Given the enormous increase in government funding and control of science and technology in the U.S. during the last few decades, it is surprising that more attention isn't paid to the policy decisions that drive the enterprise, said Daniel Sarewitz,
Arizona State University
co-director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes (CSPO) at the AAAS meeting in Boston. What appears to be missing from the equation, he added, is a focus on outcomes.
Sarewitz has commented for more than 20 years on science policy, dating back to his time working on Capitol Hill as a staff member for former Democratic congressman George E. Brown, Jr., and has written numerous articles and books on this subject.
"Given the power of science and technology to shape and even transform our society, it is extraordinary how little attention is paid to improving our science and technology policy decisions," said Sarewitz. "There are different ways to think about enhancing the capacity of the science and technology enterprise to solve the problems people expect it to solve.
"The standard ways we have of assessing science and technology efforts are not aimed at understanding the outcomes of science in society, but are aimed at maximizing the productivity. Despite the fact that the advancement of science and the development of technology are unpredictable, we can assess whether programs are appropriately structured for delivering the societal outcomes that we expect them to accomplish. By understanding these distinctions, we can make better decisions."
His talk is titled: "Toward Bridging the Duality of Science: Seed-Push, Issue-Driven or 'Encounter'?'"