The California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) has seen significant changes over the past few years, expanding its reach and providing ever more opportunities for decision-makers to access and interface with the unique strength of CCST’s network of expertise.
“There are no other states quite like California in the US and, within the state, there are no other organizations quite like CCST,” said CCST Board Chair Charles F. Kennel, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in the 2013-2014 CCST Annual Report. “We are a reflection of the greatest strengths of California’s science and technology community – but, like California, we are also constantly facing a wide range of complex issues with long-term implications.”
The Annual Report provides an overview of CCST’s membership, organization, and activities throughout the year. This year has been particularly active, with CCST concentrating on issues with significant potential to transform the state: digital education, which means new, untested roles for teachers that offer transformational potential for education; a systems approach to water, with high-quality information provided through a portal that everyone can use; and providing independent and credible information on oil-well stimulation that inform decision-makers efforts to balance good jobs, safety and environmental challenges.
“CCST has historically focused its efforts around a small number of issues each year, reflecting the priorities identified by the Council along with California policymakers with whom we interact,” said CCST Council Chair Corey Goodman, Managing Partner at venBio Partners LLC. “No state finds it easy to contemplate policy decisions on infrastructure issues that span multiple agencies, industries, and constituencies.”
CCST is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit corporation established via Assembly Concurrent Resolution in 1988 to provide objective advice from California’s best scientists and research institutions on policy issues involving science. It is intended to provide analyses of these issues which transcends the expertise and perspective of any single institution. The scope of CCST’s activities and interactions with policy makers has increased in recent years thanks in part to the addition of the CCST California Teacher Advisory Council (Cal TAC), a group of master teachers who work to interject real-world classroom experience into education policy discussions, and the CCST Science and Technology Policy Fellows, a group of ten PhD-level experts who serve one-year fellowships in the state Legislature and bring their scientific expertise to a policy setting.
“These have been significant changes for CCST, expanding the discussions in which we participate and the areas in which our world-class experts are providing advice,” said Kennel. “However, I believe that there is much more that we can do.”
One of the most significant changes since its founding more than 25 years ago is the proactive nature of CCST’s role. While the organization was conceived of as a resource to help the State answer science and technology questions, increasingly CCST has worked to help the state understand what questions need to be asked. Moreover, as a separate organization that draws on many resources, CCST is able to benefit from an independent institutional memory that allows it to develop nuanced longitudinal analyses unconstrained by election cycles.
“There is tremendous power in a collective voice,” said Kennel. “It’s our job to serve as a trusted, independent, expert resource, and we have done so for more than twenty-five years. I look forward to working with our members and stakeholders to ensure that the next twenty-five are even better.”