It what appears to have nothing to do with the Harold Varmus appearance I mentioned earlier this week, and seems coincidental with this essay by Gerald Epstein, there appears to be another push to re-establish the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). The OTA was an office within Congress that provided advise on science and technology issues to its members. It was defunded (but not officially disbanded) in the mid-1990s. There are plenty of Prometheus posts connected to the OTA, but a good refresher would include this post with comments from OTA staffers, and the last big push to reinstitute some kind of technology assessment capacity for Congress. More on the last push (late 2007) can be found at Denialism.
The recent push appears to start from the remaining legislative champion of the OTA, Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey. According to Science Cheerleader (H/T The Intersection), Rep. Holt will make a request for OTA funds this week, and argue his case before appropriators in May. Since the OTA was just defunded, and not dissolved, technically the request for funds is sufficient to restart the agency. Assuming Rep. Holt is successful, we shall see. I wish this movement weren’t so focused on reconstituting the past, as I’m not sure that’s the easiest (or best) means of re-establishing science and technology advisory capacity in the Congress. At a minimum, it’s not the only way, yet the advocates seem to act as though it is. If there’s a compelling reason for this, I’d love to hear it.