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L 23 W ith the current omnipresent need for science advice, how to ensure the soundness of such advice has become an ongoing source of difficulty in government. Yet the need for sound science advice was not always obvious. At the beginning of the twentieth century in the United States, there were no regular avenues for science advice to the government, much less regular contact between scientists and policymakers. Although the National Academy of Sciences had been founded during the Civil War to provide science advice to the government, after the Civil War the academy drifted from advising prominence to being primarily an honor society for the nation’s budding scientific community. By 1900, there were some scientists embedded within governmental agencies with particular needs, but the larger scientific community had no relationship with the government. This pervasive absence of academic scientists in the halls of power was not a source of concern for policymakers, politicians, or academic scientists. A century later, the relationship between science and government has blossomed. Even with the chronic debates over which science is most trustworthy , the need for regular science advice is unquestioned. In the United States, federal laws and federal regulations help to structure and ensure the quality of scientific advice, and many avenues and standing bodies provide such advice. Although there are debates over whether science advisors are heeded too much or too little, the need for science advice from a broad base Chapter 2 the rise of the science advisor Douglas text.indd 23 4/16/09 2:47:03 PM 24 • the rise of the science advisor of scientists is obvious. How did this dramatic shift in the perceived importance of science advice come about? In this chapter, I will chronicle the rise of the science advisor in the United States, from an occasional partner in governmental endeavors to a mainstay of the policy process.1 Several aspects of this story are of particular note. First, World War II is not the beginning of the story, as is often assumed. Crucial tentative steps and experimentation with how to develop a science-government relationship took place prior to World War II. Second, the successes from the pre–World War II era served as the basis for the rapid scaling up that takes place post-1940. This should give hope to any who wonder whether new institutional mechanisms for grappling with science advising in a democracy can take hold (mechanisms which will be explored in chapter 8). Rapid expansion can occur, even as institutions remain fluid. Third, the scientist-advisor becomes a pervasive feature by the late 1950s, the same time that philosophers of science come to ignore this important role (as we will see in chapter 3). Finally, the tensions that would drive the sound science–junk science debates discussed in the last chapter are apparent by the 1970s, even as earlier problems with science advising are resolved. The rise of the science advisor was not a simple, linear path. Prior to World War II, science advising in the United States occurred in fits and starts, producing uneven success. World War II was the watershed event that made permanent a close relationship between science and government . Once the need for a strong relationship was cemented, the question remained what shape that relationship should take. The success of advising during the war depended on close, personal ties that could not be sustained in the context of the burgeoning science and government relationship after World War II. Although the war demonstrated the pervasive importance of science to government, it did not establish how the relationship between science and government should be structured. Further experimentation and evolution in that relationship took place as the institutionalization of the relationship deepened. Key templates were drawn, however, from the first half of the twentieth century, most notably the national lab, the contract grant, and the science advisory committee. Science and the U.S. Government Prior to 1940 A relationship between science and government in the United States was not created wholesale from the crucible of World War II. The makings of that relationship had roots at least as deep as the nineteenth century, such Douglas text.indd 24 4/16/09 2:47:03 PM the rise of the science advisor • 25 that by 1900 the importance of having some scientists in government was clear. As Dupree (1957) wrote in his chronicles of science and the federal government, “In the first years of the twentieth century a...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780822973577
Related ISBN
9780822960263
MARC Record
OCLC
794702159
Pages
224
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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