STGlobal2008: Second Plenary
(I'm so glad I had my computer out and tried to get notes - this was an amazing talk, but really fast and really clever so the notes don't do it justice
David J. Goldston
Former staff director for the U. S. House committee on science.
One of the goals of his talk was to talk about areas of research that need STS research.
There is a confusion between the study of things, and the things themselves
example: discussion of new Illinois physicist in congress – science deals with fact and congress deals with …. so the physicist is just what we all need to set congress straight
fundamental fallacy that policy is just about establishing fact – that the barrier to policy formulation is the establishment of fact. This is rare in public policy.
- mere fact is irrelevant to discussion in cases like stem cell research
- climate change looks more like fact issue, but it is much more like an outlier (congress asking a scientific, factual question, to which science has a consensus answer is really rare and distorting)
sts can help in the science community and help understand that it isn’t all about “fact”
also look for intersections where science can help policy
- conflicts of interest
- mechanistic aspects
looking toward science in a polarized environment – tendency to conflate science and policy is more likely – want a scientific explanation for everything (see Merton, Goldston suggests Ibsen title)
that was about science informing other policy, about science policy itself…
NAS Rising Above the Gathering Storm (2005) – case study science policy, but very similar to Vannevar Bush famous Frontier piece… 1980s debate is missing, emphasis is mostly on university and basic science
* increase in physical science research (8%, totally arbitrary), (NIH doubling of funding over 5 years was a “catastrophic success” – money good, more better, but too fast all at once probably not so much), deciding how much, how, metrics, impacts on universities… basic questions unanswered..
* more funding for younger researchers – he’s on a panel now -- how do you measure that? how do you know what the current status is?
* more “transformative” research – what does that mean? can you tell in advance? how can you identify in advance things that will shake things up? more than a matter of funding.
* energy research – ARPA-E to jump start energy research – argument by analogy – but we can’t solve these very different problems the same way…Energy may have more to do with market failures, not actual R&D failures – no research – can prime pump, but no market for new technologies so no incentives
need for research impact of science on the public (I got that wrong)
- he’d like to see a study comparing claims about potential value of the internet vs. value of tv (gosh, hasn’t this been done – a lot!)
q: supply driven innovation vs. demand driven innovation (grand challenges problem vs. …) Sacks vs. Nature editorial (HIV vaccine?)
a: it can’t be either/or, the HIV vaccine is a bad example, biomed is actually more direct from research to problem in society… Good example is carbon sequestration (do we know enough to demo, or do we need to go back to basic sciences)… need a range of approaches depending on what you’re talking about, but generally right that you need to keep eventual uses in mind – get farther head if less scattered
q: which areas of science impact on public are most promising from DC insider view
a: nano has been interesting – but funding because gov’t regulatory interest – very difficult to get these done in other areas where not a clear line to regulatory or other gov’t interest
q: separate science policy from technology policy, what is appropriate model for energy if not earpa
a: range of tools like energy standards (efficiency) can create a market
how effective are DOE labs – academics say that’s the problem – all the money to DOE labs, maybe more analysis of how the labs are producing new science (?)
q: sts too abstract, science policy all about budget, scientists/engineers all a technology problem – how can we get together to solve these things
a: maybe we can find big problems, then address all of the ways to approach this using all of the tools and approaches we have from the various areas --- instead of generating questions from within the research area.
q: is it fair to spend 50% of the budget on Defense?
a: 50% of the discretionary budget so take away… 50% of R&D. Do we spend too much on defense? It would be great if we were in a situation where we needed to spend less money on defense…. but money going to defense still does address energy and other questions.. we could be using the budget more effectively to impact other needs
q: how can we influence, once
a: depends on where you end up – it’s a relatively small community with a few pressure points – so if you are in the right place, and you have the right people in the right place, there’s a lot of drag in the system, but you can make changes
q: blah, blah, blah OTA (faculty member who, from his bio, used to work for OTA)
a: OTA is more a symbol and myth… so it might not hurt to bring it back, but the people are still around various places.. you might not like the decisions being made, but OTA probably wouldn’t have had any better access to the information than other groups providing analysis
q: impact of election on …
a: bad rap with Bush admin and science, so it will be a chance to start over again in some ways…. all three agree to address issues of climate change…. what doesn’t change is the use of science to justify policy, tone will change, but these science & policy issues won’t change. Science funding relies more heavily on what is happening in the overall budget outlook – and less on what is actually happening in science.