Baker Institute offers science and technology policy recommendations for next president

Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy announced on Sept. 14 recommendations for how science and technology policy should be dealt with in the White House for the presidential transition teams at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.


Credit: Nathan Mitchell/NPC

The recommendations, which include five main points for the next president and five points for the president’s next science adviser and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), were presented by Neal Lane, the senior fellow in science and technology policy at the Baker Institute. Lane previously served as OSTP director and science adviser to President Bill Clinton from 1998 to 2001 and was director of the National Science Foundation from 1993 to 1998.

“Science, technology and innovation are vital to America’s economy, workforce and the competitiveness of U.S. industry,” Lane said. “They assure our nation’s security, the quality of our environment and the safety, health and overall well-being of the American people. Considering the many policy challenges that relate to science and technology and the accelerating pace of scientific discovery and technological innovation across the globe, it is critically important that the president move quickly to appoint the science adviser and organize a capable OSTP that can begin to engage the many executive departments and agencies that support research and development (R&D) and rely on advances in science and technology to carry out their missions.”

Recommendations for the next president include:

  • Select early in the postelection transition period a nationally respected scientist or engineer to serve as science adviser and assistant to the president for science and technology. Once in office, the president should nominate that science adviser for the position of director of OSTP.
  • Direct the Office of Presidential Personnel to seek the advice of the science adviser in filling the many subcabinet and other senior agency positions that relate to science and technology and other presidential appointees with major science- and technology-related responsibilities in the federal government, including related senior positions in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
  • Ensure that OSTP has the leadership, access, structure and resources to enhance the integration of science and technology advice in federal policymaking within the Executive Office of the President and across the federal agencies.
    • Continue to house the OSTP director and staff in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
    • Nominate four OSTP associate directors and determine the focus and structure of OSTP. The president may wish to also appoint OSTP assistant directors as deputy or special assistant to the president so they can begin to work full time at OSTP as they await Senate confirmation.
    • Clarify the role and responsibilities of the chief technology officer.
    • Ensure the science adviser is included in all cabinet meetings attended by other assistants to the president, particularly when issues related to science and technology are likely to be discussed.
    • Direct all White House budget and policymaking entities to collaborate closely with OSTP on a broad range of policies with a science and technology component.
    • Include in the annual budget request to Congress adequate funding for OSTP to retain a sufficient number of knowledgeable and well-trained full-time staff necessary to handle the increased workload as well as ensure continuity between administrations.
  • Consult with the science adviser to quickly appoint a diverse membership of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Early in the administration, the president should establish a practice of regularly meeting with PCAST and charging the council to carry out studies and issue reports on topics that the president considers particularly important to the nation.
  • Renew the existing executive order for NSTC, or develop a presidential directive detailing its operations, and charge OSTP, in consultation with OMB, PCAST and the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) principals, cabinet secretaries and agency heads, to:
    • Draft a strategy paper outlining the administration’s science, technology and innovation goals to be released in the first 100 days.
    • Organize and oversee a multiyear planning process to monitor progress.
    • Prepare action agendas for biannual meetings of the NSTC principals, chaired by the president, to review progress.
    • Develop policy options for the president’s consideration, including interagency initiatives; convene meetings of science and technology agencies and nongovernment experts; and draft relevant executive orders and presidential directives to move the president’s science, technology and innovation agenda forward.

Credit: Nathan Mitchell/NPC

Recommendations for the president’s next science adviser and director of OSTP include:

  • Provide confidential unbiased advice to the president that is based on current scientific evidence and technological capability. In the role of assistant to the president for science and technology, that leader must garner the trust and respect not only of the president, vice president and chief of staff, but also the many other senior advisers and White House staff.
  • Draft the administration’s strategy paper for federal science, technology and innovation policy to be released in the first 100 days and oversee a science and technology planning effort to ensure that the president’s priorities and objectives are met.
  • Work with the OMB director to ensure that as the president’s annual budget is developed, proper attention is given to the president’s science and technology strategy and priorities as well as those of the individual executive departments and agencies. Also ensure the president has a sense of the priority that the budget, in any given year, places on science and technology, specifically R&D investments, perhaps by sending the president a memorandum that summarizes the collective R&D requests of all agencies.
  • Serve as the president’s public face for science and technology, nationally and globally, to ensure that the public and the Congress, as well as foreign leaders, understand the U.S. perspective on the current challenges of science and technology policy and the reasons for the choices the president makes.
  • Ensure that OSTP has the expertise and appropriate access to other federal agencies and officials in OMB and other White House offices to enable the most effective execution of the president’s science and technology priorities and other activities that are consistent with the agency’s statutory responsibilities.

“The above recommendations, based on the informed views of a large number of experts, are offered to underscore sound practices, help identify opportunities for the new administration and to make sure adequate attention is given to fast-changing science and technology and innovation knowledge to ensure its utilization in federal policy decision-making,” Lane said.

“Innovation, a hallmark of the 21st century private industry in the United States and around the world, relies on a skilled and diverse workforce as well as advances in science and technology made possible by strong public and private investments in research and development,” he said.

Lane was joined at the news conference by American Association for the Advancement of Science CEO Rush Holt; Deborah Wince-Smith, president and CEO of the Council on Competitiveness; and Norman Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin.

The report was funded by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, a New York philanthropic nonpartisan institution that awards grants to support scientific and medical research, as well as science and technology policy, education, international relations and security programs.

The report co-authors are Kirstin Matthews, Baker Institute fellow for science and technology policy, and Kenneth Evans, Baker Institute postdoctoral fellow for science and technology policy.

The full recommendations are available at

About David Ruth

David Ruth is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.