Nonpartisan science advice in the US Congress? A newly opened online archive shows that it was possible — and stimulates a call to re-open the Office of Technology Assessment as an advisor to Congress.
The OTA’s archive of 700+ scientific reports on topics ranging from addiction to terrorism to “personal rapid transit” spans the lifetime of the Office of Technology Assessment, which advised the US Congress on science and technology questions from 1972 to 1995. The archive has been put online by the Federation of American Scientists, and makes for fascinating browsing.
It’s often difficult to separate science from politics. The 2006 book The Jasons: The Secret History of Science’s Postwar Elite, by Ann Finkbeiner, discusses the legendary summer institute where some of the most distinguished scientists in postwar America, including Freeman Dyson (watch his TEDTalk) and Murray Gell-Mann (watch his TEDTalk), kicked around the biggest questions. It’s a fascinating look at the complicated Sputnik-era collision between science and government.