Improving Science Advice for Executive Branch Decision-Making

Authors: Erica Goldman and Sudhanshu Mathur


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:

  1. 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.

  2. Widening the role of Federally-Funded Research and Development Centers., especially the Science and Technology Policy Institute.

  3. Leveraging the Intergovernmental Personnel Agreement (IPA) to bring more non-federal subject matter experts into key government positions.

  4. Reducing administrative barriers to the establishment of Federal Advisory Committees under the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

  5. 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.

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About the Authors

Erica Goldman, Ph.D. is the Deputy Director at the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE). Erica has held diverse positions at the intersection of science, policy, and science communication. Previously, she served as the Director of Policy Engagement for COMPASS, and she also served in a six-month position in the White House Council on Environmental Quality in the Obama Administration. Erica received her doctorate in biology from the University of Washington and her bachelor’s degree from Yale University.

Sudhanshu Mathur is the Science Corps Fellow at the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE). Currently an undergraduate student at Northeastern University, he is pursuing bachelor's degrees in politics, philosophy and economics, and in international affairs. Sudhanshu is deeply interested in climate policy, as a path towards creating the maximum possible positive impact. In the past, Sudhanshu has interned with Climate XChange, Johnson and Johnson, The Demand Institute, and the Office of Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4)