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Office of Technology Assessment

OTA seal

The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) was an office of the United States Congress from 1972 to 1995. OTA's purpose was to provide Congressional members and committees with objective and authoritative analysis of the complex scientific and technical issues of the late 20th century, i.e. technology assessment. It was a leader in practicing and encouraging delivery of public services in innovative and inexpensive ways, including early involvement in the distribution of government documents through electronic publishing. Its model was widely copied around the world.

Princeton University hosts The OTA Legacy site, which holds "the complete collection of OTA publications along with additional materials that illuminate the history and impact of the agency". On July 23, 2008 the Federation of American Scientists launched a similar archive that includes interviews and additional documents about OTA.

Contents

  • History 1
    • Closure 1.1
    • Subsequent developments 1.2
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4
  • External links 5

History

Congress created the Office of Technology Assessment in 1972 through Public Law 92-484. It was governed by a twelve-member board, comprising six members of Congress from each party — half from the Senate and half from the House of Representatives. During its twenty-four-year life it produced about 750 studies on a wide range of topics, including acid rain, health care, global climate change, and polygraphs.

Closure

Criticism of the agency was fueled by Fat City, a 1980 book by Donald Lambro that was regarded favorably by the Reagan administration; it called OTA an "unnecessary agency" that duplicated government work done elsewhere. OTA was abolished (technically "de-funded") in the "Contract with America" period of Newt Gingrich's Republican ascendancy in Congress.

When the 104th Congress withdrew funding for OTA, it had a full-time staff of 143 people and an annual budget of $21.9 million. The Office of Technology Assessment closed on September 29, 1995. The move was criticized at the time, including by Republican representative Amo Houghton, who commented at the time of OTA’s defunding that "we are cutting off one of the most important arms of Congress when we cut off unbiased knowledge about science and technology".[1]

Critics of the closure saw it as an example of politics overriding science, and a variety of scientists such as biologist PZ Myers have called for the agency's reinstatement.[2]

Subsequent developments

While the OTA was closed down, the idea of technology assessment survived, in particular in Europe. The European Parliamentary Technology Assessment (EPTA) network coordinates members of technology assessment units working for various European governments. The US Government Accountability Office has meanwhile established a TA unit, taking on former duties of the OTA.

While campaigning, Hillary Clinton pledged to work to restore the OTA if elected President.[3][4] On April 29, 2009, House of Representatives member Rush Holt of New Jersey wrote an op-ed piece articulating the argument for restoring the OTA.[5]

In April 2010 The Darlene Cavalier, a popular citizen science advocate and author of the Science Cheerleader blog.[6] Cavalier outlined the idea of the citizen network in a guest blog post for Discover Magazine's The Intersection.[7] She introduced the concept in an article in Science Progress in July 2008.[8]

See also

References

  1. ^ Nader proposes reviving Congressional Office of Technology Assessment
  2. ^ PZ Myers (September 14, 2007). "Bring back the OTA".  
  3. ^ Patrick Healy; Cornelia Dean (October 5, 2007). "Clinton Says She Would Shield Science From Politics".  
  4. ^ "Scientific Integrity and Innovation: Remarks at the Carnegie Institution for Science". October 4, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-05.  Text of Clinton's speech to the Carnegie Institution.
  5. ^  
  6. ^ Richard Sclove (April 2010). "Reinventing Technology Assessment: A 21st Century Model".  
  7. ^  
  8. ^  
  • Chris Mooney, The Republican War on Science (New York: Basic Books, 2005), ch. 5.

Further reading

  • Bruce Bimber: Politics of Expertise in Congress: The Rise and Fall of the Office of Technology Assessment, State University of New York Press, 1996.
  • Peter D. Blair, "Congress’s Own Think Tank", Palgrave Macmillan, September 2013.
  • Chris Mooney, "Requiem for an Office", Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September 2005 vol. 61 no. 5 40-49.

External links

  • Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) Legacy via Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University
    • OTA publications
      • U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (1995). "Biologically based technologies for pest control" (PDF). OTA-ENV-636 (US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC). 
      • US Congress 1994. Perspectives on the Role of Science and Technology in Sustainable Development. OTA-ENV-609. NTIS order #PB95-109674. GPO stock #052-003-01396-7 Govinfo.library.unt.edu.
  • The Office of Technology Assessment Archive hosted by The Federation of American Scientists
  • CyberCemetery OTA coverage "established ... to provide permanent, Web based, public access", a partnership of University of North Texas and the United States Government Printing Office
  • Psychiatric Disabilities, Employment, and the Americans With Disabilities Act Background Paper. Behney, Clyde J. (Asst Director OTA Health, Life Sciences & Environment Division), Hall, Laura Lee, Keller, Jacqueline T. HTML converted from WordPerfect 5.1 to HTML in 1996 at Earth Ops Dot Org
  • OTA Video "Meeting the Needs of Congress"
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