Letter from the Editor

bridges vol. 13, April 2007 / Letter from the Editor
by Caroline Adenberger

Dear Reader,

the election of the 110th Congress of the United States last November marked a switch to a Democratic majority in the Senate and the House after 12 years of Republican dominance. Before the first meeting of the new Congress in January of this year, the "lamest of lame duck sessions" - as it was designated by The Washington Post - took place, with the remainder of the 109th Congress even failing to settle most of the bills for the budget of fiscal year '07.

But with the arrival of cherry blossoms awakening the US capital to Spring, it seems that the new Congress is reviving again, too, taking care of leftovers from the previous Congress as well as working on issues like the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007 and the Clean Energy Act of 2007.

Last week, the US Senate passed a bipartisan measure that eases limits on the federal financing of embryonic stem cell research, setting up another confrontation over the issue with President George W. Bush. The legislation, which passed 63 to 34, attracted nearly unanimous support from Democrats, and also from 17 Republicans. After the Senate vote, Bush repeated his vow to veto the bill. Thus, even if the Senate is able to muster the votes to override a veto, the legislation is unlikely to become law. The House version, which passed earlier this year, fell far short of the tally needed to override Bush's veto. However, this clearly shows that the battle on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is not over yet, and is very likely to become an issue again in the next presidential elections.

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick - all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest} On the topics of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, by now (almost) everyone agrees that man-made carbon dioxide emissions - whether from transportation, industry, or private households - need to be reduced. The US administration places a strong emphasis on a revival of nuclear energy, pointing out its zero CO2 emissions - which are certainly an advantage, but shouldn't make one forget the unsolved questions like security risks or waste management. Paul Guinnessy, editor of Physics Today, in his commentary "The Global Winners of a US Nuclear Power Renaissance," takes a closer look at which companies would benefit most from the US ambitions to build new reactors.

Another hot topic is the kick-off of the race of candidates for the presidential election in 2008. The amounts of campaign funds candidates raised in the first quarter of this year - Hillary Rodham Clinton as the absolute front-runner with $26 million, followed closely by Barack Obama with $25 million - were good for headlines, as were announcements like the one Senator Clinton made in Manchester, New Hampshire, on April 13: During her first major policy speech on the campaign trail, the New York senator proposed the re-creation of a defunct agency, the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). That office was established in the 1970s to advise Congress on new technologies, but was abolished by congressional Republicans in 1995. The OTA occupied a unique role among the congressional information agencies, being a key resource for Congressional members and staff confronting technological issues in crafting public policy.

This role of scientific expertise in policy decision making is also what Roger Pielke Jr. focuses on in his new book, The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics. In his column for bridges, Pielke offers us a first glimpse of his book, in which he analyzes the interaction between the scientist and the policy maker, the different forms this relationship can take, and how various types of counseling shape and influence the final policy decision.

Another special focus in this issue of bridges is the question of how best to stimulate innovation. With reports and a comparison of American and Austrian strategy recommendations, and an analysis of different innovation systems from Wilhelm Gauster, former senior manager in the STE Strategic Management Unit at Sandia National Labs, we want to provide some insights as well as a better understanding of the meaning of that ubiquitous word "innovation," what it really stands for, and which strategies are recommended to create an "ideal innovation system."

Articles on how sustainability has shaped the actions of the US Environmental Protection Agency over the last three decades, a report on the first summit of the US Council of Graduate Schools with the European University Association on the future of doctoral education in Salzburg, Austria, and profiles of several widely-respected Austrian scientists round out our current issue.

I wish you an enjoyable reading experience!

Caroline Adenberger



"Lame-Duck Congress May Run Out the Clock." Washington Post, 3 December 2006.

"Senate frees U.S. funds for wider stem-cell use." International Herald Tribune, 12 April 2007.

"Attacking Bush, Clinton Urges Government Overhaul." New York Times, 14 April 2007.

The Office of Technology Assessment Legacy.
http://www.wws.princeton.edu/ota/ {/access}