"Public opinion in this country is everything," stated President Abraham Lincoln in 1859. Fast-forward 154 years to the age of trending Twitter topics and 24-hour cable news. Public opinion seems to have a significant effect on social issues and in some cases, like the recent DOMA Act repeal, triggers changes in policy. However, its influence over science and technology policy is far less, where stakeholder opinion reins supreme. The general public is largely excluded, on the grounds that they are uninformed and therefore their opinions are not particularly useful for policymaking.
This de facto policy of exclusion was recently demonstrated at the National Research Council Committee On Human Spaceflight's meetings. The meetings on public and stakeholder opinions were closed to the public, with the exception of the first 30-minute, early morning session."
"... the committee's advice will be out of synch with reality and somewhat overtaken by events having taken a total of 3 years, 7 months to complete. Oh yes: the cost of this study? $3.6 million. The soonest that a NASA budget could be crafted that took this committee's advice into account would be the FY 2016 budget request. NASA and OMB will interact on the FY 2016 budget during Fall 2014 and it won't be announced until early 2015 - 4 1/2 years after this committee and its advice was requested in the NASA Authorization Act 2010."
Keith's note: This committee had a meeting in the vacation community of Woods Hole, MA from 24-26 July 2013. No agenda was posted - and apparently none will be posted. The entire meeting - one that dicussed public input - was closed. Indeed this web page says "No outside materials were distributed to the committee.", Go figure.