The Rise and Fall of the Science Advisor to the President of the United States
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The president’s science advisor was formerly established in the days following the Soviet launch of Sputnik at the height of the Cold War, creating an impression of scientists at the center of presidential power. However, since that time the role of the science advisor has been far more prosaic, with a role that might be more aptly described as a coordinator of budgets and programs, and thus more closely related to the functions of the Office of Management and Budget than the development of presidential policy. This role dramatically enhances the position of the scientific community to argue for its share of federal expenditures. At the same time, scientific and technological expertise permeates every function of government policy and politics, and the science advisor is only rarely involved in wider White House decision making. The actual role of the science advisor as compared to its heady initial days, in the context of an overall rise of governmental expertise, provides ample reason to reconsider the role of the presidential science advisor, and to set our expectations for that role accordingly.
KeywordsScience advice Presidential science advisor Science and government Science and decision making
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