In 2018, the Institute hosted a workshop focused on improving Congressional access to tech policy expertise. The workshop built on the increasing calls for Congress to revive the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which from 1972-1996 provided Congress with deep expert analysis on science and technology issues.
Recent appropriations bills reported by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have called for further study of improving tech policy resources for Congress, including whether the best strategy is to refund OTA or boost services offered by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) or the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The workshop brought together former OTA staff and leadership, current congressional staffers, academics and policy experts for a two-hour discussion that weighed various policy options (a list of participants is included as the Report's Appendix A). Among other things, the group broadly agreed on the need to increase Congress’s resources for understanding technology policy. There was general agreement that those who care about improving Congress’s capabilities should work toward a set of consensus recommendations to better advise congressional efforts on this issue.
This report is intended as a step to facilitate that consensus, by highlighting common priorities and views discussed during the workshop. It is also intended to provide some early assistance to the study that is expected to follow from the above-mentioned House and Senate Appropriations Bills.
The report provides a framework for evaluating tech assessment programs, then summarizes participants' discussion of several potential sources of tech expertise: the National Academies, CRS, GAO, and a revived OTA. It discusses strategies to muster support for renewed tech assessment capabilities, and finally shares considerations for decision-makers who are evaluating the best avenues for improving tech assessment.