Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Science and the race for the White House

Even though this is my personal blog, and not an "official blog" of the HPS Network, I intentionally don't blog about politics unless it relates to HPS. The reason is I don't want to do anything that would cause division in a community that needs to remain united to promote the cure. Someday, perhaps when we can post daily news to the HPS Website its self, I'll reclaim more of the personal nature of my own blog.

That being said, we all have our pet peeve issues. Mine happens to be funding for scientific research, medical related and beyond. The reality is some of the most bleeding edge discoveries are difficult to fund in the open market. Not investing in scientific discovery is so short sighed when it comes to the long term health of our economy. We have global competition and this is the information age.

Being able to produce widgets is short term. Sooner or later someone will make widgets cheaper than we can, no matter what the widget happens to be. But innovation, new discoveries and inventions, are the way to stay ahead in the long term.

A while back I blogged about this group of citizens and scientists who were trying to bring more attention to science issues in the race for the White House. Here's the results of their efforts - 14 questions the candidates need to address.

The Story

In November, 2007, a small group of citizens began working to restore science and innovation to America’s political dialogue. They called themselves Science Debate 2008, and they called for a presidential debate on science. The call tapped a wellspring of concern over the state of American science.

Within weeks, more than 37,500 scientists, engineers, and other concerned Americans signed on, including nearly every major American science organization, dozens of Nobel laureates, elected officials and business leaders, and the presidents of over 100 major American universities.
See who here. Among other things, these signers submitted over 3,300 questions they want the candidates for President to answer about science and the future of America.

The Process

Beginning with these 3,300 questions, Science Debate 2008 worked with the leading organizations listed to craft the top 14 questions the candidates should answer. These questions are broad enough to allow for wide variations in response, but they are specific enough to help guide the discussion toward many of the largest and most important unresolved challenges currently facing the United States. Will this be an innovation presidency? You decide.

The Questions

On behalf of the American science and innovation community (
see who here), we have submitted these questions to the candidates for President and asked them to do two simple things: A) provide a written response, which we will publish here, and B) discuss these questions in a nationally televised forum.

1. Innovation. Science and technology have been responsible for half of the growth of the American economy since WWII. But several recent reports question America’s continued leadership in these vital areas. What policies will you support to ensure that America remains the world leader in innovation?

2. Climate Change. The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on the following measures that have been proposed to address global climate change—a cap-and-trade system, a carbon tax, increased fuel-economy standards, or research? Are there other policies you would support?

3. Energy. Many policymakers and scientists say energy security and sustainability are major problems facing the United States this century. What policies would you support to meet demand for energy while ensuring an economically and environmentally sustainable future?

4. Education. A comparison of 15-year-olds in 30 wealthy nations found that average science scores among U.S. students ranked 17th, while average U.S. math scores ranked 24th. What role do you think the federal government should play in preparing K-12 students for the science and technology driven 21st Century?

5. National Security. Science and technology are at the core of national security like never before. What is your view of how science and technology can best be used to ensure national security and where should we put our focus?

6. Pandemics and Biosecurity. Some estimates suggest that if H5N1 Avian Flu becomes a pandemic it could kill more than 300 million people. In an era of constant and rapid international travel, what steps should the United States take to protect our population from global pandemics or deliberate biological attacks?

7. Genetics research. The field of genetics has the potential to improve human health and nutrition, but many people are concerned about the effects of genetic modification both in humans and in agriculture. What is the right policy balance between the benefits of genetic advances and their potential risks?

8. Stem cells. Stem cell research advocates say it may successfully lead to treatments for many chronic diseases and injuries, saving lives, but opponents argue that using embryos as a source for stem cells destroys human life. What is your position on government regulation and funding of stem cell research?

9. Ocean Health. Scientists estimate that some 75 percent of the world’s fisheries are in serious decline and habitats around the world like coral reefs are seriously threatened. What steps, if any, should the United States take during your presidency to protect ocean health?

10. Water. Thirty-nine states expect some level of water shortage over the next decade, and scientific studies suggest that a majority of our water resources are at risk. What policies would you support to meet demand for water resources?

11. Space. The study of Earth from space can yield important information about climate change; focus on the cosmos can advance our understanding of the universe; and manned space travel can help us inspire new generations of youth to go into science. Can we afford all of them? How would you prioritize space in your administration?

12. Scientific Integrity. Many government scientists report political interference in their job. Is it acceptable for elected officials to hold back or alter scientific reports if they conflict with their own views, and how will you balance scientific information with politics and personal beliefs in your decision-making?

13. Research. For many years, Congress has recognized the importance of science and engineering research to realizing our national goals. Given that the next Congress will likely face spending constraints, what priority would you give to investment in basic research in upcoming budgets?

14. Health. Americans are increasingly concerned with the cost, quality and availability of health care. How do you see science, research and technology contributing to improved health and quality of life?

New Poll:

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