At one time the United States had something called the Office of Technology Assessment. Renowned futurist Newt Gingrich killed the OTA in 1995, apparently out of fear that the OTA might help bring about the future. Now, at last under a President who values empirical data and a rationalist's approach to problems, there is a chance that the OTA might be resurrected with full hit points and an Acuity buff.

Wikipedia gives a good definition of what the former OTA was all about:
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. It was a leader in practicing and encouraging delivery of public services in innovative and inexpensive ways, including distribution of government documents through electronic publishing. Its model was widely copied around the world.
Established under Nixon, the OTA helped elected officials of the US government keep abreast of research discoveries, so that at least in principal our government might better know what it's talking about when it comes to science. Because the OTA tried to keep Congress informed about things like geology, fossils, evolution, climate change, environmental toxicology, and other realms of reality that existentially threaten Republicans, Republicans killed the OTA as soon as they had the opportunity to do so.... the GOP putsch of 1994.

The OTA employed about 150 people when it was shut down, having cost the US taxpayer about $22 million annually... or in layman's terms, five AIG bonuses. Thanks to having no OTA, we have idiot Congresspeople with no training in science and no convenient source of collimated scientific findings at their fingertips... people like Rep. John Shimkus, as one notable recent example... and formerly Gingrich himself, who falls well within the pompous-scientific-idiot demographic. True nuts like Shimkus and Gingrich might not benefit from the OTA, if we still had an OTA, but a lot of moderate GOP Congresspeople who belong to their party out of belief in market forces and industrial supremacy as the keys to national success, would benefit a great deal by having a reliable and non-partisan government office dispensing organized scientific knowledge upon request.

If Congress doesn't understand science, it can't formulate useful public policies that deal with scientific issues. It's really that simple.

There's at least one online petition to resurrect the OTA. There's also a Facebook group who advocate re-funding the OTA. Please sign and join, and spread the word.

Thanks go to the Bad Astronomer for spreading the word on this.

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Tags: Office of Technology Assessment

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Comment by A Former Member on April 10, 2009 at 12:03pm
Thanks for this post. I had no idea.

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