Political Science

As a blogger, I usually willfully delineate a giant chasm of non-communication between myself and political issues, preferring to dabble in the absolute: time, space, theoretical technological infrastructures, and, recently, aliens. I wrote one very reticent entry in 2005 about chimeric research, prefacing it with the pronouncement that "this blog will rarely concern iself with Pressing Science Ethics Issues," a statement that has proven in the intervening years to be true.

However, I can't deny that my love of the sciences has blossomed under the steely wing of one of the most anti-science political administrations (and social climates, to boot) of the modern era. If it's not the suppression and censorship of reports on subjects like climate change and pollution, it's the stacking of scientific advisory panels, the stem-cell debacle, ridiculously under-qualified NASA appointees, the insanely dubious removal of scientific information from government Web sites, or the misguided millions pouring into Prez Bush's "New Vision" for space exploration. Remember when the Bush administration removed the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet" from NASA's mission statement? Really?

It is with a profound sense of purpose, then, that I bring you this information about the respective science policies of the two Democratic candidates for president of the United States of America. Most of this information comes from statements made by the candidates' surrogates at a science policy debate in Boston last week, as well as from the candidates' official websites and press releases.


Basic Research

Obama: Plans to double federal spending for basic research over five years, supports making the Research and Development tax credit permanent, and plans to strengthen funding for biomedical research, as well as better improve the efficiency of that research by improving coordination both within government and across government/private/non-profit partnerships. Supports stem-cell research despite the alternatives, stating that "embryonic stem cells remain unmatched in their potential."

Clinton: Clinton plans to "end the war on science" by doubling the budget, within ten years, of the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the basic and applied research at the Department of Defense and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Plans to rescind the ban on ethical embryonic stem cell research and to straight-up ban political appointees from unduly interfering with scientific conclusions and publications. Lastly, plans to require that federal research agencies set aside at least 8% of their research budgets for discretionary funding of high-risk research, and plans to increase investment in the non-health applications of biotechnology in order to fuel 21st century industry ("the future").

Climate Change

Obama: Plans to reduce Carbon Emissions 80 Percent by 2050 with a market-based cap-and-trade system requiring that pollution credits be auctioned off. Plans to build incentives that reward forest owners, farmers, and ranchers when they plant trees, restore grasslands, or undertake farming practices that capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Plans to invest $150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of biofuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial-scale renewable energy, invest in low-emissions coal plants, and begin the transition to a new digital electricity grid (as opposed to the slow electromechanical switches and relays used today). Also plans to establish a 25 percent federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require that 25 percent of electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived from clean, sustainable energy sources, like solar, wind and geothermal by 2025.

More information about Obama's energy plans here.

Clinton: Clinton's plan would ostensibly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of global warming, and cut foreign oil imports by two-thirds from 2030 projected levels, more than 10 million barrels per day. Major components of this plan: increased fuel efficiency standards, helping automakers retool their production facilities through $20 billion in "Green Vehicle Bonds," a new cap-and-trade program that auctions 100 percent of permits, and a $50 billion Strategic Energy Fund, paid for in part by oil companies, to fund investments in alternative energy. Plans to revive and expand the national assessment on climate change, expanding the assessment to include not only the anticipated impacts of climate change, but also how U.S. regions and economic sectors can respond to climate change through mitigation and adaptation.

Also: plans to require that all federal buildings designed after January 20, 2009 will be zero emissions buildings. Cute!

More information about Clinton's energy plans here.

Science Education

Obama: Wants to increase the number of foreign students in U.S. graduate school and "give them a path to citizenship," as well as improve minority scholarships. Plans to provide additional resources for public schools to adopt proven science, technology, engineering and math programs.

Clinton: Clinton plans to triple the number of National Science Foundation fellowships and increase the size of each award. Plans to create new fellowships at the National Science Foundation to allow math and science professionals to become teachers in high-need schools. Supports initiatives to bring more women and minorities into the math, science, and engineering professions.

The Internet and Technology

Obama: Believes in an open Internet! Strongly supports the principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet. Supports the basic principle that network providers should not be allowed to charge fees to privilege the content or applications of some web sites and Internet applications over others. Furthermore, encourages diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, and plans to create "Public Media 2.0.," the next generation of public media that will birth the "Sesame Street of the Digital Age."

Wants to implement sensible safeguards that protect privacy online, and supports restrictions on how private information may be used, as well as technology safeguards to verify how the information has actually been used.

Plans to "bring government into the 21st century:" wants to implement wikis, social networking tools and other transparent communications technologies in daily governmental operations, plants to modernize internal, cross-agency, and public communication and information sharing to improve government decision-making. Lastly, plans to appoint the nation's first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century.

Much more information about Obama's technology plans here.

Obama at Google, talking about improbable lives and net neutrality.

Clinton: The Clinton camp seems to have only one major stance when it comes to the Internet, which is a plan for the federal government provide tax incentives to encourage broadband deployment in underserved areas, and, correlatively, a plan to financially support state and local broadband initiatives. Clinton was quoted on Meet The Press as saying "I want to have as much information about the way our government operates on the Internet so the people who pay for it, the taxpayers of America, can see that. I want to be sure that, you know, we actually have, like, agency blogs." Also, her website is not as cool as Obama's.

Space Exploration

Obama: Obama hasn't released any information about his official plan in regards to space exploration, although there's some buzz that it will happen this month. In the interim, nerds are aflutter over an alleged leaked space plan, which you can read here. The leaked plan, if there's any truth to it, is very awesome, and includes some smart (and realistic) initiatives, such as support of unmanned missions, a vow to keep weapons out of space (yay), and some space-based climate change surveying. The leaked plan, however, does support the new Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and the Ares I Launch Vehicle, which is a disappointment to me because I can't stand to think of any Bush space policies lingering around after his dismissal.

Clinton: The Clinton camp has made several statements about space exploration and aeronautics. Clinton plans to pursue a "21st century Space Exploration Program," by implementing a balanced strategy of robust human spaceflight, expanded robotic spaceflight, and enhanced space science activities. Furthermore, Clinton plans to develop a comprehensive space-based Earth Sciences agenda, including full funding for NASA's Earth Sciences program and a space-based Climate Change Initiative. Most surprising of all, in my opinion, is her call of reversing funding cuts to NASA's and FAA's aeronautics R&D budget.

Clinton on space exploration, briefly.


More Information:
Obama Campaign Science Fact Sheet
Breakdown of all the candidates' science and technology stances (From Popular Mechanics)
Clinton's Innovation Agenda


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thank you for highlighting each candidates objective on some of todays most important and debated topics. personally i consider myself apolitical. however it's undeniable that the powers that be
have major impacts on all of our lives for better or worse. well i just wanted to say thanks for making sense out of what seems to me mostly non-sense. Claire and Jona are bright beacons of HOPE on this sometimes dim Planet!!

i vote for a more steady flow of universe blog entries by the end of 2008! at about this time last year you already had 10 entries. it was 38 in all for 2007. i'd like to see you break that number this year, but i'm afraid it's gonna take some catching up. challenge!

Hey Brent,

I know! What the hell, right? I've had a really insane year, and 2008 is shaping up to be much the same, but I am going to make a campaign promise right now to BLOG MORE.

Paid for by the committee for Claire L. Evans

that's the spirit!

Thanks, thatâs some good info. I'd like to see something similar to this on Nader.

Matthew, tight call! I need to stop forgetting about how awesome Space Collective is.

Check it out here.