Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments"

Read the full National Academy of Sciences report online.

"With regard to appointing scientists and engineers to federal advisory committees, charges have surfaced recently that the process of making these appointments has become politicized and results in a skewing of the impartial perspective critical to independent advice. It is essential that the government’s capacity to consider and incorporate S&T information as part of the basis for public-policy decisions not be compromised by unnecessary obstacles."

This is the report of a very distinguished group, including former Science Advisors to U.S. Presidents, produced by the National Academies of Science in 2005. Key recommendations are:

-When a federal advisory committee requires scientific or technical proficiency, persons nominated to provide that expertise should be selected on the basis of their scientific and technical knowledge and credentials and their professional and personal integrity. It is inappropriate to ask them to provide nonrelevant information, such as voting record, political-party affiliation, or position on particular policies.

- Presidential administrations should make the process for nominating and appointing people to advisory committees more explicit and visible and should examine current
federal advisory committee appointment categories to see whether they are sufficient to meet the nation’s needs.

- To build confidence in the advisory committee system and increase the willingness of scientists and engineers to serve, department and agency heads should establish an appointment process supported by explicit policies and procedures and hold staff accountable for its implementation.

The U.S. National Committee for UNESCO is a "federal advisory committee" and the recommendations of this report would appear to be directly applicable to it. However, the spirit of the report might also be extended to science and technology appointments made to UNESCO advisory committies. Certainly, one would expect the U.S. government to use this advice itself, and encourage UNESCO to use it in the relevant appointment processes.

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