The new members of the President's Council of Advisors on
Science and Technology (PCAST) have set an ambitious agenda.
At last week's first public meeting of the Bush
Administration's PCAST, members agreed to develop, by their
next public meeting in June, initial papers on some of the
most pressing S&T problems facing the United States.
OSTP Director John Marburger offered opening remarks at this five and
one-half hour meeting on March 5. He explained that President Bush had
charged the council with developing recommendations on four topics:
using S&T to combat terrorism, energy efficiency policies and technologies,
federal investment in R&D, and rapid deployment of broadband communication.
Each of these affects the nation's economy and security, Marburger explained.
Subcommittees had met that morning, he said, to develop working agendas.
The purpose of these panels, Marburger and PCAST co-chair E. Floyd Kvamme
commented, was to provide private sector input to the administration.
PCAST members have already met with President Bush. A roster of PCAST
members can be viewed at http://www.ostp.gov/PCAST/pcast.html
The meeting was devoted to presentations by two senior
administration officials and discussions about the
subcommittees' agendas. Commerce Secretary Don Evans
addressed the council, his remarks touching on terrorism,
NIST, NOAA, the role of innovation in the economy, and global
climate change. About climate change, Evans said "we really
don't know the facts, really don't have the data," and
predicted that "the world will see we will lead on this
issue." "It's a big deal," Evans told the council,
explaining that Marburger will spearhead the administration's
climate change efforts.
R. Glenn Hubbard, Chairman of the President's Council of
Economic Advisors, also addressed PCAST. He told the council
President Bush has a "real concern" that S&T does not
parallel to economic development, but be an integral part of
it. Hubbard stated that applied research is key to economic
development, and described the importance of ensuring that
good technology development policies are designed.
Gerald Wayne Clough of the Georgia Institute of Technology
chairs the subcommittee on federal S&T investment. The
subcommittee will commission studies by AAAS and the RAND
Corporation to review the federal research portfolio over the
last 25 years. Also to be examined are technology transfer
policies, and the role of states and private industry. Clough
cited the decline in federal support for physics research.
"The question of balance is a very big issue," he said.
Describing conditions at his institution, he commented it was
"not good, not healthy for the nation" when federal support
for electrical engineering research, which has declined, is
not available. The real challenge, Marburger added, was
knowing how to prioritize federal S&T investment, and not
allowing it to become only the result of individual
appropriation committees' actions.
Ralph E. Gomory of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation chairs the
terrorism subcommittee. This subcommittee will survey work
that has been done, examine the role of government to combat
terrorism, identify obsolete regulations, and look at lessons
learned by other nations that experience terrorism.
The subcommittee examining energy efficiency will be chaired
by Steven Gerald Papermaster of the Powershift Group. The
subcommittee will examine how energy conservation affects
environmental issues such as global warming, and the effective
deployment of energy efficient technologies.
Marye Anne Fox of North Carolina State University will head
the subcommittee on broadband technology. The subcommittee
will investigate the benefits and impacts of a wider
utilization of these technologies, and will examine consumer
demand issues such as pricing.
The parallels between this PCAST meeting and the first PCAST
meeting of the Clinton Administration are striking.
Discussions at both meetings involved determining the right
level of federal investment in S&T, technology and economic
growth, the threat to the nation's security by weapons of mass
destruction, and environmental quality.
The next meeting of President Bush's PCAST will be in June.