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In various conversations I have had since returning to the academic world from my time in Washington, I have been asked a number of questions about how the U.S. government handles matters of science and technology: Why isn’t there a more rational approach to setting research budgets? Why don’t federal agencies work more closely together? Do the president and members of Congress understand how important science and technology are to the nation? Does the president listen to his science advisor? Should the U.S. establish a cabinet-level Department of Science and Technology? One could summarize these and many other such questions with one: Why doesn’t the U.S. have a science policy? But that begs another question: would anyone pay attention to it if we did? The first question does have an answer, at least a historical one, which William Blanpied discusses in detail in this excellent book. The second question is a matter of opinion; and each of us—as readers of this detailed recounting of the experiences of science advisors to presidents over the last six decades or so—may form our own view.

The objective of this book is to trace the evolution of efforts to formulate and implement a coherent national science policy in the United States from the pre-WW-II years of the Roosevelt administration through the first months of the Obama administration and to describe how science advisors to presidents have coped in the absence of a national policy. The author also provides some earlier historical background and makes some observations on the Obama Administration’s handling of science policy so far. Some U.S. presidents, most recently Presidents G.H.W. Bush and Clinton, have issued policy papers describing their administrations’ strategies and objectives in science and technology. President Obama has issued his “Innovation Policy,” which has science and technology at its foundation. But unless such policy statements are agreed to by Congress and written into federal law, they do not have the standing of a national science policy. Other nations have adopted science policies and reviewed and modified them from time to time to meet changing circumstances. The failure of the U.S. to do so reflects, to some extent, our nation’s unique form of representational democracy and various public attitudes and political factors that influence policy-making in this country. The author tells the American science-policy story in this larger context and provides examples of debates in U.S. history between those who believe that the expert opinions of scientists, especially social scientists, should be given special weight in policy debates and those who feel that the American people know best.

There are a number of tensions in play that make it difficult to set science policy on many levels. One such tension is between what the legendary science policy scholar, Harvey Brooks, called “policy for science,” viz., federal budgets, regulations affecting research, and other federal policies that directly affect research activity; and “science for policy,” viz., the larger realm of public policy—e.g., in health, natural security, energy, environment, the economy, etc., where science and technology play an important role. Of course there is considerable overlap between these two categorizations; in part, it is ambiguities in the overlap that complicate policy-making. Tension arises when researchers in a particular field argue for increased research funding at the same time they are advocating a particular set of policies that involve factors other than science, e.g., a reduction in carbon emissions, or where the available scientific information is sparse, e.g., the regulation of nanomaterials in the environment. Even in the first category, “policy for science,” there are tensions in funding priorities between different fields; between large centers, institutes and experimental facilities vs. individual investigators and small groups; between fundamental research and “directed” research, where progress toward specific objectives is measured; between peer review and Congressional “pork barrel” projects; between unfettered investigation and constrained research, e.g., embryonic stem cell research; and many others. To be sure, some of these tensions could be lessened and, perhaps, removed by having an overarching U.S. national science policy. At the same time, their existence can help explain why the nation has, so far, been unable to establish such a policy.

Questions & Answers

How we are making nano material?
what is a peer
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
What is STMs full form?
scanning tunneling microscope
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
How can I make nanorobot?
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
how can I make nanorobot?
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
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Source:  OpenStax, A history of federal science policy from the new deal to the present. OpenStax CNX. Jun 26, 2010 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11210/1.2
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