Inject Science Into Presidential Campaign!

The call for a Science Debate, as part of the Presidential election cycle, is moving from random electrons to substance with each passing day. 

A date has been set:  18 April, four days before the Pennsylvania primary.

A venue has been set:  the Franklin Institute, outside Philadelphia.

And, while invitations have been sent, the attendees have not been set.

Joining Science Debate in the invitation to the candidates were the following institutions:

  • The National Academy of Sciences
  • The National Academy of Engineering
  • The Institute of Medicine
  • The American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • The Council on Competitiveness
  • The Franklin Institute

From that invitation:

We invite you to participate in Science Debate 2008, a presidential candidates debate about issues in science and technology policy that are vital to the future of America

What an unusual concept, the audacity to call on the candidates to appear on stage, together, to discuss critical issues facing the nation and how they view science (and technology) as a tool to helping solve them (or, well, not as the case may be).

WHO WE AREWe are a non-partisan organization of leading universities, industry associations and other organizations, together with thousands of concerned citizens. Our members include leaders from the American education, science, medical, engineering and business communities. Our group includes Nobel Laureates and other leading scientists and engineers, university presidents, business leaders, labor leaders, economists, Members of Congress, current and former presidential science advisory committee members and science advisers and other government leaders, as well as the heads of America’s major scientific and engineering organizations, and the editors of America’s major science and technology publications. We are, in short, much of the American scientific and technological community. Together, we represent tens of millions of American voters who are concerned about the future of our nation.

We are, well, me along with many other science-related bloggers who have joined the call to help bring attention to science and technology in the 2008 election.

WHY THIS DEBATE AT THIS TIMEScience and technology are responsible for half our nation’s growth in GDP over the last half century, and have changed every aspect of our lives, our economy, our health, and our environment.

Changed for better (and worse) and related to, literally, “every aspect of our lives”.  And, clearly critical to our potential paths forward.

The next president of the United States will face unprecedented scientific and technological policy challenges and opportunities, three classes of which poll at the top of voter concerns: the economy and economic competitiveness; healthcare; and the environment. Candidates should have ideas about what kinds of policies will best address these issues, and should inform the voters of their views.

Will the next President focus on “sound science” or give credence to scientists and scientific organizations with sound judgment and solid (sound?) grounding in the data?

THE DEBATEThe debate may include such policy issues as: American economic competitiveness and support for scientific research; policy approaches to climate change; clean energy; the healthcare crisis; science education and technology in schools; scientific integrity; GM agriculture; transportation infrastructure; immigration; the genome; data privacy; intellectual property; pandemic diseases; the health of the oceans; water resources; stem cells; conservation and species loss; population; the space program, and others.

An impressive list of items to consider. And, wow, a list that is simply the beginning as one begins to consider “others”.

This is a policy debate.  It is not intended to be a science quiz.

No multiple choice?  Nothing to intice Americans enamoured with “Smarter than a Fifth-Grader”?   

Nor are we interested in state-level battles such as the evolution versus creationism/ID debate. 

No “raise your hands” moments? 

Our goal is to find out how aware candidates are of America’s major science and technology problems and opportunities, and how they propose to offer the kind of visionary leadership and policy solutions that will tackle those challenges and ensure America’s place as the most scientifically and technologically advanced nation on earth.  This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you are such a leader.

Here is the challenge. The letter has gone out to the campaigns and it is starting to get notice (for example, this Business Week article, this NYTimes blog post), but not from the campaigns, at least as of yet.  Time to contact the campaigns (all of them!) and call for the candidates to commit to participation.

We want to re-emphasize that this is a policy debate focusing on matters that are of major concern to a majority of American voters. Our aim is to elevate our national political dialogue, educate the voters, and help chart a new direction for the next period in American history.  

And, to reemphasize, this is a bipartisan call for putting substance into the national discussion, into the decision-making about who will be in the Oval Office come 12:01, 20 January 2009. Here are the members of The Science Debate 2008 Committee:

  • Vern Ehlers (co-chair), Republican Member of Congress
  • Rush Holt (co-chair), Democratic Member of Congress
  • Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin; former Undersecretary of the Army
  • Arne Carlson, former Governor of Minnesota; former chair, American Express Funds board
  • Matthew Chapman, screenwriter, director, science writer; President of Science Debate Inc
  • Austin Dacey, contributing editor, The Skeptical Inquirer magazine
  • Calvin DeWitt,  President, Academy of Evangelical Scientists and Ethicists
  • James Jensen, Director of Congressional and Government Affairs, The National Academies
  • Sheril Kirshenbaum, marine biologist, Nicholas Institute for Env. Pol. Solutions, Duke Univ.
  • Lawrence Krauss, Professor of Astrophysics, Case Western Reserve University
  • Alan Leshner, CEO, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • James McCarthy, Professor of Oceanography, Harvard University
  • Chris Mooney, science writer and science blogger, The Intersection
  • Shawn Lawrence Otto, screenwriter/director; political consultant; CEO of Science Debate Inc
  • John Rennie, Editor-in-Chief, Scientific American magazine
  • Deborah Wince-Smith, President, Council on Competitiveness

While that is the committee, it seems that more people and organizations are joining the call on nearly a daily basis. 

Will you join the effort by calling on the candidates to be at the Franklin Institute, on 18 April 2008, to discuss the science and technology challenges and opportunities before us, before the US?

One response to “Inject Science Into Presidential Campaign!

  1. Pingback: Pages tagged "we are scientists"

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