The House Science Committee can help. It can call on more independent experts to help inform its work while requiring all witnesses to proactively disclose conflicts of interest they might have.
More broadly, members of Congress should be able to rely on independent scientific advice from institutions such as the National Academy of Sciences. Congress used to have its own scientific advisory body, the Office of Technology Assessment, but it was axed during late-1990s budget cuts. It should consider revitalizing this important function of providing nonpartisan science advice on an ongoing basis.
When we sideline science in public policy debates, we lose one of the most valuable tools we have for learning about and responding to world around us. Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt all appreciated the need for reasoned debates grounded in the facts. Their respect for science and reason gave us our Constitution, the first drug labels and our national park system. More than that, they helped make us a world leader in technology and innovation.
American science and American democracy work best when they work together. It’s long past time scientists and policymakers both got back to working together productively on issues that affect our lives, our well-being, and the prosperity of future generations.
Andrew A. Rosenberg directs the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and Yogin Kothari is a legislative assistant in the center. Their new analysis is available at ucsusa.org/committeeanalysis.