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Science & technology policy primer

1280px-Congressional_Research_Service.svgScience and engineering research and innovations are intricately linked to societal needs and the nation’s economy in areas such as transportation, communication, agriculture, education, environment, health, defense, and jobs. As a result, policymakers are interested in almost every aspect of science and technology policy. The three branches of government—executive, congressional, and judiciary—depending on each branch’s responsibility, use science and technology knowledge and guidance to frame policy issues, craft legislation, and govern.

The science and engineering community, however, is not represented by one individual or organization. On matters of scientific and technical knowledge and guidance, its opinions are consensus-based with groups of scientists and engineers coming together from different perspectives to debate an issue based on the available empirical evidence. In the end, consensus is achieved if there is widespread agreement on the evidence and its implications, which is conveyed to policymakers. Policymakers then determine, based on this knowledge and other factors, whether or not to take action and what actions to take. If there are major disagreements within large portions of the community, however, consensus is not yet achieved, and taking policy actions in response to a concern can be challenging.

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Click here to read more from this older but still highly useful document—a 2009 overview of the mechanics and perspectives of US science and technology policy prepared for the Congressional Research Service by Carnegie Mellon professor Deborah Stine.

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