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Political Economy & Technology Policy  


The Political Economy and Technology Policy Program sponsors a working paper series based on research conducted in the areas of Emergent Technologies, Uncertainty and Environmental Decision-making, Regulation and the Management of Business Risk, and North-South Financial and Technology Transfers. The inaugural paper, "Believable Knowledge Assessment for Policymaking: How Six Prominent Organizations Go About It," is written by Larry McCray, former Director of the Policy Division of NAS/NRC and Associate Director of the Regulatory Council of the Executive Office of the President. It seeks to derive lessons on the successful fusion of policy and knowledge in the cumulative experience of six special organizations that have specialized in providing credible knowledge assessments to decision-makers.

  • "Planned Adaptation In Federal Regulation: An Initial Assessment of Adaptability in US Health and Safety Regulations" was also drafted by Dr. McCray.  The paper surveys the federal government's experience with the evaluation of existing regulations to see if new knowledge or changed conditions warrants their adaptation.  Noting the pervasive uncertainty involved in writing regulations, several Administrations have called for periodic reassessments.  This paper reviews the experience to date with such attempts at "planned adaptation" in US regulation.

  • Changes in policy relevant scientific knowledge, technologies, exposure patterns, and public priorities are common and typically cannot be known in advance. As a consequence, the capacity of regulatory systems to adapt and self correct is a key to long term performance. In "Adaptation and Anticipation: Learning from Policy Experience" Lawrence McCray and Kenneth A. Oye address two questions on the interaction of new knowledge and old policies.
    • Do domestic regulatory systems and international regulatory regimes routinely self-correct, adjusting to changing knowledge and conditions over time? Or do regulatory systems lock in on existing policies, failing to recognize and act on changing knowledge and conditions?
    • What domestic and international pathologies may block or distort access to relevant information and impede adjustments of policies? Conversely, what concrete measures may improve the adaptive capacity of domestic regulations and international regulatory regimes?

    This working paper presents a survey of United States federal experience and short cases on drug safety and efficacy, environmental, and weapons proliferation policies; evaluates the prospects for adaptation in science and technology policy; and concludes with general and specific suggestions for improving prospects for adaptation. Versions of this paper were presented at the NSF-EPA Trans-Atlantic Uncertainty Colloquium, Washington, DC October 10-11, 2006 and at the Milieu-en Natuurplanbureau Seminar Omgaan met Onzerkerheid in Beleid, Bilthoven NL June 29, 2007.


    Massachusetts Institute of Technology