data. Guideline: The decision-maker should recognize the inherent nature of science and technology uncertainty and design science and technology advisory and decision-making processes to assure that differences in S&T views are given appropriate weight in decision-making and in the composition and procedures of S&T advisory groups. PRINCIPLE 3. QUALITY CONTROL IS NEEDED IN THE S&T ADVISORY PROCESS The quality of science and technology advice depends upon the competence of the S&T advisers and the completeness and reliability of the data, information and analysis used. This requires careful attention to the selection of advisers and the provision of qualified professional staff support. Even with the best effort, there may be information, data and viewpoints that are not adequately reflected in advisory reports. On important questions, it may be desirable to have such reports critically reviewed by external reviewers who did not participate in the original study, a procedure regularly employed by the National Research Council. This precaution also recognizes that outstanding experts, not available as original advisers, may be willing to review the final draft report. Guideline: Procedures for quality assurance should be built into the S&T advisory process: in the selection of advisers, the provision of high-quality S&T information, data and analysis and, where appropriate, the use of external reviewers of the final draft report.
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Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments PRINCIPLE 4. PURELY OBJECTIVE S&T ADVICE IS NOT ACHIEVABLE Non-S&T values are inevitably embedded (consciously or unconsciously) in judgments of “fact,” particularly where there is S&T uncertainty. The resolution of that uncertainty may be biased by individual perceptions and values concerning the underlying issue in question (e.g., environment, health, national security, arms control). Within science, the outlook of an expert in one field can affect an assessment of other fields. Although it may not be possible to separate value judgments from findings of scientific fact, distortions in decision-making can be reduced by differentiating the various categories of science and technology advice and by using panels of advisers. On narrow questions of S&T fact-finding, panel membership that is balanced from an S&T standpoint should suffice. For public policy issues and regulatory decision-making, scientific backgrounds need to be balanced with other expertise and institutional backgrounds (academia, industry, government, public interest, political inclinations, etc.). The use of open meetings and public hearings can further promote balanced findings on broad issues. The definition of the questions to be examined should minimize value-laden formulations. Should the decision-maker phrase the question put to the advisers in order to achieve a particular outcome or convene an advisory group with biased orientation, the results may be perceived in this light and discounted along with the decision-maker and the advisers. Decision-makers should refrain from asking S&T advisers to address the ultimate answer to a question that transcends S&T considerations (e.g., the probability of detecting underground nuclear tests versus the degree of probability required to protect national security). Guideline: In the selection and use of science and technology advisers, care should be taken to separate S&T fact from value judgment in formulating the question to be addressed. The composition of membership should be matched to the nature of the issue and the breadth of judgment required. In addressing policy issues, S&T advisory panels should be carefully balanced in S&T fields, sectoral involvement, and political inclinations. PRINCIPLE 5. THE S&T ADVISER SHOULD RECOGNIZE THE LIMITS OF S&T ADVICE IN DECISION-MAKING Science and technology advisers should not presume that the decision-maker will faithfully follow their conclusions and recommendations. Although the ultimate decision should be based on the latest available S&T information and expertise, it will often depend on other factors (whether an SST should be built
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Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments if it is shown to be economically and environmentally unsound, or whether SDI should be pursued in the face of critical assessments of S&T feasibility). Despite what they may perceive to be lack of S&T rationality, S&T advisers must accept that other considerations (political, economic, international, etc.) may impose limits on the acceptance of their advice. On the other hand, it has been argued that S&T advisers can legitimately go beyond the confines of S&T considerations. For example, some believe that members of the General Advisory Committee to the Atomic Energy Commission had the right—if not the duty—to recommend against the development of the hydrogen bomb, since they were in the best position to understand its destructive power. This is a dangerous proposition. Although science and technology are essential considerations, they are not necessarily controlling. Science and technology advisers are no more expert than others in dealing with nonscientific aspects and values. At times, such as in environmental issues, the general public may place too much credence in scientific authority when weighing their public policy positions. On the other hand, as indicated above, scientists and engineers should be included in broader groups of advisers when advising on policy questions because of their special S&T insight. By the same token, S&T advisers should be informed of non-S&T considerations that might influence their judgment concerning relevant S&T facts and assumptions. Guideline: Science and technology advisers should be aware of the limits of S&T advice in government decision-making. They should not be called upon to make recommendations calling for judgments that transcend S&T considerations, and should be joined with advisers competent in other areas of public policy when addressing S&T-related public policy issues. PRINCIPLE 6. S&T ADVICE MUST BE COUPLED TO THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS The coupling between science and technology advisers and decision-makers is critical to their performance. It was a central consideration in the decision by President Bush to establish a Presidentially appointed science and technology advisory committee, the President’s Council of Science and Technology Advisers. This positive step by the President signifies his personal desire for outside S&T advice. For an S&T advisory committee to be effective, there must be an indication by the decision-maker that its advice is needed and that a close and continuing relationship will be maintained, including face-to-face meetings. The validity of this principle was demonstrated by the changing fortunes of the President’s Science Advisory Committee between the time of its establishment in 1957 (after its creation in a different organizational setting by President
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Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments Truman in 1951) and its termination in 1972. The peaks of its performance were reached during the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administrations, when the first three Presidential Science Advisers enjoyed strongest access to the President. There was a decline in effectiveness during the Johnson and Nixon years when the Presidential linkage of the Science Advisers and the Science Advisory Committee was weak. Some observers have argued that the President’s Science Advisory Committee was weakened because it offered unwanted advice, that the decision-maker does not welcome unsolicited advice where, for example, the problem to be addressed is beyond the political horizon or may not be in line with political objectives or realities. This difficulty is illustrated by Congressional testimony of former members of the President’s Science Advisory Committee contrary to the President’s position on the development of an anti-ballistic missile system, and by the advisory report in opposition to the President’s stand on the development of the SST. S&T advisory committees that have well-defined mandates seem more effective than committees with diffuse mandates. The mandates should permit flexibility in reformulating the question asked and in examining issues on the committee’s initiative, rather than being confined to passive responses to requests for advice, provided it is with the concurrence of the decision-maker. Such flexibility can be valuable in performing an early warning or alerting function, as well as in suggesting alternative approaches to problem-solving. Some tension between S&T advisers and decision-makers should be expected and accepted as the price to be paid for obtaining objective and sound advice. Despite possible drawbacks, the decision-maker is better served by a science and technology advisory committee that has the possibility of taking initiatives, particularly in addressing long-range problems (such as the first comprehensive report on environmental pollution prepared on the initiative of the President’s Science Advisory Committee in the mid-1960s). The coupling between S&T advisers and the decision-maker can be facilitated by selecting advisers who understand the operations and methods of government, as well as the particular agency served. Depending on the circumstances and nature of the advisory committee, the coupling would be strengthened by having a chairman who is also the full-time S&T adviser to the decision-maker, as in the case of the new President’s Council of Science and Technology Advisers. The role of the in-house professional support staff is critical in providing a transducer between the advisers and the decision-maker, in helping to formulate the S&T issues in a decision-making context, and in communicating and following up on the S&T advice received. Guideline: The decision-maker should have a close and continuing interaction with the science and technology advisers. This relationship should be defined in specific mandates given to advisory committees. Although the advisers should be tasked by the decision-maker for particular advice, advisory bodies should have sufficient flexibility to pro-
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Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments pose a reformulation of the question and to initiate studies of emerging problems, with the consent of the decision-maker. S&T support staff of high professional quality and policy sensitivity is all-important. PRINCIPLE 7. THERE IS NEED FOR A RELATIONSHIP OF TRUST AND CONFIDENCE BETWEEN THE S&T ADVISER AND THE DECISION-MAKER There is a privileged relationship between the S&T adviser and the decision-maker. The S&T adviser must respect the confidentiality and trust that should characterize his or her relationship with the decision-maker. In accepting the invitation to serve, the adviser must also accept certain legitimate limitations, such as respecting the confidentiality of the information provided and not disclosing the substance of the advice rendered without the approval of the requestor as long as the adviser is serving in an advisory capacity. The adviser has the option of severing the advisory connection, and thereafter, taking a public position on the matter involved. The adviser cannot in good faith simultaneously serve the decision-maker and “go public” without prior consent. There are ways in which the American public interest is partially protected from star-chamber advice. The Freedom of Information Act affords public access to unclassified documentation used in or resulting from advisory committee deliberations. The Federal Advisory Committee Act requires that meetings of advisory committees be publicly advertised in advance in the Federal Register, with open sessions except for discussions involving national security considerations. Although a gray area, there is some precedent for having informal exchanges in addition to formal public sessions in order to encourage the full and frank exchange of views. A valuable function of the advisers is to serve as a sounding board for the decision-maker. Unless the privileged relationship between the decision-maker and the science and technology adviser is observed, the use of outside advisers may atrophy. Decision-makers will hesitate to ask for outside S&T advice if they fear that they may confront adversary positions by their advisers on the basis of information provided in confidence. There are dangers in establishing confidence and trust by appointments to advisory committees based on political inclinations, personal relationships, or patronage pressures. Such appointments may spell smooth relationships between the advisers and decision-makers, but the advice may suffer for lack of credibility and S&T reliability to the detriment of both sides. On the other hand, a personal relationship between the decision-maker and a qualified adviser can be invaluable in assuring access and building mutual confidence. Guideline: Establishing a relationship of confidence and trust between the science and technology adviser and the decision-maker requires per-
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Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments sonal interaction and understanding of their mutual obligations. The S&T adviser has the obligation to respect the confidentiality of the privileged relationship and to avoid taking a public position on the issue while serving as adviser. Resignation is an option if these conditions cannot be met in good conscience. The decision-maker should make clear at the outset the conditions attaching to the advisory relationship and, on this basis, assure the full disclosure of information on the issues involved. A relationship of confidence and trust built on political inclinations, personal friendship, or political patronage is unlikely to yield results having public confidence and S&T credibility. PRINCIPLE 8. PUBLIC GOOD AND THE INTEGRITY OF THE S&T ADVISORY PROCESS REQUIRE THAT THE S&T ADVISER NOT BE IN A POSITION OF CONFLICT BETWEEN THE ADVISORY FUNCTION AND PERSONAL INTERESTS Although the problem of conflicts-of-interest involving part-time science and technology advisers may be handled differently in other countries, the principles underlying the policies of the US Government may be applicable. The first major effort to legislate ethical conduct of US Government employees came with the adoption of the Bribery, Graft and Conflicts of Interest Act in 1962. The covered employees are prohibited from “participating personally and substantially” on behalf of the government in any “particular matter” in which the employee has a “financial interest.” The Act sought to distinguish between a full-time federal employee and a consultant who serves intermittently or for a short period of time (with or without compensation for a period not to exceed 130 days a year). In making this distinction, the Congress was mindful of the contributions of temporary advisers and sought to assure that the government could continue to make use of outside advisers. Although science and technology advisers were not exempted from the criminal provisions, they were accorded the opportunity to have the provisions waived by the agency head under certain conditions where the personal interest was not so substantial as to be deemed likely to affect the integrity of the services rendered. For example, in order to enlist the most qualified advisers, it is likely that the adviser would be professionally active in the S&T field or industrial sector that is broadly the subject of the requested advice. A general waiver might be given in these circumstances. The waiver instrument would not exempt the individual from the obligation of recusal (refusal to participate) in those instances where a specific conflict might arise. Prospective advisory committee members are subject to some level of financial disclosure. The Administrative Conference of the US has identified three
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Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments levels of financial information that the adviser should be required to furnished (and update): 1) the identity of the individual’s principal employment; 2) a list of positions held and contractual relationships relevant to the purposes of the advisory committee; and 3) the identity, but not the face value, of any other sources of income or any interests exceeding $1,000 in value relevant to the purposes of the advisory committee (ordinarily held confidential). Guideline: Both the science and technology adviser and the decision-maker must be alert to possible conflicts between the public and private interests involved in rendering S&T advice. Written guidelines should be provided to the potential S&T adviser in advance, including the waiver policy and rules for financial disclosure (with a briefing at the first meeting of the advisory committee). While the responsibility for avoiding conflicts-of-interest lies with the S&T adviser, the decision-maker should instruct the secretariat to be alert to and call to the attention of the S&T adviser any particular matter calling for recusal. PRINCIPLE 9. THE COMPOSITION OF S&T ADVISERS NEEDS TO BE CONTINUALLY CHANGED There should be provision for rotation of S&T advisers serving in individual capacities or as members of advisory groups. Such organizational self-renewal is a difficult process for decision-makers, since it disturbs the status quo. Yet a central rationale for calling on outside advisers would be undermined in the absence of a procedure for rotating and replacing advisers and terminating advisory committees that have outlived their usefulness. Long-serving advisers on a standing group may become wedded to a singular view, rejecting arguments that do not conform to the established position. They may become “professional” S&T advisers and captives of the decision-maker. They may not be abreast of recent advances in their fields. The character of the issue may no longer match their expertise and experience. Counterproductive interpersonal relationships may develop. Furthermore, maintaining a distribution of age among members of an advisory committee is essential to promote vitality and encourage innovative thinking and courageous positions. The Federal Advisory Committee Act, mentioned earlier, attempts to deal with the problem of outmoded advisory committees by requiring automatic termination of a committee after a given time unless there is written justification for its continuation. Although this requirement is often observed in a perfunctory way, its message needs to be taken seriously. Guideline: The decision-maker should provide for the renewal and rotation of science and technology advisers by the use of term appointments, continuity balancing of expertise and age, and the termination of advisory groups no longer needed or justifiable.
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Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments PRINCIPLE 10. BROAD S&T ADVICE NEEDS TO BE SUPPORTED BY RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS The decision-maker needs the advice of science and technology advisers selected for their expertise, maturity of judgment, and breadth of view and experience, including understanding of government. As S&T complexity increases, however, the collective advice of individual advisers may not be sufficient per se. It will be increasingly necessary to underpin S&T advisory committees by supporting in-depth analysis. This need is particularly highlighted by issues characterized by interactions within S&T and between S&T and economics and other areas, which have become increasingly dominant aspects of policy advice. There has been a trend in the direction of increased use of policy research and analysis. This is reflected in the growth of federal contracts with nongovernmental, analytical “think tanks” and government-supported “software” finns to assist policy and program development. The Department of Defense pioneered in the establishment of organizations to provide systems research and analysis for decision-making, such as the Rand and MITRE Corporations and the Institute for Defense Analysis. On a much smaller scale, there could be similar value in providing analytical support to S&T advisory bodies. The Office of Technology Assessment of the US Congress couples policy analysis by professional staff and consultants with specially constituted S&T advisory panels that weigh the soundness of the in-house analyses and proposed policy options. The principal outside science and technology advisory mechanism, chartered by the Congress to give S&T advice to the government, is the National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering and the Institute of Medicine (amounting to some $100 million annually). The NRC relies primarily on unpaid members of the S&T communities who serve on advisory committees as a public service. The quality of the experts involved is exceptionally high and uniform. Membership on NRC committees is a mark of prestige and standing in one’s peer group. Although the analytical work of the committees is characteristically done by the members themselves, there is increasing use of analytical staff support. Within the government, policy analysis capabilities are inversely proportional to the level of decision-making. Most of the analytical effort supports middle and lower levels of organization. The number of outside advisers tends to decrease at higher levels of management and policy development, where there are fewer decision-makers and analytical capabilities. Thus, S&T advice to the departments and agencies of government tends to be sub-optimized in relation to particular missions. This underscores the importance of strengthening S&T policy analysis capabilities at higher and broader policy levels,
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Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments including the use of “horizontal” S&T advisory structures to review and coordinate the views and fragmented advice of specialized advisory panels and sub-panels. At the pinnacle of government, as well as at the level of heads of departments and agencies, there is need for advice that does not conform to jurisdictional lines, and a capability to interrelate S&T considerations with other areas of policy advice: economic, regulatory, legal, international, national security, and political. At this level, integrative experiences and skills become increasingly important and should be complemented by a capability for integrated analyses. The methodologies and data for such analyses are not well developed. The S&T policy-makers, in particular, need to be in the vanguard of those seeking to improve the integration of S&T policy with other considerations. It is unlikely that such leadership will come from the other policy areas. Guideline: In utilizing science and technology advisory mechanisms, decision-makers should assure that there are sufficient resources for supporting policy research and analysis to underpin the S&T advisory process, particularly at higher levels of government, and that there is a strong coupling between the S&T advisers and the analytical support mechanisms. PRINCIPLE 11. THE DECISION-MAKERS’ DOORS TO S&T ADVICE SHOULD BE OPEN TO ALL SOURCES OF ADVICE The principal sources of science and technology advice available to government decision-makers are in-house advisers, outside advisers, consultants and contractors, and not-for-profit S&T organizations. The latter sources are seldom utilized by the decision-maker, yet they constitute a very large potential for S&T advice. They comprise the professional societies, academic and other not-for-profit organizations, and public interest groups in areas ranging from S&T, environment, economics, law, arms control, and national security. Some of these organizations now offer S&T-related advice. Others could be encouraged to do so. Yet it is rare that an unsolicited report from such an organization is placed on the agenda of a decision-maker. They are often regarded with suspicion (as biased and nonauthoritative), lacking inside information and a deci-sion-making perspective. The gulf between inside needs and the outside-of-government potential for S&T advice is difficult, yet important to bridge. Decision-makers should cast their nets wide for S&T advice. This could be facilitated by having staff responsible for liaison with independent sources of advice, for alerting them to the needs of the decision-makers, and for identifying useful outside reports. Guideline: Decision-makers should be aware of the potential of not-for-profit, nongovernmental organizations for providing solicited and unso-
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Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments licited science and technology advice. Staff members should be encouraged to establish linkages with such organizations and to invite their views on S&T-related issues. Significant outside-of-government reports should be placed on the decision-maker’s agenda for consideration and possible action. PRINCIPLE 12. S&T ADVICE MUST ULTIMATELY BE TESTED BY AN INFORMED AND S&T-LITERATE PUBLIC Outside science and technology advice can be a powerful political as well as technical tool for policy-makers. As with all political tools, the S&T advisory process can be misused intentionally or unintentionally to the detriment of the public interest. The warning of President Eisenhower is still very much in the wind: beware of the “military-industrial complex.” At that time, these words were misinterpreted to imply a warning against the dangers of government domination by scientific and technological elitism—by S&T advisers with special interests, knowledge, and access to the decision-making process. There was perceived lack of public accountability due to the special advantages adhering to those versed in S&T complexities beyond general public understand- ing. This danger has not materialized. It remains a latent possibility, however, that can be magnified by the public to the detriment of scientific and technological advance, whether it be in the form of anti-nuclear, anti-biotechnology or, more generally, anti-technology attitudes. Thus there must be room in the S&T advisory process for public participation and challenge, without allowing unreasoned opposition to stifle scientific progress and technological innovation. The S&T advisory process must be—and must be seen to be-credible. This requires transparency and the opportunity for public participation as a normal part of the S&T advisory process. Guideline: To the extent feasible, decision-makers should foster open meetings of science and technology advisers and should consider public hearings on significant advisory committee reports. Reports by S&T advisers should be widely disseminated. PRINCIPLE 13. DECISION-MAKERS SHOULD TREAT THE S&T ADVISORY FUNCTION AS AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE MANAGEMENT-DECISION-MAKING PROCESS The importance of science and technology advice to decision-making requires that the S&T advisory process be purposefully and carefully managed, taking into consideration the special attributes of S&T advisers and the advisory process.
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Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments Proper follow-up of advisory committee reports is often neglected in the absence of an institutionalized follow-up process. A model procedure is the operation of the Defense Science Board in the Office of the Secretary of De- fense, where the secretary has directed that there be written response to its conclusions and recommendations. Feedback to the advisory committee can be salutary in terms of its future performance. Significant reports may deserve monitoring and periodic revisiting, even after the advisory group has been terminated, so the decision-maker can know of the actions taken, the reasons for inaction, and whether there are questions requiring further examination. Guideline: Heads of government departments and agencies should establish formal policies and procedures for the use of science and technology advisory committees and advisers, taking into consideration the foregoing principles and guidelines. This should include procedures for follow-up of committee repoas. The formulation and application of such guidelines requires coordination and monitoring at the highest level of government. The policies and procedures could be incorporated into a reference manual for decision-makers.
Representative terms from entire chapter: