Presidential science adviser George Keyworth has proposed establishing a new science advisory board at the White House to give the president better access to expert opinion.
Keyworth also said at a luncheon meeting with Washington Post staff members that he has recommended halting all new planetary space missions for at least the next decade--an idea he said the White House seems to be buying. He said that what funds are left in the space program should be concentrated on putting a telescope and other experimental payloads on the space shuttle.
Keyworth said the advisory board, which is still subject to White House approval, would have 15 members. It would be similar, he said, to the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), a sometimes-powerful body that existed in one form or another from the 1930s to 1973.
President Nixon killed the PSAC that year when, according to James Coleman, a member of the board during the Nixon years, "Members of the committee were strongly opposed to administration policy positions on antiballistic missiles and on support for development of a commercial supersonic transport . . . . President Nixon came to see, I believe, PSAC was no longer responsible to him, and was symbolic of opposition to his policies by the scientific community."
Four months of debate earlier this year centered on similar questions as the White House studied whether President Reagan should have a science adviser at all, let alone an advisory committee as well.
When Keyworth was finally chosen, one of his first comments was that he could not act as an advocate for science or the science community. "The White House is a small, tight team," Keyworth said at the time, " . . . and they want a science adviser as a member of the team."
Keyworth said he hopes to rely heavily on the advisory board and on other experts the board will bring in to research issues. Keyworth said the board will meet frequently, more often than monthly.
On other issues, Keyworth said that the administration displayed "poor judgment" in cutting the social science budget of the National Science Foundation so drastically in the 1982 budget. Some of that money will be restored in the 1983 budget now being drawn up that could bring the budget up to as much as 50 percent above the 1982 level.
On the subject of science education, a program the administration moved toward ending completely in 1982, Keyworth said the intention remains to end the current science education program. The programs were "ineffective," he said.