Democratizing Science Advice

President Reagan's science advisers have served as advocates of the administration's science policies, rather than as objective conduits for communication between the president and the science community.

Eugene Garfield
Jul 26, 1987
Proposals to ensure that the president receives a diversity of expert science advice have proliferated in recent years. President Reagan's science advisers have served as advocates of the administration's science policies, rather than as objective conduits for communication between the president and the science community.

Few would deny that the science adviser has a challenging assignment. He must brief the president on many varied expert opinions on science and technology matters (including those that deviate from the administration's ideology or stated policy). He must also support the president's decisions once they are made. It is a difficult balancing act, particularly in the absence of a President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), such as existed from 1957 to 1972. PSAC provided informed and wide-ranging debate in the executive branch.

Can one person really be expected, however, to represent the science community's multitude of often contradictory views? Personal experience and professional contacts will...

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