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OTA seal

The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) was an office of the United States Congress from 1972 to 1995. OTA's purpose was to provide Congressional members and committees with objective and authoritative analysis of the complex scientific and technical issues of the late 20th century. It was a leader in practicing and encouraging delivery of public services in innovative and inexpensive ways, including distribution of government documents through electronic publishing. Its model was widely copied around the world.

OTAShirt-Front.png
Both sides of a tee shirt created and worn by some staff of the OTA to express their sentiments about the intent of the 104th Congress to terminate their service while simultaneously increasing the Library of Congress' budget by an amount equal to nearly twice that of OTA's. Compare to the official seal above, and note the arm of Congress strangling the symbolic U.S.A. in the satirical version.

Congress created the Office of Technology Assessment in 1972, Public Law 92-484. It was governed by a twelve-member board, comprising six members of Congress from each party, half from the Senate and half from the House of Representatives. During its twenty-four-year life it produced about 750 studies on a wide range of topics, including acid rain, health care, global climate change, and polygraphs.

Criticism of the agency was fueled by Fat City, a 1980 book by Donald Lambro that was regarded favorably by the Reagan administration; it called OTA an "unnecessary agency" that duplicated government work done elsewhere. OTA was abolished (technically "de-funded") in the "Contract with America" period of Newt Gingrich's Republican ascendancy in Congress.

At the time that 104th Congress withdrew funding for OTA, it had a full-time staff of 143 people and an annual budget of $21.9 million. The Office of Technology Assessment closed on September 29, 1995.

Critics of the closure saw it as an example of politics overriding science and a variety of scientists such as biologist PZ Myers have called for the agency's reinstatement.[1] While campaigning, Hillary Clinton pledged to work to restore the OTA if elected President.[2][3] On April 29, 2009, House of Representatives member Rush Holt of New Jersey wrote an Op-Ed articulating the argument for restoring the OTA.[4]

Princeton University hosts The OTA Legacy site "the complete collection of OTA publications along with additional materials that illuminate the history and impact of the agency." On July 23, 2008 the Federation of American Scientists launched a similar archive that includes interviews and additional documents about OTA.

References

  • Chris Mooney, The Republican War on Science (New York: Basic Books, 2005), ch. 5.

External links

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