Check out this Citizen Science article I wrote for Science Progress. In it, I propose that Congress open an Office of Technology Assessment to provide balanced science policy advice. Not an original idea. Lots of folks are trying to make this happen and, by and large, scientists give the idea two big thumbs up.
However, there’s a twist in my pitch and it’s crinkling some pocket protectors. I’m calling on Congress to open the Office with a mechanism for public participation. Why? So you and I can weigh in on some critical policy issues such as stem cell research, voting technology, engineered foods, alternative fuels, etc.
Who would be against that? Plenty of people. Know why? Because many scientists think we are big dummies. And, when it comes to science, we keep proving them right. See here.
But a good chunk of what shapes science policy depends on economics, personal values, and other factors outside the boundaries of pure science. And that’s one reason why we should be invited to weigh in. Another is this: it’s been demonstrated that when given the opportunity, “average” citizens, untrained in the sciences, are able to handily grasp relevant science facts as well as policy implications and use them to help shape important science policy matters.
This might be new news to some but I bet it’s not surprising to the Citizen Scientists out there who are volunteering in droves to help scientists with research. You people are incredible and earning quite a bit of respect from the science community. In fact, in this Science Progress article, I propose having you work with Congress and scientists to shape science policy. Easier pill to swallow for most and, frankly, you’ve earned the right to be there.
The rest of us ought to want a say, too. Congress and scientists are determining our future and spending our money in the process. We don’t need veto power. We don’t need to question the experts on scientific facts but we do have opinions that matter, don’t we? To be fair, we can and should do a better job of staying informed on science issues to earn our place at the table. And, we’ve got some incredible scientists who are eager to help us so we can contribute more fully to the democratic process. More on that later.
This question is for you. If Congress opens an OTA with citizen inclusion, will you answer the call to participate?