The Report offers a detailed look at public participation—theory, existing
practice, and possibilities in the CRISPR context.151 The Report ultimately
proposes a strong public participation model, to be developed.
Recommendation 7-1 states: “Extensive and inclusive public participation
should precede clinical trials for any extension of human genome editing
beyond treatment or prevention of disease or disability.”152
V. REINVENTING THE OFFICE OF TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT
Can we do better than using the National Institutes? The NAM Report is
a thorough and well documented look at a worrisome aspect of the CRISPR
tool, with other reports to follow. The authors are a well-respected and
diverse group. I argue, however, that we need a standing agency that ( 1)
promotes strong versions of public engagement in its design, ( 2) has an
institutional memory, and ( 3) a staff familiar with a wide range of technology
assessment problems would be preferable.
I propose that we reconstitute a new and improved Federal Office of
Technology Assessment to provide a coherent framework for evaluating the
risks of technologies like CRISPR in all of its possible applications.153 The
original Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) issued a wide range of
valuable reports to assist Congress in evaluating thorny issues, but in 1995 it
was closed.154 Congress can now use the Congressional Research Service
and the General Accounting Office in the absence of the now defunct OTA,
but these offices do not provide the detail that is needed for difficult
technological assessments, the depth of research, or the range that scientific
uncertainty requires.155 As Sclove writes: “Congress is indeed awash in
information and analysis, including scientific and technical analysis, but
lacks a trustworthy mechanism for evaluating, distilling and synthesizing this
Adding another regulatory body to the world of U.S. government
regulation will be met with political opposition. On the other hand, the model
150. Id. at 123.
151. Id. at 127-29, 130-31, 134.
152. Id. at 136.
153. Jathan Sadowski, The Much-Needed and Same Congressional Office that Gingrich
Killed Off and We Need Back, THE ATLANTIC (Oct. 26, 2012),
congressional-office-that-gingrich-killed-off-and-we-need-back/264160/; see generally
RICHARD SCLOVE, WOODROW WILSON INT’L CTR. FOR SCHOLARS, REINVENTING TECHNOLOGY
ASSESSMENT: A 21ST CENTURY MODEL, (April 2010) (proposing an improved model of the
Office of Technology Assessment).
154. See SCLOVE, supra note 153, at page vii (Executive Summary).
155. See Id. at 18-19.