The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the crucial need for science to inform policy. However, the science-policy interface has a broader history of systemic challenges spanning sectors, from climate, to energy, to water resources, to cybersecurity and beyond. The near-term policy window created by the pandemic offers an ideal time to act while the attention of policymakers and the public is focused on the key role of science in policy. There are five key areas of action to create meaningful progress in carving improved pathways for science advice:
- Sharpening the focus of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policy Act (P.L. 115-435) to define scientific knowledge as a key subset of “evidence” and develop formal structures for non-federal academic experts to participate in the development of the required agency learning agendas.
- Widening the role of Federally-Funded Research and Development Centers., especially the Science and Technology Policy Institute.
- Leveraging the Intergovernmental Personnel Agreement (IPA) to bring more non-federal subject matter experts into key government positions.
- Reducing administrative barriers to the establishment of Federal Advisory Committees under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
- Revising the Broader Impacts Requirements for National Science Foundation grantees to include more direct pathways for the outputs of scientific research to reach decision-makers.
Common frameworks for evaluating proposals leave this utility function implicit, often evaluating aspects of risk, uncertainty, and potential value independently and qualitatively.
The Biden-Harris Administration should facilitate the transition to a clean grid by aggressively supporting utility-scale renewable energy resources in rural areas that are connected to urban centers through modernized high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission.
A just transition from coal to nuclear energy production requires developers to listen and respond to local communities’ concerns and needs through the process of planning, siting, licensing, design, construction, and eventual decommissioning.
Programs across the federal government are working to increase American health by making physical activity safer and more accessible, but most Americans still fail to get enough physical exercise, which has social and economic consequences.