The pale guy on the right is your humble author. I didn’t crash this event, but I wasn’t impressed with its security, either.
Of course, the President has more influence over S&T policy than anyone else in town. Fortunately he seems to be sympathetic to reaping the benefits of our investments in R&D by manufacturing and selling some of our inventions.
President Obama has restored the role of the White House science advisor and has said some constructive things about goals. OSTP released the first S&T strategic plan in a long time only eight months after the Administration took office. As I reviewed earlier (http://www.wtec.org/headlines/?p=143 ), it gets off to a good start by setting a goal of R&D investment of 3% of GDP, and identifies some reasonable focus areas. However, it is short on incentives for the private sector to cooperate, and by speaking only of economic motivations for R&D, forfeits the most powerful motivator for the Congress and public: national security. (On November 17 the Washington Post reported on a survey that asked the public which government agency was most respected. DOD was on top with four times more votes than NIH; Commerce was not on the list.) These problems could be solved by a more detailed implementation plan.
We S&T enthusiasts have to remember that the President has far more immediate problems, and his attention span can’t exceed 24 hours a day. It’s hard to remember to floss to keep your teeth, when you are up to your waist in alligators. We can try to keep his attention by approaching him through the right channels: OSTP, PCAST, the right members of Congress, and maybe his chief of staff–apparently that’s the contact that got President Bush’s attention on the RAGS report. I’ll provide more on these contacts later.
R. D. Shelton