Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Proposal: Operating Charter for the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA)

By Bart Leahy

The following is proposed reauthorization language for Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) if it is to be reinstated, funded, and made to serve the public interest. This proposal also suggests a political and operational framework for the OTA.

"Whereas the Congress recognizes that the importance of science and technology to the future of this nation;

this body will be required to vote on issues relating to the legalization, regulation, or taxation of new science and technology;

and no other body currently advises the Congress on these issues to the level necessary for informed decision making,

The Congress hereby reinstates the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) to identify:

  • Scientific or technical issues of public interest, including their extent and primary and secondary impacts--positive and negative;
  • Known and potential sources of those issues;
  • Known and potential mitigations and solutions to problems;
  • Study methodology, figures of merit, bases of estimates, relevant equations and experiments, and results;
  • Known and potential impacts--positive and negative--of proposed solutions, including:
    Technical impacts, including but not limited to maturity of the science involved, technology readiness level, and research & development needs;
    Economic impacts, including but not limited to primary and secondary research and development costs, taxation or regluatory costs, equipment costs, and profits;
    Legal, regulatory, and other governmental impacts, including including but not limited to new laws/regulations, reinstatement of defunct laws, stricter enforcement of existing laws, creating, restructuring, or closing government agencies, or striking down of existing legislation or regulations; and
    Potential societal, moral, philosophical, and cultural impacts.

Upon researching and collecting the associated information of a given issue, the OTA shall then:

  • Report results, including minority opinion(s), to Congress in plain English;
  • Offer supporting testimony before Congress, if requested;
  • Document and archive reports in the Library of Congress and publicly accessible outlets.

The OTA shall consist of an Advisory Board, which will consist of nine members of Congress, four from each party, with the Board Chair being held by the majority party. The primary Researchers will consist of individuals with extensive experience with or knowledge of the disciplines related to the topics under review. These individuals may include, but are not limited to, university professors, scientists and engineers from accredited universities and businesses related to the topic(s) under review, business owners and managers, technicians and practicioners, and private citizens who are adovcating for/against, or directly affected by, the issue under review."

Apologies for the legislatese, but I've had a little experience crafting bill language, and this is how our laws are written. Comments welcome.

1 comment:

Science Cheerleader said...

Thanks for getting this going. I'm in full support of the language but I'd like to see more emphasis on opportunities for "public debate" and participation at the ground level as policies are crafted. See the Danish Board of Technology's legislative language: Love to hear your thoughts...