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Science Policy News
Scientists bring an exacting, rigorous analytical approach to their research, but don’t always bring that rigor to other pursuits. In the
case of science policy, the lack of rigor is partly due to gaps in knowledge and metrics. We’re fortunate to have Julia Lane in the ASA
community. Julia is the program director of the Science of Science and Innovation Policy program at the National Science Foundation,
a program to address the gaps in science policy. I’m delighted that Julia was willing to pen this column to inform and engage the
statistics community. What better way for statisticians to influence science policy than through the science of science policy?
~Steve Pierson, ASA Director of Science Policy
The Science of Science Policy: Opportunities
and Responsibilities for Statisticians
Julia Lane, National Science Foundation
F
ederal investments in science and technology The federal government has taken two steps to
have had an enormous effect on innovation, respond to this need. First, the National Science
economic growth, and social health and well- Foundation established an interdisciplinary pro-
being. As recognized by the America Creating gram: the Science of Science and Innovation Policy
Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence (SciSIP), which you can learn more about at www.
in Technology, Education, and Science Act (or the nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=501084.
America COMPETES Act), future investments by This program has three major goals:
the federal government will be critical in many are-
nas, such as mitigating the consequences of global
advancing evidence-based science and
climate change, exploring new energy sources,
innovation policy decisionmaking
defending against external threats, and maintaining
international competitiveness. At the same time,
building a scientific community to
the rest of the world is vastly increasing its scientific
study science and innovation policy
investments, and there is increased foreign competi-
tion for scientific ideas and talent. The United
leveraging the experience of other countries
Kingdom has established a Department for
Innovation, Universities, and Skills; Saudi Arabia
In addition, the statistical arm of NSF, Science
has invested $6 billion to establish a University of
Resource Statistics (SRS), has taken a number of
Science and Technology; and almost every devel-
steps to measure R&D and innovation better. One
oped European and Asian country is aggressively
is survey redesigns, notably the Business R&D
investing in and competing for scientific talent.
and Innovation Survey and the Academic R&D
Given the importance of science policy, it is
Survey (presently on hold during a continuing
imperative that science policy decisionmakers have
resolution). SRS also is working with the Bureau
at their disposal the most rigorous tools, methods,
of Economic Analysis (BEA) to develop R&D
and data to develop sound investment strategies.
satellite accounts and linking NSF Industrial
Unfortunately, science policy discussions are fre-
R&D data to BEA data on foreign direct invest-
quently dominated by advocates for individual sci-
ment. SRS is working to improve information
entific fields who argue for their particular interests,
about scientific human resources by developing a
but leave policymakers with little ability to objec-
data collection system to increase the quality and
tively discriminate between investment options.
quantity of information on post-doctoral students
Policy decisions may be based on past practices or
and early career scientists and engineers, as well
data trends that may not always accurately reflect
as obtaining information about field of degree on
current conditions.
the American Community Survey.
FEBRUARY 2009 AMSTAT NEWS 29
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