Obama on Science

As you have no doubt seen by now, if you read any of the other blogs on ScienceBlogs, the Science Debate 2008 group has gotten Barack Obama to answer their 14 questions on science issues. John McCain has apparently promised answers at some point in the future.

The answers are, well, pretty much what you would expect. For example:

What policies will you support to ensure that America remains the world leader in innovation?

Ensuring that the U.S. continues to lead the world in science and technology will be a central priority for my administration. Our talent for innovation is still the envy of the world, but we face unprecedented challenges that demand new approaches. For example, the U.S. annually imports $53 billion more in advanced technology products than we export. China is now the world's number one high technology exporter. This competitive situation may only worsen over time because the number of U.S. students pursuing technical careers is declining. The U.S. ranks 17th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving degrees in science or engineering; we were in third place thirty years ago.

My administration will increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade. We will increase research grants for early-career researchers to keep young scientists entering these fields. We will increase support for high-risk, high-payoff research portfolios at our science agencies. And we will invest in the breakthrough research we need to meet our energy challenges and to transform our defense programs.

A vigorous research and development program depends on encouraging talented people to enter science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and giving them the support they need to reach their potential. My administration will work to guarantee to students access to strong science curriculum at all grade levels so they graduate knowing how science works - using hands-on, IT-enhanced education. As president, I will launch a Service Scholarship program that pays undergraduate or graduate teaching education costs for those who commit to teaching in a high-need school, and I will prioritize math and science teachers. Additionally, my proposal to create Teacher Residency Academies will also add 30,000 new teachers to high-need schools - training thousands of science and math teachers. I will also expand access to higher education, work to draw more of these students into science and engineering, and increase National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate fellowships. My proposals for providing broadband Internet connections for all Americans across the country will help ensure that more students are able to bolster their STEM achievement.

Progress in science and technology must be backed with programs ensuring that U.S. businesses have strong incentives to convert advances quickly into new business opportunities and jobs. To do this, my administration will make the R&D tax credit permanent.

Of course, I'm sure these will be spun as insufficiently detailed glib answers from an empty suit. After all, he didn't give the names of any of the 30,000 new teachers he's proposing-- how are we supposed to evaluate his plan without them?


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If you believe that Obama will channel any more money into science with all of the new social programs he's proposing you are hopelessly naive. This is what I don't get - the proposal to double NSF's funding was killed in a democrat controlled congress. Why are we all acting like a democratic administration will be a boon for science?

@Sparhawk: Well, it may be that the Republican-controlled executive has so thoroughly plundered the budget that science funding is not that easy to support. Frankly, I think the Dems should support it anyway (for obvious reasons), but there's an even more immediate problem: war spending of the kind we're seeing under the Republicans is incompatible with proper education funding.

By Chris Granade (not verified) on 31 Aug 2008 #permalink

This is what I don't get - the proposal to double NSF's funding was killed in a democrat controlled congress.

Yeah, after it was vetoed by a Republican president who then demanded that they cut things out of the budget before he would approve it. The Democrats may technically have a majority in Congress, but it's not enough of a majority to override a veto any time they want. With a Democratic president that won't be an issue anymore.

By Worldmage (not verified) on 31 Aug 2008 #permalink

Hey, look, I think everyone is losing sight of my point. I'm not a republican loyalist - all I'm saying is that neither party has been particularly good about science support. I don't think that electing Obama will be a panacea - after all, he has promised many, many things to many different constituencies. I think we need to be realistic. I also think that being overly partisan hurts science funding. Whether you like republicans or not, the truth is they get elected into office every once in a while. If scientists in general come across as another liberal advocacy group, it's not surprising that a republican administration will look at them with skepticism.

Your punch line was hysterical. That is about the level of commentary on talk news these days.

I will also point out that what #1 wrote is an example of a common statement that is either based on ignorance or is an outright lie even if you don't count issues like the need to override a veto that would go away with a rational President.

Anyone who has even minimal knowledge of how the Senate works should know that the Democrats do not control Congress at present and will not control it next year even if they increase their Senate majority from zero (49-49-2) to something like 53-45-2. It takes 60 votes to get anything done in the Senate if the subject is controversial enough to even threaten a filibuster. Similarly, the Republican party had only marginal control of the Senate with a 55-44-1 majority prior to the 2006 election. The only way they could force something through was by bullying the Democrats in the media. I can't stand people who prevaricate for political purposes.

I think the important issue next year will be how to manage an exploding deficit and shaky economy without savaging the tiny part of the budget that is not already mandated by law - the part that includes NSF and DOE and NIH science funding. Will science funding help the economy in the very short and medium term? That is the case that needs to be made. Science cannot win as an entitlement program for professors who make twice the median income in the US.

Whats hilarious is the any of you take this seriously. You expect the Messiah to tell the truth? Or McCain? You expect them to say ANYTHING other than what they think you want to hear? Did you read anything in that statement that is specific? No. He (or the idiot that really wrote it - you don't think the Messiah writes his own copy do you?) is pandering like all politician. But being the Messiah, you are falling for it. Just like he planned.