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Paul Gilman Science, Policy, and Politics: Comparing and Contrasting Issues in Energy and the Environment THE DEGREE TO W H IC H SCIENTIFIC A N D TECHNICAL INFORM ATION IS relied upon in policymaking is related to the perception of the value of that inform ation for the evaluation of options and the degree to which the other factors being evaluated, including political ones, have higher priority. Once an issue has become the focus for partisan political debate, the value of scientific and technical inform ation in that debate declines. Policymakers have valued scientific and technical inform a­ tion differently w hen considering environm ental and energy policy. In some cases, this is because their constituents perceive the effects these issues have on them differently and thus dem and different approaches from their elected leaders. In other cases, the issues have taken on a political im portance th at begins to shape the nature of the scien­ tific debate rather than the technical inform ation shaping the debate. Scientific and technical inform ation has been viewed as m ore critical for environm ental policymaking, often in a regulatory context, and has therefore been the object of m ore intense debate than in energy policymaking. Interest in public policy and its interplay with science and engi­ neering takes several forms. In the post-World War II era, as academic social research Vol 73 : No 3 : Fall 2006 1001 researchers have grown increasingly reliant on federal funds for their research, the field of “science policy” has become synonymous with the analysis of federal research and development funding (see the American Association for Advancement of Science website, http://www.aaas.org/ spp/rd/> for a good illustration of this). This was inevitable. Federally funded researchers would begin to examine the workings of government and the political process that establishes its leadership for clues as to the likely trends in future research funding. It turns out there is no predict­ able pattern to funding and the political party in power. Most observers of federal funding for scientific and technical research and develop­ m ent would be hard-pressed, after decades of observation, to find either political party holding that the executive branch of our government is consistently m ore or less generous toward science and engineering. The patterns are further blurred w hen one examines congressional actions on funding measures under different political leadership. Our country’s founding fathers appreciated the im portance of science and technology for the economy of the country and, therefore, constitutionally provided the system of copyrights and patent protec­ tions. James Madison wrote of this power “to prom ote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing, for a limited time, to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discov­ eries” that, “the utility of this pow er will scarcely be questioned” (Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, 1901). Later we see evidence of the appreciation of the im portance of science and engineering in the running of government; for example, the creation of the National Academy of Science (NAS) in 1863 by an act of Congress. That act w ent beyond creating an honorific society. It charged the academy to “investigate, examine, experim ent, and report upon any subject of science or art” w henever called upon by any depart­ m ent of the government. The purview of these activities was largely related to national defense until m ore recently (for a brief history, see National Academies, n.d.). As the num ber of governm ent scientists and federal funding for nongovernm ent scientists have grown, interest by federal policy­ 1002 social research makers in issues related to the “doing” of science has increased. These include questions of scientific misconduct, the use of peer reviews as a tool of quality assurance, and questions of conflicts of interest w ithin the research community. The use of science and technical inform ation in government deci­ sion m aking is often, in the initial analysis, about w hether there is a role for the federal governm ent in the issue and, if so, w hat should that role be. In our system of government, this initial analysis is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-768X
Print ISSN
0037-783X
Pages
pp. 1001-1010
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-30
Open Access
No
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