PCAST: Advancing Public Engagement with the Sciences and Recent Advances in the Social Sciences

Social and behavioral science has been a focus of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) these past months. On July 27, PCAST met for a presentation on Advancing Public Engagement with the Sciences. Co-leads Vicki Sato, Harvard; Saul Perlmutter, Berkeley and Phil Venables, Google spoke about the opportunity for science and technology to improve outcomes across multiple domains including health, security, and climate. Co-leads acknowledged input from Jennifer Richeson, Yale, a psychologist, as well as from Arthur Lupia, University of Michigan and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, University of Pennsylvania who have both presented at past FABBS Annual Meetings. Following a lively discussion, the Council agreed on the urgent need to more effectively communicate to policy makers and the general public complex or unfamiliar concepts. 

With this goal, PCAST sent a letter to President Biden on August 29, recommending:

  • RECOMMENDATION 1: Issue a clarion call to Federal agencies to make science and technology communication and public engagement a core component of their mission and strategy.  An essential pillar of this effort is ensuring that experts in participatory public engagement are included in agency senior-level policy development and decision-making processes.  
  • RECOMMENDATION 2: Establish a new office to support Federal agencies in their continuing efforts to develop and build participatory public engagement and effective science and technology communications.  This office should consist of individuals with a range of expertise who can partner with or be deployed to agencies, including assistance in the use of social science-informed techniques for participatory engagement9 and cutting-edge digital technologies.  The U.S. Digital Service within the Office of Management and Budget and the 18F office within the General Services Administration may be useful models for this proposed office.

PCAST will next meet on September 8 for a presentation and discussion about ‘Recent Advances in the Social Sciences’.  Speakers will include: Raj Chetty, Harvard; Josh Tucker, NYU, and Katy Milkman, University of Pennsylvania who has previously served on the FABBS Council.