This report discusses the history and function of the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) as it stood in November 1989, focusing on the benefit of the OTA's function as a practical analysis tool concerning technological issues.
This background report responds to a request by the Subcommittee on Water and Power Resources of the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. The subcommittee asked that OTA review the health effects of high-voltage transmission lines. To provide background information for its assessment on electric power wheeling, OTA contracted with the Carnegie-Mellon University.
The background paper does not attempt to provide a comprehensive critique of national statistics and does not introduce new research designed to solve the technical problems. It is, instead, designed to show how defects in the existing statistical system can limit our understanding of key economic issues and to demonstrate the ways that better management and coordination of America’s statistical agencies can lead to concrete improvements.
This background paper describes and examines a launch vehicle concept commonly known as the “Big Dumb Booster,” a concept that derives from efforts first made in the 1960s to minimize costs of space launch systems. Some launch system analysts believe that the use of this concept, when applied to existing technology, could markedly reduce space transportation costs. Other analysts disagree.
This Background Paper contains the results of OTA’s analysis. Throughout the study OTA sought and received the assistance of many individuals and organizations in the business, education, and government communities. Their thoughtful contributions and criticisms were invaluable, although their participation does not necessarily reflect their endorsement of the contents of the report, for which OTA bears sole responsibility.
This report addresses several questions regarding the dissemination of scientific and technical information (STI). The paper answers these questions within a framework for an overall strategy on STI dissemination, and identifies key elements that could be useful in such a strategy.
This background paper focuses on the end point of educational preparation for science and engineering careers — undergraduate and graduate study. It places the issue of future supply in the broad cultural context of changing demographics, labor market adjustments, and intervention policies.
This special report contains the results of OTA’s assessment. It also provides an admirable example of cooperative effort on the part of all segments of the aviation community in providing information to OTA and working to develop a common solution for a number of difficult issues.
A report on Advanced Vehicle/Highway Systems (AVHS),as an umbrella term for several interdependent vehicle and road technologies, that offers potential for reducing congestion and the air pollution it engenders, and for improving highway safety.
This assessment analyzes how the Nation’s power systems could accommodate various proposals for competition intended to make the electric power industry more responsive to market forces. Operation of an electric power system is extremely complex, and increased competition could have serious effects on costs and reliability if not implemented carefully. The assessment identifies the technical requirements that must be met to keep the system working well as the level of competition increases, and determines how competitive enterprises could meet these requirements.
Congress amended the Food Security Act of 1985 and directed the Office of Technology Assessment to conduct a comprehensive study of the technologies, institutions, and policies that affect U.S. grain quality and to prepare a comparative analysis of the grain quality systems of major export competitors of the United States. It focuses on the U.S. grain system and possible changes within that system to enhance grain quality.
This report discusses options for a national policy based on the dual strategies of MSW prevention and better management. It also presents options to address immediate problems such as increased interstate shipments of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) and unfinished Federal guidelines for landfills and incinerators.
In this report, OTA concludes that there is ample reason to be optimistic about the potential of the Superfund program and presents a number of possible strategic initiatives and incremental program changes in some detail. As difficult as the national cleanup job is, there are many ways to build a better balance between health and environmental needs and the limitations that technology, experience, and economics will always impose.
This paper reviews both new and previously published data on the proportions of elderly currently receiving a variety of preventive health services; we examine factors associated with whether the elderly receive these services; and we analyze the likely implications for Medicare if preventive health services were offered as covered benefits.
This report examines the health insurance status of adolescents (10 to 18 years of age) based on census data. It considers the reasons that some adolescents are insured and others are not, changes in the number of uninsured adolescents over time, and the effects of various approaches to ensure that more adolescents have insurance.
This report presents the results of an assessment of a subset of these issues focusing in particular on: the oilfield technology being used to develop the Alaskan North Slope’s oil resources and the likely configuration of that technology as it might be applied in the future to the coastal plain; and the prospects for future North Slope oil production, especially the likelihood that the flow of oil through the Trans Alaskan Pipeline System will suffer a serious decline during the next decade.
This report provides an overview of progress made by nine compacts and the remaining unaffiliated States in developing disposal facilities. Disposal costs have more than tripled while LLW volumes have dropped by more than half over the last decade. Since many costs associated with developing and operating a disposal facility are fixed, unit disposal costs will increase substantially as new facilities open. This may lead States to consider the economics of cooperative arrangements, which would permit them to trade waste services and construct fewer full-service disposal facilities.
On September 13, 1988, the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Japan Science and Technology Program (JSTP) held a one-day workshop to discuss MIT’s Japan Science and Technology Program’s internship program and its technical language workshop. This document gives a brief description the MIT-Japan Science and Technology of Program. It then reports the principal themes and issues raised at the workshop.
This report identifies U.S. interests in Antarctica and evaluates the Minerals Convention relative to these interests. It examines the status of knowledge about the resources of Antarctica, the potential impacts of minerals development, and the technical, economic, environmental, geological, and political constraints to development in Antarctica.
This report is one of two that the Office of Technology Assessment completed in an assessment of the issues in grain quality for Congress. The first, Enhancing the Quality of U.S. Grain in International Trade, focuses on the U.S. grain system and possible changes within that system to enhance grain quality. To consider this issue fully, it is important to understand the grain systems of major competitors, a subject covered in this report.
As analytical technology improves, we are discovering dioxins associated with many products commonly found in the home and workplace. This report provides an assessment of these technologies; it does not address the policy issues related to regulating dioxin in paper products and controlling environmental release.
This report examines the management of DoD technology base programs and laboratories. It also analyzes the process through which technology is introduced into defense systems, in order to understand why it takes so long and what might be done to speed the process up. Finally, this report examines the exploitation of civilian commercial sector technology for defense needs. It concentrates on the dual questions of expediting military access to civilian technology and keeping the necessary base of technology alive and well in the United States.
This background paper reviews the status of the major sectors of the maritime industry engaged in EEZ activities and notes the significant trends. Basic data on the major sectors were first prepared for OTA by the Maritime Administration. OTA then conducted a survey of industry and other interested parties and prepared the analyses in the paper.
This report reviews U.S. patent law as it relates to the patentability of micro-organisms, cells, plants, and animals; as well as specific areas of concern, including deposit requirements and international considerations. The report includes a range of options for congressional action related to the patenting of animals, intellectual property protection for plants, and enablement of patents involving biological material.
This special report examines a wide range of potential improvements to the Space Shuttle, explores the future of space transportation for humans, and presents policy options for congressional consideration. It is one of a series of products from abroad assessment of space transportation technologies undertaken by OTA, requested by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.
This report finds that many State EMS systems are fragmented and lacking resources to remedy EMS problems in rural areas. Many rural EMS programs lack specialized EMS providers, have inadequate EMS transportation and communications equipment, and are not part of a planned regional EMS system. The report describes the availability and distribution of emergency medical service (EMS) resources (e.g., personnel, transportation, facilities) and examines how limited Federal resources can be used to improve rural EMS. In addition, the report discusses how Federal EMS resources might be targeted to States’ rural areas.
This report on urban ozone was requested by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and its Subcommittee on Health and the Environment in anticipation of the upcoming reauthorization of the Clean Air Act. Of the air pollutants that the Act covers, ozone has been the most difficult to bring under control; it may well be the most expensive.
This special report reviews the safety of the nuclear testing program and assesses the technical procedures used to test nuclear weapons and ensure that radioactive material produced by test explosions remains contained underground. An overall evaluation considers the acceptability of the remaining risk and discusses reasons for the lack of public confidence.
This report first examines home recording technologies. Then—focusing primarily on audiotaping—we examine the ambiguous legal status of home copying. Our report considers the economic effects that home audiotaping may have on the recording industry, contrasted to the effects that restricting home taping might have on consumers. Finally, we identify a range of actions that either Congress or the industry might pursue.
This report addresses five key questions; to what extent is superfund dependent on contractors? Why depend on contracting to such a great extent? Is the extent of superfund’s dependence on contracting appropriate? Does the extent of superfund’s dependence on contracting reduce environmental effectiveness? Is superfund’s heavy dependence on contracting cost effective?
This paper reviews the evidence that elevation of serum cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia) is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease in the elderly and that the detection and treatment of hypercholesterolemia in an elderly individual who does not have clinically apparent heart disease will diminish overall morbidity or mortality. It also estimates health care expenditures associated with screening and treatment of hypercholesterolemia in the elderly.
This paper examines dichotomous designations used to define rural and urban areas and discusses how they are applied in certain Federal programs. In addition, several topologies are described that are useful in showing the diversity that exists within rural areas.
This report discusses the development of telecommunications technologies and the study of distance learning. OTA was asked to analyze various technological options, examine current development, and identify how Federal, State and local policies could encourage more efficient and effective use.
This report discuses distance learning projects, and ways telecommunications technologies such as satellites, cable television, fiber optics, slow scan TV, instructional television fixed services, and microcomputer networking have opened up opportunities for school districts to coordinate schedules and to share resources.
This report has two primary goals. One objective is to provide provocative ideas on how emerging forces external to education may shape the future of distance learning. The second purpose is to depict a potential new field, technology-mediated interactive learning, that may result from synthesis of distance learning, cooperative learning, and computer-supported cooperative work.
This report provides a definition of distance learning and an overview of selected policies, operative policies and existing polices. The report discusses the policy changes and opportunities, as well as the implications for Federal Policy.
This report provides an overview of the technology of composting which involves three major steps: 1) the preparation of the raw material, 2) the compost process itself, and 3) the grading of the final product.
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