to Content
Header Image

Politics and science – Advice through science

Plenary / Panel
english language


President and Chief Executive Officer, Research and Development Corporation (RAND), Santa Monica, CA Abstract
The RAND Corporation provides policy analysis and policy advice to a range of clients, as well as to the broader public, both in the US and outside. This analysis and advice regarding policies, decisions and practices is based on research. RAND's quality standards call for this research to adhere to the scientific method, among other things. Several internal processes, including peer review of publications, help insure these standards. Most importantly, however, the research culture at RAND is vigilant in preventing bias, especially bias toward any particular political party, ideology or philosophy within the US or other countries that are the homes of its clients.

Over the recent years, this aspect of RAND - objectivity and non-partisanship - have become an increasingly prominent aspect of the RAND "brand", to the extent that, arguably, it has become the aspect that most distinguishes RAND from competitors among policy "think tanks".

Correlated with the growing importance of objectivity to the RAND brand has been growing polarization and partisanship in the American political debate. The likely positions of the two major parties on policy issues, both international and especially domestic, have become increasingly predictable. The polarization and partisanship of the broader US electorate may not be as great as in Washington, but it too seems to have succumbed to what Francis Fukuyama calls the "team sport" of US politics.

What does this mean for an institution such as RAND, seeking to adhere to high standards of scientific quality and objectivity in its work? RAND may be more exposed to this trend than most scientific organizations because it addresses so many policy areas, including international security, health care, defense, energy, education, crime, terrorism, internal security, transportation and so forth. These areas are subject to intense, sometimes ferocious, political debate. Nevertheless, there is a place for organizations such as RAND, perhaps an increasingly important one because of the growing polarization.
Rector, University of Vienna
Editor in Chief and Managing Director, NZZ Austria; Mentor, Alpbach Media Academy; Vienna Chair

Dr. James A. THOMSON

President and Chief Executive Officer, Research and Development Corporation (RAND), Santa Monica, CA

1967-1969 Purdue University, M.Sc. in Physics
1969-1972 Purdue University, Ph.D. in Physics
1972-1974 University of Wisconsin, Post-doctoral research associate in experimental nuclear physics
1974-1977 Office of the Secretary of Defense, The Pentagon
1977-1981 National Security Council, The White House
1981-1986 Director of RAND's National Security Strategies research program in Project AIR FORCE
1983-1984 Director of RAND's International Security and Defense Policy program
1984-1989 Vice President and responsible for the Project AIR FORCE division, The RAND Corporation
since 1989 President and Chief Executive Officer, The RAND Corporation


Rector, University of Vienna

 Studies at Princeton University and the University of Vienna
1968 Promotion Dr. rer. pol.
since 1978 Full Professor of Economics, University of Vienna; several appointments as Visiting Professor (i.a. Georgetown University, USA)
since 1999 Rector of the University of Vienna (re-elected 2003 and 2007)
2000-2005 President of the Austrian Rectors' Conference (re-elected 2001 and 2004)
2001-2005 Vice-President and Member of the Board of the European University Association (EUA), Brussels-Geneva
2005-2009 President of the European University Association (EUA), Brussels-Geneva


Editor in Chief and Managing Director, NZZ Austria; Mentor, Alpbach Media Academy; Vienna

ab 1988 Studien der Theologie, Germanistik und Klassischen Philologie an der Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz (nicht abgeschlossen)
1991-1994 Außenpolitik-Redakteur, "Kleine Zeitung"
1994 Redakteur in der Chefredaktion, "Kleine Zeitung"
1995-1997 Chef vom Dienst, "Kleine Zeitung"
1998-1999 Stellvertretender Chefredakteur, "Kleine Zeitung"
2000-2001 Chef vom Dienst, "Standard"
2002-2004 Stellvertretender Chefredakteur, "Die Presse"
2004-2012 Chefredakteur, "Die Presse"
2013/14 Leiter, Media Academy, Europäisches Forum Alpbach
seit 2015 Chefredakteur, ""

Technology Forum

show timetable


10:00 - 12:30Technology brunch hosted by Tiroler ZukunftsstiftungSocial
13:00 - 13:20Opening by the European Forum AlpbachPlenary
13:20 - 14:00Plenary sessionPlenary
14:00 - 14:30Plenary sessionPlenary
15:00 - 15:45Ethics of sciencePlenary
15:45 - 16:30Stem cellsPlenary
17:00 - 18:00Politics and science - Advice through sciencePlenary
20:00 - 21:30BionicsPlenary
21:30 - 23:30Reception hosted by Alcatel-Lucent Austria AGSocial


09:00 - 18:00Junior Alpbach - Science and technology for young peopleBreakout
09:00 - 16:00Working Group 01: From basic research to economic valueBreakout
09:00 - 16:00Working Group 02: Research integrity in scienceBreakout
09:00 - 16:00Working Group 03: The myths of life sciences and their consequencesBreakout
09:00 - 16:00Working Group 04: Aviation and the environmentBreakout
09:00 - 16:00Working Group 05: Think Tanks in AustriaBreakout
09:00 - 16:00Working Group 06: Gender mainstreaming in science and development. Perceive realities and decide visionarilyBreakout
09:00 - 16:00Working Group 07: Success factor human resources - Regions in competitionBreakout
09:00 - 16:00Working Group 08: Climate change - The future of transportBreakout
09:00 - 16:00Working Group 09: The governance of applied research: responsibilities, independence and resourcesBreakout
09:00 - 16:00Working Group 10: Digital healthcareBreakout
09:00 - 15:00Ö1 Children's University Alpbach - Science and technology for kidsBreakout
10:00 - 15:00Special Event: From the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe to the Regional Cooperation Council - A New Momentum for the Western Balkans' Perspective in Higher Education and Research?Breakout
10:00 - 16:00Working Group 11: Energy efficiency - Recognizing opportunities, utilizing potentialsBreakout
16:30 - 17:15The frontiers of science, part IPlenary
17:15 - 18:30Global competition for global talentsPlenary
20:00 - 21:30Information and communications infrastructures - The nerve centres of modern societiesPlenary


10:00 - 10:30Science education for a science-driven societyPlenary
10:30 - 11:15The frontiers of science, part IIPlenary
11:15 - 11:45The future of the environment and agriculturePlenary
12:00 - 12:15Junior Alpbach and Ö1 Children's University Alpbach 2008Plenary
12:15 - 13:15Improbable Research and the Ig Nobel prizePlenary
13:15 - 14:00Snack reception, hosted by AVL List GmbHSocial