The recently formed Emerging Technologies Interagency Policy Coordination Committee (ETIPC) held its first meeting last week, part of an effort to give special attention to technologies so new—such as nanotechnology and synthetic biology—that their policy implications are still being gauged. Created jointly by OSTP, the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the ETIPC consists of assistant secretary-level representatives from about 20 Federal agencies.
Emerging technologies promise to have significant scientific, economic, and perhaps societal impacts because of their potential to revolutionize fields as varied as materials science, electronics, medicine, communications, agriculture, and energy. Rapid scientific and technological advances in these fields are resulting in a variety of new products and processes with unique and transformational characteristics. But full realization of the economic and public benefits of these applications will require open consideration of policy questions with the full range of stakeholders, including governments, industry, non-governmental organizations, academia, and the public.
The meeting was opened by ETIPC co-chair John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of OSTP. In his opening remarks, Dr. Holdren emphasized the need for a coordinated, high-level interagency group to focus on cross-cutting policy issues relating to emerging technologies. The opening remarks of the other two co-chairs, Cass Sunstein (Administrator, OIRA) and Ambassador Isi Siddiqui (Chief U.S. Agricultural Negotiator, USTR) reiterated the commitment of the Obama Administration to scientific integrity, promoting innovation, open government, ensuring that the benefits of regulation justify the costs, and facilitating international trade. The three co-chairs expressed a shared vision favoring risk-benefit-based oversight mechanisms that can ensure safety without stifling innovation, stigmatizing emerging technologies, or creating trade barriers.
Heather Evans is a AAAS Fellow and Policy Analyst at the Office of Science and Technology Policy