ScienceDebate2008: The Future of Science in America

tags: , , , , , , ,

There are plenty of debates for presidential candidates on all sorts of topics, but have you noticed that none of these debates include any discussion about science and research? Sure, the candidates all are ready to whine about how there "aren't enough scientists and engineers out there", but that is purely a bullshit sentiment based on blatant lies -- as I and thousands of other un(der)employed Americans with PhDs in various scientific, engineering and computer science fields can easily attest to. So based on this situation and on the generally hostile atmosphere towards science engendered by the current administration in this country, many scientists and science bloggers are very curious to know what each presidential candidate plans to do with regards to science and scientific research. In fact, it would be great if there could be a presidential debate that specifically focuses on clarifying each candidate's position regarding research in science, technology and the environment so they cannot dodge these subjects and so these important issues are emphasized in the public's consciousness.

First, I have to point out that each scientist represents a huge investment of state and federal money, combined with individual time, sacrifice and training, it is a tremendous waste to not fund or otherwise assist any scientist who wishes to continue working in his or her field to do so. This is typically a federal funding issue. But unfortunately, many of the scientists who are lucky enough to be employed in their fields are often ignored, threatened, suppressed, and censored by government officials, particularly since Bush has been in office. As if Bush's outrageous lies about the Iraq war were not enough, his antiscience government has willfully obfuscated sound research by loudly proclaiming that climate science is "incomplete" and has proudly misinformed the entire nation in his first major address about the availability of embryonic stem cells for research -- just to name a couple of his egregious and inexcusable "errors".

As a result, I think it would be wise for the educated electorate to learn more about what each presidential candidate plans to do regarding scientific research, so we as a nation can avoid damaging our precious research and educational communities further.

Questions I would like to ask each presidential candidate;

  1. Do you plan to have a scientific advisor or advisory board that you rely upon to help make decisions about federal policy as it applies to science and scientific research? If you choose a group of scientists as advisors, how will they be selected? How many members will be in this group? How transparent will the selection process be? How will it be determined how long the members of this group serve? What would be the scientific advisor/advisory board's relationship to other established governmental funding agencies, such as NSF, NIH, NASA, etc.?
  2. What will you do to improve federal funding for basic scientific research so that the scientists who have already completed their education can move on to the next step in their careers? How will research priorities be defined? How much funding will go to basic versus applied research in each field? How will these funding priorities be defined?
  3. What is America's role with regards to international health issues, such as HIV and avian influenza? What about other widespread diseases, such as malaria? What should America do to reduce the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria as a result of the routine use of antibiotics in raising domestic food animals? What should the federal government do, if anything, regarding the development of another country's natural resources into a new (patented) drug or vaccine by American pharamceutical companies? What role, if any, should America have with regards to regulating worldwide population growth?
  4. What is your position regarding stem cell research? For example, do you plan to make federal money available for stem cell research? What about the conflict between religious fundamentalists and scientists regarding the development of stem cells for medical treatments? Do you plan to regulate sources of stem cells used in research? If so, how will you decide upon the regulatory guidelines? Will you allow scientists to define research priorities or will the government do so? If the government makes these decisions, will there be scientific input in the form of a science advisory board?
  5. What is your position regarding the freedom of scientific information, copyright, open source, open access, and who owns and controls this information? What would be the role of universities in this? What should be taught in the science classrooms of public schools in America? Do you think that creationism and "intelligent" design should also be taught alongside evolution? If so, should creation stories from other world religions also be taught in our classrooms? Why or why not? What should the federal government do, if anything, regarding the oversupply of American science and engineering PhDs? What should be done regarding international "H1B" scientists and engineers who displace American scientists and engineers in the workplace? What should the federal government do, if anything, to improve the plight of American postdocs so they are paid reasonable living wages along with benefits? Should the university tenure system be reformed, and of so, what should be the federal government's role in this process?
  6. What do you see the federal government's role is in reducing America's contribution to global warming? What do you see the federal government's role is in reducing this country's contribution to the international depletion of non-renuable natural resources, especially oil? What will you do to prevent America from shifting its corporate consumption of the environment (i.e.; carbon dioxide emissions; timber consumption; water use and redistribution; fish and marine resources consumption and fish farming; just to name a few) to other countries? Who owns internationally "migrating" resources, such as water, fish, birds and wildlife? What will you do to strengthen the presently weakened Endangered Species Act? Will you rely on scientific research to manage human exploitation of wild populations and resources, such as considering ecosystem effects and damages when setting fishing quotas (for example)?

What science questions are you interested in asking the presidential candidates? Keep in mind that this proposed debate is not a pop-quiz of each candidate's knowledge of science, but instead, it is a discussion of what they plan to do for scientific and technological research when they are in office and how they plan to implement those changes to enable progress in this research.


More like this

Have you personally sent these questions to the campaigns? These are wonderful questions, and I'd love to see the form letters you get back.

I am glad that you are phrasing the questions from the "giving the scientists an input" prospective, and would love to see the answers!

I would like to know what they do as individuals to stay informed about the state of science in this country and around the world. It is great to have a knowledgeable advisory board, but it is even better for the candidates themselves to have some familiarity with the issues. It is no different than expecting a candidate to be informed on a variety of other important foreign and economic policies issues.

How about, "Please pronounce the word "nuclear" for us." That one still seems to stump our current imbecile of a president...

By Mark Egger (not verified) on 11 Dec 2007 #permalink

An educated president? The voters would never stand for that! They will only elect a president they can relate to and understand.

The scientific literacy of the average american has made them an international joke.