Yesterday, the American Association for the Advancement of Science – the world’s largest general scientific society – announced its co-sponsorship of the Science Debate 2008 campaign (which we at The Pump Handle support, and blogged about here).
In light of recent economic events, the press release announcing AAAS’s co-sponsorship focused on the link between science and economic success:
“Science and engineering have driven half the nation’s growth in GDP over the last half-century,” said AAAS CEO Alan Leshner, “and lie at the center of many of the major policy and economic challenges the next president will face. We feel that a presidential debate on science would be helpful to America’s national political dialogue.” Leshner has also joined the group’s steering committee.
The effort is being co-chaired by Congressmen Vern Ehlers, R-MI, and Rush Holt, D-NJ, and is also being championed by Congressman Bart Gordon, chair of the House Science & Technology Committee. It includes several former presidential science advisers from both major political parties. “We have to recognize there are roughly seven billion people in the world, half of whom make less than $2 a day. We cannot and would not want to compete with that,” said Gordon. “We have to compete at a higher level with a better equipped and skilled workforce than that of our global counterparts – and we do that by focusing on science, education and innovation.”
The endorsers of the ScienceDebate2008.com initiative include economists; several Nobel laureates and other leading scientists and engineers; executives from Apple Computer, Google, Merck, Hyatt, and other leading companies; two dozen presidents of major American colleges and research universities; and the editors of major science publications and journals.
There have been several recent reports warning of potential erosion of the American economy and recommending changes in science and technology policies, said Shawn Lawrence Otto, one of the group’s organizers. “A recent Business Roundtable report shows that if current trends continue, in another two years over 90 percent of all scientists and engineers will live in Asia,” Otto said. The group’s web site also points to similar findings from a 2005 National Academies of Science report on science and the economy and a National Science Board report released just last week.
“It’s a new, global knowledge economy. Dealing with that is going to be a pretty major policy question for the next president – one that affects the pocketbook of every American. When you add global warming, the healthcare crisis, biotechnology, and transportation, it starts looking like many of the major issues the next president will face are not being seriously debated,” said Otto.
Science Debate has set a mid-April date for the event, and expects to announce details soon. In the meantime, Wired Science’s Loretta Hidalgo Whiteside reports on the movement’s growing momentum, and the prospects for playing a role in the election:
The next step is to contact the campaigns and invite the candidates to participate. With such heavyweights of the scientific community getting behind this it would be hard to say no. Even if the debate itself will have to wait until after Super Tuesday, having it on the calendar would do a lot to remind voters to take science into consideration.
With the nominations for both parties still an open question, debates are likely to continue – and science merits a spot on the calendar.