Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Meet the New PCAST, Same as the Old PCAST?

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, April 23 2010

Credit: The White House

This post is going to be of interest to about eight people, max. So, out of politeness, I'll stuff the bulk of it in the extended entry. But enough folks tweeted about the topic that some detail seems in order. If you happened to be intrigued this week by the news that President Obama had issued an executive order creating an official advisory council on science and technology and thought, "Hey, that sounds familiar," keep reading...

The Executive Order from the President's office on Wednesday created described the creation of an "advisory council on science, technology, and innovation." If you pay attention to these things, (a) you should probably ramp up your time spent on hobbies, and (b) this sounded an awful lot like PCAST, short-hand for the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. And there's been a PCAST around for many years now, going as far back, according to the White House, to the Frankling Roosevelt years.

A spokesperson from the White House Office of Science and Technology explains that what the E.O. from the President did was to scrap the Bush-era PCAST, established by Executive Order 13226 in 2001, and replace it with an Obama Administration version.

The Obama White House explains PCAST as "an advisory group of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers who directly advise the President and the Executive Office of the President." The PCAST member who has perhaps most be in the news for his service on the Council is Google CEO Eric Schmidt, though Microsoft's Craig Mundie is also on board, as are many more accomplished scientists and technologists.

The spokesperson points out some of the changes between Bush's PCAST and Obama's. This new order stipulates two co-chairs instead of one, and drops the number of members from 25 to 21. There's also what seems to be some minor reshuffling of subcommittees and assignments. But there's two additional changes between Bush's council of science and technology advisors and Obama's.

The first has to do with getting security clearance for those advisors who might not already have it.

The second might be a bid to make PCAST a more collaborative, participatory collective than it has been in the past, more in line with Obama's open government push. A section of the E.O. not in Bush's PCAST Order but in Obama's directs that PCAST shall "solicit information and ideas from the broad range of stakeholders, including but not limited to the research community, the private sector, universities, national laboratories, State and local governments, foundations, and nonprofit organizations."

An OSTP spokesperson hasn't yet gotten back to me with comment on whether this indeed represents an attempt to open up Obama's circle of science and technology advisors.

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

GO

The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

GO

tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

GO

Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

GO

monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

GO

friday >

In Google Hangout, NYC Mayor de Blasio Talks Tech and Outer Borough Potential

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the lead of President Obama and New York City Council member Ben Kallos Friday by participating in a Google Hangout to help mark his first 100 days in office, in which the conversation focused on expanding access to technology opportunities through education and ensuring that the needs of the so-called "outer boroughs" aren't overlooked. GO

More