09/23/2016 12:51 pm ET

Open Letter To The Presidential Debate Moderators

Scott Olson via Getty Images

Dear Debate Moderators,

These final debates are the last chance voters get to try and understand the candidates' views on the big issues, and for you, the moderators, to probe more deeply into subjects they've glossed over or avoided. But if history is a guide, you'll completely ignore - and allow the candidates to ignore - the most important group of issues in the entire election, the ones that will actually determine the future of America and the planet.

I'm talking about science and its offshoot, technology.

To see how bizarre it is that someone could become the most powerful person on earth without ever publicly debating these, you need look no further than the venue for the first debate on Monday at Hofstra University.

In just the last decade, Hofstra created the Northwell School of Medicine, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and now offers courses in Anthropology, Astronomy, Biochemistry, Cardiology, Chemistry, Computer Engineering, Emergency Medicine, Forensic Science, Geology, Environment and Sustainability, Mathematics, Molecular Medicine, Neurology, Pediatric Medicine, Physics, Psychology, Science Education, and many more.

But students taking these science courses at Hofstra will likely be ignored by your debate and end up feeling disappointed.

And not just them.

A national poll found that 91% of Democrats and 88% of Republicans want presidential candidates to debate science. No one expects candidates to be scientists, any more than we expect them to be economists, but voters deserve to hear their basic science policy ideas. And it is vital that you, the moderators, question them on these so voters can go to the polls with the best possible information about which candidate can lead them into the future.

Most of your work has been done for you. An organization called convened the best scientific minds in the country (see below) to develop a list of 20 Science Questions for the presidential candidates.

All of them - Clinton, Trump, Johnson, and Stein - answered in writing. As moderators, all you have to do is study the questions and answers and decide which of them you want to explore further. If you'd like to curate a segment of your debate, or if you just want advice, we'd be happy to help.

The questions cover such broad and diverse topics as Ocean Health, Vaccinations, the Internet, Climate Change, Research, Opioids, Energy, Innovation, Science Education, Nuclear Power, Global Challenges, Water, Space, Mental Health, Biodiversity, Scientific Integrity, and several others.

For good or ill, these are the issues that will determine our economic and environmental future, and the future health, wellbeing, or survival of our children. Please give them - and the American voter - the respect they deserve.


Matthew Chapman, President

Further Information

When it comes to advocating for more scientific content in elections, is the most respected organization in America. Since 2008, it has succeeded in getting all of the final candidates for president - Obama (twice), McCain, Romney, and now Clinton, Trump, Johnson, and Stein - to answer our "Most Important Science Questions." When the 2008 and 2012 answers were published online, they reached an unprecedented 800 million people each time, making this one of the largest, if not the largest, science policy initiatives ever.'s supporters include over 20 Nobel Laureates; giants of innovation like Elon Musk and Vinton Cerf, one of the "fathers of the internet"; actor/activists like Mark Ruffalo, Kathleen Turner, Johnny Depp and longtime environmentalist Peter Coyote; over 100 US universities and more than 100 university presidents; thousands of professors, including some at Hofstra; science advocates like Bill Nye; and, with the ability to reach over a 100 million people, all the major science organizations in America, among them the Union of Concerned Scientists, Research!America, all branches of the National Academies of Science, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest general science organization on earth.

The list of organizations supporting this year's questions is a who's who of the American science enterprise.

*American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association of Geographers
*American Chemical Society
American Fisheries Society
American Geophysical Union
*American Geosciences Institute
*American Institute of Biological Sciences
American Institute of Professional Geologists
American Rock Mechanics Association
American Society for Engineering Education
American Society of Agronomy
American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
American Society of Mammalogists
American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering
Association for Women Geoscientists
Association of Ecosystem Research Centers
Automation Federation
*Biophysical Society
Botanical Society of America
Carnegie Institution for Science
Conservation Lands Foundation
Crop Science Society of America
Duke University
Ecological Society of America
Geological Society of America
International Committee Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies
Materials Research Society
NACE International, The Worldwide Corrosion Authority
*National Academy of Engineering
*National Academy of Medicine
*National Academy of Sciences
National Cave and Karst Research Institute
*National Center for Science Education
National Ground Water Association
Natural Science Collections Alliance
Northeastern University
Organization of Biological Field Stations
Paleontological Society
Scientific American magazine
Seismological Society of America
*Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society
Society for Science & the Public
Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections
Society of Fire Protection Engineers
Society of Wetland Scientists
Society of Women Engineers
Soil Science Society of America
SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Tufts University
*Union of Concerned Scientists
University City Science Center
*U.S. Council on Competitiveness
The Wildlife Society
World Endometriosis Research Foundation America

**Lead organizer
*Supplied experts to the questions development process